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Guest

Job Hunting: What Makes You Remarkable?

By: Guest | December 16, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Peter Osborne, a communications executive at Bank of America.

About six months ago while job hunting, I saw an opening for a senior communications position. I knew the recruiter so I called her. “Two hundred resumes in the first two hours,” she sighed. “Most are qualified.”

Justin Goldsborough posted on Spin Sucks recently that his go-to job interview question is, “What kind of network are you bringing to the table?” With all due respect, if you get that question in this market, it’s a courtesy interview and an internal candidate already has the job.

If you’re a real candidate, the interviewer already knows what kind of network you’re bringing to the table because one of them helped you get the interview. He has already Googled you and read your tweets, your LinkedIn Answers, and your Facebook posts. He’s deciding whether he should take a chance on you instead of someone he knows – because he wants someone remarkable.

“What makes you remarkable,” is my go-to question. The pool is full of seasoned (and desperate) executives. When job hunting, you differentiate yourself by explaining your value proposition in clear, succinct terms and ensuring your branding and network communicate that same message. Be externally focused – how can you solve their problems (the things that keep them awake). This requires preparation (which will give you confidence in the interview).

What makes you unique? What can you offer that moves your resume to the top of the pile…and keeps it there? And can you explain it in a way that will resonate with the HR person who may not fully understand the challenges not captured in the job description?

Just getting the chance to swing the bat and interview is huge. It’s not about collecting 1,000 connections; it’s about how you engage that network and whether others turn to you. That requires a unique voice and a skill nobody else offers.

Research the interviewer and her company. Create Google alerts for the company and its senior executives. Talk to people in your network who know someone at the company. Look at their new hires on LinkedIn and contact people who recently left and ask why. Read their blog, their entire website, and their Facebook page…and those of their competitors.

How do they make money? What are they working on? What kind of culture do they have? Be prepared to talk intelligently about problems facing their industry and their clients/customers (another Google alert or two). Make sure your Twitter stream and LinkedIn profile reflect your brand. Show up ready to fight for the job and demonstrate what you – not your network – will bring to the table on Day One.

Want to get the job? Convince your target company that you’re a perfect fit and that letting you slip away to the competition could be devastating. That’s how I got my new job – people I worked with (inside and outside the company) sold me in such a way that it was my job to lose in the interview. And then I sealed the deal because of my preparation.

Known to his friends and clients as the Bulldog, Peter Osborne helps companies and individuals differentiate themselves through his Bulldog Simplicity and Consultant Launch Pad websites. A former journalist, Peter recently joined Bank of America as a communications executive.

7 comments
JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

Hi, Peter. Good advice here on knowing what makes you remarkable. But what I would argue is that your network is one of your first impressions and chances to be remarkable to me as a candidate. You took my words way too literally. When I said my first question was "What kind of network are you bringing to the table?" I didn't mean the first question I ask the candidate in an interview. You are exactly right...if they've made it that far, I already know what network they are bringing to the table. It's likely what got them the interview. I can also tell you that if I interview two candidates I deem equal, the one with the better (not necessarily larger) network is going to get the job every time. Not even close.

Your advice on networking outside your industry is sound. You can never meet enough new people. That said, I would really caution on "focusing in what they're looking for" with your social networking profiles. I can smell BS and rehearsed key messaging a mile away. I want someone with personality who doesn't talk in scripted message points. That's one of the biggest problems most companies have right now when it comes to social media. They have someone managing their listening and engagement channels who needs a key message document to hold an online conversation. Big problem.

@testfyre wrote in a post earlier this year that all good things that come about in work and life are the result of relationships. I'm paraphrasing, but I've adopted that idea as my motto. Monster and CareerBuilder are a complete waste of time. If you are in the stack of resumes, you are never going to get a job. You make it to the top by not being on the stack and as you said, being top of mind to the decision maker. That's also how you make it to the top of the stack when developing business relationships, isn't it?

Cheers,
Justin

@peter_osborne
@peter_osborne

Gini might be a better person than me to answer this one these days because of the number of people she interviews (and both rejects and hires), but did you ask the decision maker? The challenge is that some people either feel guilty about their reason (e.g., they decided for "soft" reasons like the winner connected on a more personal level or their reason might not hold up under HR scrutiny) or they're uncomfortable about answering (i.e., they don't want to hurt your feelings).

Assuming the decision maker isn't talking, work your way back through the process. You probably talked to a number of people during your interviews. Did you connect on a personal level with any of them? Reconnect and ask the question -- not as a whine but with a tone that says you want to fix what might have cost you this position. A lot of the people I haven't hired over the years eliminated themselves rather than the winner taking the job...and there's nothing you can do about the reason or would want to do.

One more thought...consider writing a second thank-you note (I assume you wrote one after your interview) and express appreciation. Tell them you hope they'll keep you in mind if another position opens up, that you enjoyed the process, are disappointed it didn't work out, and ask if they can offer you any advice to help you be more successful the next time. I've had that happen to me once in 30 years and I picked up the phone and called.

Best wishes.

Peter

KaseyCrabtree
KaseyCrabtree

Great post - as a job-seeker it's always good to be reminded of ALL the little details that make one a positive and employable brand. Question: twice now I have been a finalist, and wound up being either 1st or 2nd runner up but didn't get the job. How can I find out where I fell short and why the other person got the position? Any suggestions?

@peter_osborne
@peter_osborne

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. What a great way to end the day!

A few thoughts:

Howie: I certainly think recruiters are far superior to using Monster or Career Builder, but I do believe that in the current market, focused networking is even more important. That means not just re-engaging with people you've worked with before, but going outside your industry. It's so much more difficult to get into a new industry than it was 3-5 years ago because there are so many people with experience in those industries who are willing to start over. Those networking contacts can be just as valuable as a recruiter because they too can help you navigate the minefields.

I also think it's very important to make sure your LinkedIn profile and other branding materials are very, very good before you reach out to recruiters. And when you do, focus on what they're looking for, not what you're looking for. To get what you want, help them get what they want!

JMatt and Doug, thanks so much for taking the time to post a comment. It's so easy to read and move on. It means a lot when people go the extra step.

I hope all three of you have a great holiday season!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

This is great insight Peter. I think there is even more reason today to go through recruiters vs using Monster or Career Builder. A good recruiter will coach you before and after each interview. Often good candidates fail because of the little things just as much as any potential big gaffes.
My Brother-in-Law just lost his job after 8 years, it was fate because my sister says every so often they can never move because he will never leave his job. I am trying to find him some recruiting contacts in his field because each time you start interviewing it takes practice to get back up to speed. I will definitely save this and a few of Gini's posts on the subject for his reading.

I can just imagine what Gini put Megan Beasuang through during her interviews. I understand the Vuvuzela test is really hard! But the best CFO's nail it, just like you did your guest post!

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff

Peter, this is a GREAT post. I work with salespeople all across North America - the recipe you gave to getting through the interview is precisely the recipe for making the sale. No suprise there.

Thanks for sharing this - I'll be sharing it with our clients.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KaseyCrabtree Kase - I always recommend people ask those they interviewed with why they fell short. Some people feel really uncomfortable giving that kind of feedback, but we try to give it in an enlightening and constructive way. If they won't tell you, well I hate to say it, but that's a great clue you wouldn't have been happy working there anyway.