The Media is the Message

Listening to the recent trials and mistakes being made by one of the world’s larger companies, BP it struck me that Job Search is very like dealing with the media or press. Thinking back to earlier parts of my career where it was deemed necessary that I undertook training in how to deal with the enemy (the media) it all came into focus. I dusted off my notes and using them as a guide here are my suggestions translated into Job Search terms. Continue reading

Get knotted – To Wear a Tie or Not

Little did I realize the trouble I was stirring up when I was recently asked the question “Should men wear a tie to an interview?” My answer was yes; here was a group of senior business people that suddenly became very animated about the subject of men’s neck wear. I was tempted to throw in the question of an Ascot an alternative but frankly lacked the courage. Continue reading

Does this company deserve me?

I recently hosted a seminar focused on “re-energizing your job search” and it was very interesting to hear the different strategies that people are employing in their journey to the next position but the one comment that made me stop and think is something that I regularly speak about but had temporarily put in the back of my mind and that is this “When you are interviewing it is a two way street and you are interviewing the employer as much as they are interviewing you” Continue reading

Landing an appointment – Part III

This three part series (Part I, Part II), is based upon material provided by and conversations with an old friend of mine, John Burke. In the tough times that we need alternatives to the traditional submission of a resume.

Under your signature and title (Principal, Partner, President, whatever works for you) make note that the profile is attached. Do NOT cc: the names of the other executives targeted in this space. I don’t generally include a business card, because I want the correspondence to look more personal than a pitch for their business.

Write three of these letters which are all identical except the intended executive changes, as does the two other names in the first paragraph, and of course, the names of their respective assistants. You need three envelopes addressed to each of the three executive targeted. Be careful with the merging here because it can get a little confusing after three or four different companies. Use a postage stamp and omit a return address – looks less like junk mail.

Time for follow up. Contact the assistant directly, if they’re not there, call back later. Do not leave a voice mail. Introduce yourself and tell them you’re following up on a letter that was sent to their boss a few days ago, and suggest that they’ll remember it by the fact that it was also sent to two other executives. They usually remember this because it is somewhat unusual and was stated in the first sentence of the letter. If the assistant doesn’t recall seeing the letter, tell her you’ll fax or email a copy to her directly and follow up in a day or so after they’ve had a chance to run it by their boss.

You’re calling to see if their boss saw the letter and to find out what his/her decision was, i.e. who did he send it to? On the off chance that the assistant suggests you can speak with their boss right while you’re on the phone, do not accept the offer (the executive you speak with over the phone will use the limited time he affords you to screen you out). Inform the assistant that you’re more comfortable with he/she as your point of contact to arrange a meeting or direct you to the right individual.

The beauty of this strategy is that the individual to whom this correspondence is ultimately directed can’t ignore that the letter came from the boss in the corner office and they had better have an answer if questioned as to what it was all about. When you call the recipient’s assistant, reference the fact that so-and-so recommends that you and the recipient meet and can the assistant set up an appointment for you. Again, it’s best if you don’t speak to the recipient on the phone if you can help it – always push for a meeting.

Standard meeting etiquette applies. Tell them how much time you’ll need, and don’t exceed that time limited unless you’re invited to. There are two schools of thought regarding time planning: suggest it will be less than a half hour so that it doesn’t threaten to eat up too much of their day, or make it just shy of an hour to be realistic and to lend credibility. There’s no right answer, but I favor the latter. Regardless of the time requested, be prepared if asked to tell how you plan to use the time and what you hope to discuss.

Good luck to all


Landing an appointment – Part I

This three part series (Part IIPart III) is based upon material provided by and conversations with an old friend of mine, John Burke. In the tough times that we need alternatives to the traditional submission of a resume.

Sending an unsolicited resume with an appropriate cover letter is seldom the most effective way to crack a target employer (particularly if there is no job posted); your resume is likely to get lost in the shuffle, discarded by an errant key word search, or simply fail to meet the fancy of a first tier HR administrator. You’re out before you’re invited in.

We all know that when on the hunt for a project or position, nothing happens until you actually meet with the decision maker. Our initial efforts should be totally devoted to securing appointments with multiple employers. At this point in our careers, we don’t actually need more interviews, we need appointments for exchanging information with interested executives. We need to alter our mindset from one of an applicant to one of a consultative vendor.

By framing your strongest competencies as the solution to Executive’s most ubiquitous issues, the appointment is ultimately controlled by you, the available expert. You are expected to ask the questions, rather than recite interviewee answers. The hat changes from applicant to vendor and your contact becomes a customer, rather than an employer.

That transformation alone makes it easier for you to get in.

As a vendor, you would never consider approaching the pertinent “buyer” of your services by submitting your credentials to the Human Resource department; as gatekeepers, their job is to screen you out unless there happens to be an open position for which you appear to be an absolute perfect match. Now that you represent yourself as a solution, all you need is the power to get appointments.

There is an insightful book called The Power To Get In, by Michale A. Boylan, that goes into some detail as to how to attain this power. I’ve used Boylan’s principles for years with great success and am not ashamed to admit that he’s the genius who created this winning strategy. It works something like this:

The first task is to take your resume and distill the information into a one page profile that describes what you do well. The document should have no resemblance to a resume: no objectives, dates of employment, chronological listing of employers, not even any titles or where you graduated – if it looks anything at all like a resume it will never see the desk of the intended recipient.

Good luck to all


Bone-headed Interview Questions and Really Stupid Answers

I have done a lot of interviewing, on both sides of the table.  And I have done some stupid things….

I had an interview with a gentleman who was part of a large consumer-products company.  They sold soap.  Yes, soap.  So the question presented to me was “why does soap interest you?”.  My brain raced, should I say something like “I love soap, I have used it daily for most of my life”.  I decided that this route was too risky (I love soap), so I went with a more conservative answer “Soap is interesting but growing and managing the business is what I want to do, so be it soap or other consumer goods, many of the management practices are translatable.”

From his reaction, I am guessing he heard my response as “Soap is interesting BUT” and never got past the ‘but’.  He likely (correctly)  though that the rest of my answer was a polite way of saying “I want any job, so I will help sell soap”.  He shut-down, the interview was over and I was out.  At the time I did want any job, and may have taken one at a soap mfgr, but by not coming across as loving the product, I shot myself in the foot.

Three Steps to a Successful Job Interview

Much has been said and written about insuring a successful job interview. Speaking as someone who coaches people for interview, a careful analysis reveals that there are three basic components to success. They are appearance, practice and preparation. No doubt you are saying to yourself that practice and preparation are the same thing but I will demonstrate to you that they are not.

Appearance is not often discussed but is crucial to your success. It makes little difference as to the organization you are visiting but a smart appearance makes an impression, it is often said that you never have a second chance to make a first impression and the first interview is no exception. Unless you have skills and knowledge that are not available anywhere else then you are in a competitive environment and you need to treat it that way. A man can always take off a tie if it is inappropriate but it is very difficult to put it on if you do not have one.

Practice relates getting ready to answer questions, understanding how interviews work and making sure that you are at the peak of your performance. At a minimum you are practicing your pitch and exit reason. The pitch is the answer to the question So tell me about yourself or other similar questions that are designed to see how you best fit the needs of the organization. Practice is the key to answering those interview questions accurately but without appearing rehearsed.

Preparation on the other hand relates to getting all the other pieces of information ready beforehand. A few examples of this are as follows: Research, make sure that you have completed an extensive search about the organization, it does not matter how high or low on the food chain you are remember you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Insure that you have a number of great questions to ask. Many states have access to free research services that can be accessed through the Internet and their Library systems. Make sure that you know where you are going and how long it will take you to get there, leave plenty of time so you will not be rushed. Bring cleanly printed copies of your resume to hand out; you cannot be sure how it has printed out from an emailed copy.

To summarize, there are many moving parts to a successful interview and with the appropriate actions you can stay in control. Your appearance speaks for you before you open your mouth, when you do open your mouth make sure that you can answer questions succinctly and accurately and finally being prepared in advance with information, great questions and having the logistics nailed down will all help to put you on the short list.

Barry Simpson – Your personal job-search assistant.

Job-Search Tips: Interview Types Explained – ‘Fit’

Fit interviews are a common type of interview.  As their name would imply, they assess how your personality would ‘fit’ into their organization.  This is also known as the ‘airport test’ – meaning if you were stuck in an airport with this person for four hours, would it be OK, or would you want to kill yourself (or them).

It is worth stating that the ‘fit’ interview is usually the final of several interviews.  You must first “pass” the prior interviews with the ‘fit’ being the final test. Continue reading

Networking for Your Future – Part 2

Continuing the conversation regarding the best ways of networking we conclude with the final two options and a summary.

Meetings, I cannot stress strongly enough that if you are having a one on one networking meeting with someone in the world of business try and have that meeting in their office. A meeting in a neutral coffee shop may be fine but they do not have all the information about their contacts immediately to hand. Bearing in mind that one of the primary questions you will always ask at any networking meeting is who else do you think I should be talking with then they should be able to give you that information immediately and also send of a quick email to let the person know that you will be contacting them. If they have to return to their office there are any number of distractions that can influence them before they can help you out.

Snail Mail, or as some of us fondly remember them the Postal Service. In today’s fast paced world of immediate gratification there can often be a greater impact made if you send a card after an interview or meeting that thanks the individuals involved. The chances are it will get read and remembered rather than accidently deleted. Snail Mail is also useful to send a well printed resume on quality paper if necessary.

In summary, there are multiple methods of networking and each is appropriate to a particular circumstance. Use email to say thank you and confirm meetings, use a telephone to set up meetings or have a long distance networking meeting, use face to face meetings whenever possible, they are without doubt the best and most productive choice available, and finally the reliable postal service for delivering the extra special note, thank you letter or printed resume.


– Your Virtual Job Coach