December 19, 2013
During the past five years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of job seekers and others interested in networking. I value these interactions, and will almost always accept a networking request.
As I think back on those interactions, though, some individuals I met with were more memorable. I best remember those who did the following things:
- They had a purpose for meeting. Knowing why provided purpose and focus for our conversations. Of course, I never expected anyone to develop a detailed, comprehensive agenda before they requested an appointment. Just hearing them say, “I’m in a job search and want to brainstorm ideas” was a great starting point.
- They did not do all the talking. Occasionally, I’ve done all the listening, never having the opportunity to add any value to the conversation. In those rare cases, I just assumed the other person needed moral support as they unloaded their burdens in a stream of consciousness.
- They did not expect me to do all the talking. I never do well when the onus is left entirely upon me to do all the talking. I’ll do what I can to make a conversation lively, but let’s not forget that one hand clapping makes no sound. Read the rest of this entry »
April 14, 2013
Do you cringe at the concept of networking?
Many hate the idea because they are afraid of what others will think about them. They lack confidence in their ability to say the right things or make the right impression.
A well-networked woman once shared with me the key to her networking success: Be interested, not interesting.
That’s pretty simple! We can succeed by being genuinely interested in others and what they have to say. Our self-imposed angst of networking evaporates when the focus shifts from ourselves to the person on the other side of the table.
My greatest networking success has come as I’ve relinquished the idea that I’m trying to impress someone. I’ve learned to approach networking with a blend of humility and curiosity. First, I acknowledge that every person has something unique to say. I also understand that I can learn and grown from what that person has to share.
I’ve grown to love networking because I can have substantive conversations with some truly inspiring, intriguing and innovative people. I’m not trying to impress upon them that I’m an interesting person. Rather, I’m genuinely interested in them, their knowledge and their ideas.
To anyone trying to network more effectively, to anyone hoping to become a better conversationalist or to anyone preparing for an upcoming job interview, here’s the best advice I can give you:
Be interested, not interesting.
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 »
June 25, 2012
A week after interviewing candidates for a job opening, I noticed that some individuals were more memorable. I recalled the substance of some conversations better than others.
Several candidates were able to effectively differentiate themselves because of what they did during the interview. Here are some of the ways they separated themselves from the rest of the pack:
They were appropriately REACTIVE.
The best conversations came when candidates were not focused on providing the “right answers.” Rather, they responded to my questions by providing genuine, authentic and transparent answers. They demonstrated they were reactive in the following ways:
- They allowed me to set the pace of the conversation. They would slow down to elaborate when I requested more information. They would also pick up the pace when they sensed they had shared adequate information.
- They responded to my questions without rambling with answers to questions I did not ask. They listened carefully to what I asked and then reacted by providing thoughtful, transparent answers.
- They reacted to my body language or looked for other clues to make sure they were getting their message across. At times, they even asked for immediate feedback to ensure that they had appropriately addressed the questions I asked. Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2012
Five minutes into an interview, I can easily tell how well a person has prepared for our meeting.
Some individuals like to interview so they can practice talking about themselves.
The real winners, though, are those who focus on helping me connect the dots between my needs (first priority) and their qualifications (secondary priority). An interviewee can connect those dots only if he or she has thoroughly prepared ahead of time.
Two weeks ago I interviewed several stellar applicants for a key communications job. I observed certain characteristics among those who interviewed well, and it became obvious that prior to our meeting they had done the following:
- They studied the organization to learn about our strengths and weaknesses. They came into the meeting with a basic understanding of the opportunities and threats we faced. They had done their due diligence.
- From their research, they saw opportunities where they could make a difference. They envisioned the unique impact they could have. Prior to coming into the meeting with me, they had already connected the dots in their own mind.
- They anticipated that I might invite them to, “Tell me about yourself.” They rehearsed their response so it was not a redundant, verbal summary of what I’d already seen on their resume. Instead, they customized their “positioning statements” so they could describe themselves in a differentiated way. Read the rest of this entry »
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
February 2, 2012
To a great extent, you can control what people see when they Google your name. You can proactively create the content that fills your digital footprint.
I suggest you create content that reflects the three dimensions of what your brand represents. Those categories are:
- Who you are professionally. LinkedIn is the basic platform for sharing this information. You may also decide to use other websites—perhaps even your own url—where you can showcase your portfolio, resume and other relevant information.
- Who you are personally. I recommend using Facebook for this purpose. If, however, you prefer not to use Facebook as a branding tool, then I suggest your work very hard to find another online presence where people can see you as a real person.
- How you view the world. A blog is an excellent way to share your ideas and your perspective. I recommend that your first blog posts provide information that you hope your next employer will ask you in an interview.
Creating and sharing content will make you more finadable online. This will help you build your personal brand and will increase your chances of being interviewed and ultimately hired.
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