I learned a lot about what it takes to get a job by being on the hiring side of the interview desk. Not too long ago, I put in an ad for a project manager. Very quickly, I received over 1,000 resumes – and it made me think about how tough it must be for a job seeker to stand above the sheer volume of competition in this difficult economy.
I assumed it would take a long time to narrow the search down with so many applicants – but it didn’t. So I hope I can help those of you who are looking right now by sharing the things that thinned out the herd – and that made some candidates really shine.
If I’m hiring someone to be a project manager, they’re going to be writing and sending emails on my behalf. So, how they addressed me in their query letter gave me a sense of how they might approach my clients. But -- you’d be surprised how many people began with, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Madam/Sir.”
Maybe it was really hard to find out the name of someone with a website called judycarter.com – or from the email address that had my first name in it. Or -- maybe they knew my name, but were being really careful not to offend me (just in case Judy is a he.)
Granted, I know you have to be a little careful with a business owner named Pat or Gene -- but how often is someone named “Judy” a sir? If you’re that cautious, working with a comedian is clearly the wrong line of work for you. You blew it. (600 down, 400 left to go.)
MAKING IT PERSONAL
In this age of Google everything, you can certainly find out anything about the person or company on the other side of the interview. So, my next step was seeing if applicants took the time to research the history of my company and my personal life -- and were smart enough to mention something in the letter to show me that they did.
Guess what? Most people didn’t. (300 more gone; 100 left.) Out of the original 1,000, only 10% even took the time to go to my website. Since they were already online (the application wasn’t in a newspaper) – it would have only taken a few clicks. If you’re that lazy – do you really expect anyone (other than a relative or the French government) to hire you?
A form letter isn’t going to get you a job. Take the time to do a little research and make it specific to the opportunity. You have the time. (Or, spend your days customizing your parent’s basement so it’s truly a home; it’s your call.)
IT’S ABOUT THEIR MESSAGE
If I could attribute one thing that is the key secret to my financial success in an industry where only 5% of SAG/AFTRA (the performer’s unions) members are above the poverty level, it’s about letting go of “me” and focusing on “you.”
People who aren’t making a living at what they love to do have more excuses than dollar bills. “It’s age, sex, race, discrimination, and it’s a tough market.”
No, those aren’t the factors that make the final cuts. What employers care most about is how well you fit in with their values. Your credentials might get you in the door, but how well what you stand for matches up with your potential employer is the thing that will get you the job.
One of my coaching clients shared with me how he scored a job on Broadway by using a technique from my new book, “The Message of You.” In the last chapter of the book, I encourage my reader to listen, mirror, and acknowledge other people’s messages. My client, David, went into the interview having done extensive research on not only what the employer had done -- but also on what he stood for: the employer’s message.
Going into the interview, instead of giving the typical “why I’m so great” speech, David started with, “I believe that there are three things that I see as your message.” And, after listing them, he continued, “… and here is how we can fit together.”
He got the job.
We all want to work with, date, and marry people who “get” us. When Felicia (the very last person I interviewed) came in to meet with me, she not only knew what I did, but WHY I did it. (That level of understanding is invaluable.) She showed me her organizational prowess, and how she could help me do what I do better. She got the job.
Do you know your message? Do you express it in a way that is clear – and quick? And -- do you know how it fits with the message of the person or company who is interviewing you?
If you don’t – start doing your homework now. Or -- go shop for some cool posters for that basement.