Four Thank You Notes that Fizzled, One that Sizzled

June 29, 2012

This month I conducted in-person interviews with five candidates for an opening on my communications team. Each person followed up with an email or a handwritten thank you note.

One of the notes said:

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me about the communications position. After speaking with you, I am confident that I would be an asset to your team. It was a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again.

I received three more just like that. The names of those four candidates could easily have been interchanged and it would have made no difference. Those individuals filled their notes with bland cliches that failed to differentiate them from the other candidates. Unfortunately, the messages did nothing to remind me why they might be the best fit for the position.

With an opportunity to move our conversations to a deeper level, those candidates were content to communicate with trivial pleasantries. Read the rest of this entry »

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What They Did Right AFTER the Interview

June 27, 2012

As a hiring manager, I looked at more than a hundred resumes this month. I talked with so many people that I had trouble keeping everyone straight.

I even interviewed a handful of highly-qualified candidates. While those interviews were energetic and invigorating, the substance of what we talked about began to fade in the days following the interviews.

The most impressive candidates were those who did everything they could to keep their memory alive. Here are some of the specific things they did right after the interview:

  1. While the memory of our conversations were still fresh in my mind, they quickly followed up with emails and handwritten notes.
  2. They reiterated their enthusiasm. As an interviewer, I often wonder what the candidate thought about the job after our conversation. Sometimes people become less interested as they learn more about a specific job, so it’s always nice to be reassured that their interest has continued to grow.
  3. They reminded me how their qualifications matched my needs. They refreshed my memory by giving specific reasons why they would be the ideal fit for my job opening. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hiring Manager’s Reflections on a Successful Recruiting Process

June 20, 2012

This week I’ll wrap up the recruitment and selection of my new communications manager. As I look back on the six-week process, three thoughts resonate in my mind:

  1. The number of applicants was overwhelming. Though I’m confident I selected the right person, I feel sad knowing that the orchard was so full of low-hanging fruit that I was unable to connect with many, many qualified candidates.
  2. Too many really good people do a really bad job of branding themselves. They look the same, they use the same worn cliches and therefore they blend into a seamless stretch of beige. Only a few differentiated themselves.
  3. The tools for conducting a successful job search have changed. Five years ago a resume was much more important than it is today. Too many people waste time obsessing on their resume when they should be using other methods to differentiate themselves.

Among equally-qualified candidates, differentiation comes from being findable online. Differentiation comes from swimming in the deeper end of the social media pool. Differentiation comes with having writing samples, blog posts and other content show up when someone Googles your name.

From the overwhelming number of applicants, I selected a core group of impressive, highly-qualified individuals to interview in person. They had successfully differentiated themselves. They showed up in a Google search. They made it easy for me to learn more about them before I even called to schedule an interview.

The finalists I personally interviewed did certain things I wish every candidate would do. In the next three blog posts I will share 1) what they did right before the interview, 2) how they handled themselves during the interview and 3) what impressed me with their follow through after the interview.


To Be Differentiated, Blend Personal and Professional

January 26, 2012

Many job seekers—your competitors—have been advised by friends or career counselors to hide the personal dimensions of their personal brands.

Job seekers are admonished to set their Facebook settings high so others cannot look over the wall. Some Twitter newbies protect their tweets so strangers cannot follow them. Too many job seekers have been programmed to fear the unknown evil lurking in the shadows of the Internet.

Here’s your opportunity to differentiate yourself! The more your competitors hide themselves, the greater advantage you have to establish your brand. By being transparent and open, you can stand out from the herd.

For any job opening, you’ll likely compete with dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of people who have work histories, job titles and career accomplishments very similar to yours. From the vantage point of a prospective employer, it looks as if everyone was shaped by the same cookie cutter.

How can you stand out from those who naively believe they can effectively sell themselves in a one-dimensional way? One effective method is to be real. Show others that you are a real, multifaceted person. Show others the splendor of your multidimensional brand.

If you present only your professional persona—as impressive as it might be—you are branding yourself too shallowly. Our 2.0 world requires authenticity and transparency. Being authentic and transparent will definitely help you differentiate yourself and your brand.

People like doing business with people they know, or at least with people who present themselves as real-life human beings. A resume or even a LinkedIn profile is usually a sterile, sanitized description of one facet of your brand. Seldom does a resume portray you as a real, multidimensional person.

You need every available tool—including social media—to differentiate yourself in a crowded job market. Others may be afraid of using social media to reveal who they are personally. Their trepidation can work to your advantage. Their timidity gives you a great branding opportunity.

You can differentiate yourself by presenting yourself as a real person, not just a professional silhouette. You can differentiate yourself by opening up, by being real and by being transparent.

Deliberately look for opportunities to blur the lines that separate the personal and professional compartments of your life.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Differentiated, Know Your Competition

January 24, 2012

If you’re looking for a job, you face strong competition from others who are also looking for jobs.

To succeed, you must stand out from the rest of the pack. You’ve got to be different. You cannot blend in and look like everyone else.

The first step in differentiating yourself is to know who your competitors are. You’ll want to learn as much as you can about others who are applying for the same jobs you are seeking. You must study your competition.

One way to to do this is look at their profiles on LinkedIn. Take the list of keywords that describe you and then search for others in LinkedIn who use those same words.

Notice which profiles pop up. Pick several individuals and observe how they describe themselves. Study their profiles—their career summaries, specialties, experience and skills. Notice which words and phrases they use to describe themselves.

Pay attention to their writing style. Do they talk in the first or third person? Do they sound conversational? Are they interesting? Look for examples of individuals who have effectively converted their features into benefits?

You can differentiate yourself from others only when you 1) know yourself and 2) know your competition. When you understand who your competitors are and how you are differentiated from them, you are ready to begin selling your brand in a competitive job market.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


How to Differentiate Yourself in a Competitive Job Market

January 23, 2012

In a job search, if you are not differentiated you are not marketable.

A few years ago I was hiring for an open position on my marketing and communications team. Although I was bombarded with 200 applications, I personally considered the merits of every single candidate.

Very quickly, though, my eyes glazed over. Everyone looked alike. They all seemed to be saying the same thing. They even used the same clichés to describe themselves. Everyone claims to be:

  •  Creative.
  •  An excellent communicator.
  •  A problem solver.
  •  Highly motivated.
  •  Results oriented.
  •  Hard working.

Everyone, it seemed, described himself or herself in the exact same way. Had I changed the names at the top of each resume, it wouldn’t have mattered. Quite frankly, I felt as if I’d walked into a Baskin-Robbins store where the only flavor was vanilla. Everyone, it seemed, had bought the same book on writing cover letters and they even selected the same buzz phrases to use.

A prospective employer has no reason to hire you if you can’t differentiate yourself in a job search. Three ways to be different and stand out from the rest of the pack are:

  1. Know your competition. It goes without saying, but you will never differentiate yourself from others unless you know who they are.
  2. Create a unique elevator pitch. In 30 seconds, you must be able to describe yourself to a prospective employer so he or she takes an interest and wants to learn more about you.
  3. Blend your personal and professional lives. An effective brand is never one dimensional. You are a unique and multifaceted person, and your brand is a rich combination of a) who you are professionally, b) who you are personally and c) what you think and how you see the world around you.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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10 Reasons NOT to Launch a Marketing Campaign

March 29, 2011

Sometimes marketing is viewed as a magical elixir that will somehow cure whatever ails you.

In my 20-plus years of marketing experience, I’ve come to realize that good marketing is based more upon common sense than upon creativity. Though marketing can work wonders, it is not a panacea that will transform failure into success.

As much as I value good marketing, I believe there are times not to launch a marketing campaign. My advice is to delay any marketing activities when:

  1. We are unclear what success will actually look like. Without clearly defined goals, we are merely groping in the dark, hoping to grasp something—anything—of value.
  2. We feel compelled to act before we think. In our fast-paced world, we will always experience the strong gravitational pull of urgency. Focusing on what is urgent, though, will often entice us to overlook strategy and jump prematurely into tactics.
  3. We want to begin with communications. A good marketing process ends with communications but that’s never a good place to begin.
  4. We focus on obstacles rather than opportunities. Though we must always understand reality, we will never leave the starting blocks if we focus on the hurdles between us and the finish line.
  5. We have no champion for the product or service. We may all agree that a particular program is important, but unless someone with passion assumes ownership of the program’s success, it will flounder. Of course, marketers will be the easy targets of those who need to blame someone for a product’s failure.
  6. We believe everything will be okay if only we can “get the word out.” I cannot be more emphatic in stating this: raising awareness is not a marketing goal.
  7. We talk more than we listen. Marketing success on a 2.0 world is all about having conversations, not trying to speak louder.
  8. We are unable to profile a target audience. Only the naive believe there really is such a thing as the “general public.” We are headed towards marketing failure if we neglect to define a primary audience. After all, to target everyone is to hit no one.
  9. We ignore the concept of marketing exchanges. Marketing is based upon the premise that we must build win-win relationships where we exchange value for value. Marketing is never a one-way transaction.
  10. We cannot differentiate our product or service. If we don’t know who our competitors are, and if we cannot articulate how we are different and better, then my advice is simple:  Turn off the lights, lock the door and go home. The party is over.

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