Recently we have noticed a somewhat unsettling trend — the tendency for people involved in a job search to be extremely concerned about commuting distance given the increasing gas prices. It’s not surprising. Our minds are bombarded daily (sometimes hourly) with newscasts and talking heads announcing every increase in prices. And naturally, everyone they interview moans about how they are being hurt by these increases. I don’t like spending $4.00 a gallon anymore than anyone else.
However, as is so often the case, the reality is not nearly as bad as all of the hype. Just out of curiosity, we did a few calculations to check the impact of both rising gas prices and increases in commuting distances.
We started with a base of a 32 mile round trip commute (the national average) and past gas prices of $3.00 a gallon. We didn’t cheat by using a hybrid or sub-compact gas mileage as our base. We used a gas mileage of 25 miles to the gallon. We also included the most recent Federal Highway Administration’s estimates for per mile costs of repairs, maintenance, registration and taxes. And again, we didn’t cheat by using a smaller lower cost vehicle. We used the costs for an intermediate SUV — the third highest per mile average on their tables. Then we even added in the estimated per mile cost for depreciation.
The results? For that base of 16 miles each way and $3.00 per gallon for gas, your estimated monthly cost of commuting is about $247.68. And that includes additional per mile costs for an intermediate sized utility vehicle.
Now, here is where it becomes interesting. What happens to these costs when the price of gas at the pump goes up to $4.00 per gallon of gas? (Oops, that’s already happened!) That increases your monthly cost of commuting to $273.28. Wait. How can a 33% increase in gas prices result in only an 11% increase in commuting costs? Because gas prices are only a portion of your total commuting costs. And although it adds up, it adds up a lot less than you might think.
So, let’s carry this one step further. What happens when you increase the distance of your commute? For obvious reasons, the impact is greater. The reason is that the mileage increase results in an increase in all of these per-mile-expenses. But even then, you might be surprised. Again, let’s not take it easy on ourselves. Let’s increase that 32-mile average commute by a factor of – not 10% or 20% — a full 50% to 48 miles. Even with that big of an increase, your total commuting costs raise to $409.92 per month. This represents an increase of slightly over $135 per month.
Is that a lot? It can be, especially if you are a family that is living right up to their means. Is it more than I wish it was? Absolutely!
Now, the bottom line question. Is that $135 per month — $4.50 per day — worth turning down a job offer? Probably not. Especially not if this new position is a strong step forward in your career track. And certainly not if you are currently unemployed and have no other solid prospects.
So, don’t let the talking heads get into your head. Keep them out of your decision process. It is your career. It is your future. If you are making a lifestyle decision that you simply don’t want to spend that much time commuting, then that is your decision to make. But don’t let the constant blaring of the news on gas prices cause you to make the wrong economic decision regarding your employment future.
Personality is one of many things that seem to suffer from the fact that so many candidates take telephone interviews for granted. Yet, the telephone interview is the first opportunity that you have to make an impression beyond a piece of paper. It will determine whether or not you move forward in the hiring process with this company. So get enthusiastic.
The telephone interview is more than just a conversation. It is more than a simple review of your resume by telephone. It is the first step in the post-resume review to determine whether there is a fit between you and the company. Personality counts.
Now, that doesn’t mean telling lots of jokes and trying to establish rapport by talking about sports or (please no) politics. What it means is three things:
- Be Professional: As said before, this is not a chat. This is a business meeting. Be in an area where you can concentrate and not have any interruptions. Prepare for it. Have a notepad in front of you where you have some notes on the company and the job, and on some positive points that you want to make certain you include.
- Show Interest: This is best accomplished through effective listening skills and insightful questions. When faced with a golden opportunity in the form of the sentence “Do you have any questions?”, please please don’t respond with “No, I think you’ve answered everything.” (And yes, people have been known to do this.) It is an interview killer. Have a number of questions prepared in advance based on research about the company and their products/services.
- Show Enthusiasm: Companies are interested in people who are interested in them. Sit forward in your chair instead of slumping. You wouldn’t slump in a face-to-face interview (I hope). Why do so here? Believe it or not, your body language tends to communicate itself through your voice over the phone. The same is true as far as having a smile or a frown on your face. It is very difficult to sound upbeat when you are slouching on a sofa, with a TV on in the background (sound turned down), frowning at the play that was just made at third base. Smile, sit up and forward in your chair, listen intently, and show interest in the person on the other end of the phone and the opportunity they are discussing. It makes all the difference in the world.
So we are not misleading anyone, we are not saying that your experience is unimportant. We are not saying that personality will carry the day regardless of what you have to say. What we are saying is that enthusiasm and energy can be the difference-maker, playing a major part in whether you are one of the individuals that makes it to that critical next step.
Let’s begin this discussion with a fairly simple observation: everyone who will interview you for a job will almost certainly have already read your resume. If you want to stand out . . . if you want to make an impression . . . then tell them something that they don’t already know. Tell them something that they didn’t read in your resume.
This can come in several forms.
- Providing additional details regarding how effectively you did your job — such as getting projects completed ahead of time or your skills in mentoring other employees in the company.
- Relating stronger details on the kind of positive impact that you made in your company – such as quantifiable increases in revenue or market share or margin/profit.
- Telling stories which build on the less visual statements of fact written down in your resume — such as stories about effective problem solving in a situation or your creative approach to the promotion of a product that had been declining in market share.
All of these techniques can help you in two ways. First, telling them something they don’t know by simply reading the resume helps you to maintain and build their interest during the interview. In effect, you are placing this question in their mind — “What other positive things do we not know about this candidate?”. Second, by taking the information in your resume and applying it to the specific job to be done with this company, you are answering that question in a way that tells them why you are especially qualified for this position.
So, do what you would do with any product. Build interest and build value. Tell them something they don’t know.
One resume that we recently reviewed was from an extremely talented individual. who completely left off her job titles in her positions with her current employer. We noticed it immediately. So would others. Which immediately raised the question, “Why?”
She had a good reason. Her title was long and unusual and didn’t really accurately describe her position. The problem is that, for many who would see this resume, the decision to do this would immediately raise some red flags. And in many instances, she might not even have the opportunity to explain why.
The other type of “creativity” that we sometimes encounter with titles are people that are convinced their title simply isn’t accurate. “Well, I don’t actually have the title of Brand Manager, but that really is what my job is.” Or, “My title just doesn’t make sense to others in the industry.” Or, some similar explanation. The difficulty is that, to most companies, this is just plain lying. In addition to your resume, you will probably be required to fill out an application with this information. Plus any reference checking done by the company will almost always seek to confirm titles. In most cases, this seemingly (to you) small reinterpretation of the facts (lie) will cause you to lose this job.
The solution is really quite simple. Always always provide the correct title — on the resume and on the application. If you believe that the correct title is misleading, you can then do one of two things. First, you can simply put what you believe to be the more accurate title in parentheses behind it. In addition, you might also provide a brief statement of explanation in the body of the resume, or in the cover letter that accompanies it.
But using a title different than the one you actually had with a company could make this the shortest job in your career. Don’t take the chance.
Each June, www.MarketingTalentNetwork.com posts their annual rankings of top 25 MBA programs on the website. The following is a list of top MBA programs from The Cambridge Group Executive Search firm. These rankings are based on a variety of factors, but mainly on the feedback they receive from human resource management and marketing management in consumer products companies across the country.
- Harvard University
- University of Chicago
- Stanford University
- Dartmouth College / Tuck
- Columbia University
- Northwestern / Kellogg
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Sloan
- University of California – Berkeley / Haas
- University of Pennsylvania / Wharton
- University of Michigan / Ross
- Yale University
- New York University / Stern
- University of Virginia / Darden
- Cornell University / Johnson
- Duke University / Fuqua
- University of California – Los Angeles / Anderson
- University of North Carolina / Kenan-Flagler
- Carnegie Mellon University / Tepper
- University of Southern California / Marshall
- Emory University / Goizeuta
- Georgetown University / McDonough
- University of Texas – Austin / McCombs
- Indiana University / Kelley
- Michigan State University / Broad
- University of Rochester / Simon
Some readers will almost invariably disagree with certain parts of this list, and there are a number of other lists — some of them with wide variations in where different schools are placed. For example, while Business Week has Harvard listed as number 4, the Wall Street Journal has them listed as 14. Perhaps the most radical difference on an overall MBA national rankings list is between the Princeton Review’s listing of Stanford University as #1 and the listing of that same school as #19 by the Wall Street Journal.
Different national MBA rankings that you might want to consider include:
- Business Week
- Wall Street Journal
- The Financial Times
- The Princeton Review
- US News and World Report
Another consideration is the area of specialization in which you are interested. For example, while Carnegie Mellon is only number 18 in overall MBA rankings (of the above lists, only the Wall Street Journal has them listed higher than 16), they are generally considered to have one of the top two or three MBA concentrations in e-Marketing/e-Commerce. As another example, two of the top International MBA programs in the United States are Thunderbird and Broad (University of South Carolina), neither of which even make the top 25 rankings.
Bottom line? None of these rankings are perfect, and the value of each MBA program is to a certain extent “in-the-eye-of-the-beholder”. But this list and others can serve as a guide for those considering an MBA for their future — and can provide those who already have an MBA with some indication of how much value some employers may place on that degree.
Admittedly, we left you hanging a little after our last article. To remind you, the subject is how to answer the stock interview question “Tell me About Yourself” — and how to answer it in a way that is meaningful. In that article, we broke that answer down into three basic parts:
- Summarize Your Career in One Sentence
- Give a Brief Example Demonstrating Your Accomplishments
- Conclude with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career
Remember, though, that the primary idea is to do this in a way that really answers the more important unspoken question — “Why should I hire you for this job?” In order to design an answer that accomplishes this, there are three important steps in preparation.
First, try to determine the most important characteristics for this job. There are a couple of different sources for this. One is, of course, the advertisement or posting for the position. Be cautious about relying on this source however. Often these are little more than ”boiler-plate” ads or short excerpts from the HR department’s job description. Other sources? If you have a telephone interview before your face-to-face interview(s), ask that interviewer the question – “What are the two or three most important skills or capabilities for this person to have?” And if you are working with an executive search firm, they should be able to tell you that same information even before your first telephone interview.
Once you have those specifications, you want to compare those insights to your own skills, experience and background. And here is where it gets a little tricky. The talent you want to use is the one where you have the strongest story to tell — the best accomplishments and the most meaningful results. Remember, your purpose is not to truly tell them all about yourself. Your purpose is to lay the foundation for a good interview by making the strongest positive impression possible from the very beginning.
Which brings us to number three. Be brief. This entire answer — all three parts — should be only four or five sentences long at most. If they ask you to elaborate, then by all means do so. But do not take up valuable interviewing time by going on and on. Trust me . . . they have other questions to ask you. And the best way to assure brevity and power is to practice, practice, practice. You want this to roll off the tongue naturally and smoothly, and to respect your interviewer’s time.
Do this, and you will get off to the best of all possible starts with each and every interview.
For a deceptively simple question, “Tell me about yourself” may be one of the toughest questions to handle properly in the interview. There is a tendency to do one of two things.
First, some individuals will answer this question with an answer that goes on and on . . . and on . . . and on . . . and on. This becomes a huge problem. You are taking up valuable time in your interview with your own monologue. Which might be fine, except that this is not the Johnny Carson Show. The reason you are in the interview is to answer questions, and not to give a speech. And to answer those questions in a way that helps you advance in this hiring process. Plus, there is a certain truth to the observation that the longer your answer, the more likely you are to get yourself in trouble.
Other individuals will answer this question with broad generalities, which also will not get you anywhere closer in your job search. Don’t waste this question with an answer that doesn’t amount to much more than “small talk”. You are not in this interview to have a chat. You are there to get a job.
So how should you handle this question in an interview? Well, several years ago, Lynden Kidd (a healthcare recruiter) outlined three steps to answering this question that can be applied to almost all industry segments, including marketing:
- “Summarize your career in one sentence.”
- “Next give a one to two sentence example demonstrating your accomplishments.”
- “End your answer to this question with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career . . .”
So, let’s take that three part outline and apply these steps to the next time you hear this question in an interview. You will find that this interviewing advice is very similar to our advice about a crafting a summary statement for your resume.
Summarize your career in one sentence. The first rule about answering this question is for each part of the answer to relate to the specific job for which you are interviewing. This should not be a generic answer. It should be carefully molded to the specifics of this interview. For our example here, we will consider a position that involves significant development of new products. Your answer might begin with a general statement such as: “I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept through development details such as product design and packaging to product launch.” So, the first part of your answer is general, but customized to the specific job for which you are interviewing.
Give a brief example demonstrating your accomplishments. This is the part where we take the answer from the general to the specific. In this stage of answering the question, you give specifics to demonstrate your success in handling this type of position in the past. In our chosen example: “In my last position, we introduced 3 major new products, plus a number of line extensions. Each of these products exceeded sales expectations by between 3% and 17%, and one of them was the second most successful product launch in the company’s 37 year history.“ As with our example here, this should be limited to only a couple of sentences. What you have done here is provide information to show how effectively you have performed this job in your career.
Conclude with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career. We shouldn’t need to state the obvious, but we will. This conclusion needs to flow logically from the rest of your answer, and fit in well with the specifics of this company and position. Using the example here, you do not want to say that you are really looking to add Internet experience to your resume. Rather, your close to this answer might sound something like this: “I love working with new products and am interested in an opportunity that focuses on this area, and a company where development of new products is a high priority.“ What you have accomplished in this sentence is to say I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept through development details such as product design and packaging to product launch. What you have done here is to say why you are interested in this opportunity, and why they should be interested in you.
So, your answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in an interview with a company looking for a Product Manager in charge of New Products ends up being something like this:
I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept, through development details such as product design and packaging, to product launch. In my last position, we introduced 3 major new products, plus a number of line extensions. Each of these products exceeded sales expectations by between 3% and 17%, and one of them was the second most successful product launch in the company’s 37 year history. I love working with new products and am interested in an opportunity that focuses on this area, and a company where development of new products is a high priority.
By following this technique your answer to a general question, a question that is typically one of the first ones asked in the interview, is neither general nor meaningless. It immediately confirms that you are indeed someone that they should be considering for this opportunity. And it establishes a solid foundation for the rest of your interview.
But, you say, I don’t think that I could come up with something like this off the top of my head. You’re right. You probably can’t. Which is why we are going to give you three additional rules on handling this question in our next article.
Yes, the word “Mistake” in our title is misspelled on purpose in order to grab your attention. This is not the way that you want to generate attention in your resume. This is your advertisement, your brochure, your press release, your point-of-purchase display. Don’t devalue yourself by being careless.
Yesterday we reviewed a two page resume that contained three typographical errors. While any such error is a negative in a resume, two of these were special problems.
One of the three errors was a word in the text that was caught by our spellchecker — the word “relaunch” was spelled as “relauch” in referring to the relaunch strategies of a particular product group. However, neither of the other two errors were picked up by this particular spell-check program. One of these was a proper name — of all things, the name of one of the companies in this candidate’s job history.
The other word was also especially noticeable since it was in one of the headers for this resume. In addition to the typical “Work Experience” component, this resume had separated the internship experience during their MBA program into a separate section. The header of that section included the word “INTERSHIP” in large bold capitalized letters. This too was not caught by our spell-check system (making me wonder whether we may need to invest in a different spellchecker).
Which brings us very smoothly to some basic rules of avoiding typographical errors in your resume.
Do Not Rely on Your Spellchecker to Find all Typos: As related above, spellcheckers do not always pick up errors. Taking a document and running it through a spellchecker is always a good idea, but it is not enough. It requires attentive proofreading in addition.
Do Not Rely on Only Your Own Eyes to Find Typos: Attentive proofreading, yes. But as with spell-check, do not make the mistake of relying on your own eyes, even if you consider yourself to be an excellent speller. You always want at least one other person to carefully review your resume. Why? Our brain often does something rather special when we read something that we have written. You see, we already know what we wrote, and our brain knows what it expects to see. The result is a “skimming factor” that causes us to sometimes miss typographical errors, even if we think that we are being especially careful.
Do Not Rely on a Resume Service or Someone Else’s Work: Especially with a resume service, where you have paid for a professional to assist, you anticipate a thorough and accurate job. Guess what? “It ain’t necessarily so.” Although more often than not, such a service will be very cautious about checking for typographical errors, don’t assume this is the case. We have received resumes with multiple typos only to learn later that they were prepared by a resume service. It’s your career. You are the individual that this resume is presenting to the hiring public. Do your own due diligence to assure complete accuracy.
By the way, this applies not only to professional resume services. It is equally true if your resume has been prepared or typed by an outplacement service — and perhaps even more true if it was done by your spouse, secretary, girlfriend/boyfriend, friend or mom. Don’t rely on someone else . . .
. . . and that includes your recruiter: You should also not rely on a recruiter or executive search firm to catch any errors. Hopefully any recruiters with whom you are working at least read your resume. But scanning a resume for content and proofreading a resume for errors are two very different types of reading. Many executive search firms are not going to go through the added step of individually proofreading your resume.
Look for Contextual Errors as Well: One reason that a spellchecker is not always comprehensive is that some of the errors are not misspelled words. Rather, they are the wrong words in the wrong context. Did you use ”their” instead of “there”, or did you mean ”principle” or “principal”? Even more basic, did you mean to type “thin” or “think” or “thing” or “this”? Or something as simple as typing the word “on” when you meant “in”, or “of” when you meant “or”. Both of these last two examples happen more often than you might think, since the “o” and “i” keys and the “f” and “r” keys are right next to each other on the keyboard. While these may be picked up by more sophisticated proofreading tools that include grammar checks, many spell-check programs will miss most or all of these. And because they are especially tricky to catch, they require very careful reading.
So, run your resume (and, by the way, any other documents such as your cover letters) through a spellchecker, and attentively read every word as a proofreader does, and have at least one other person that you trust do the same. Any errors reflect poorly on you. They can make a prospective employer feel as if you are careless — that you don’t pay attention to the details. To borrow an advertising slogan from Hallmark Cards: “Care enough to send the very best”, especially when a future career opportunity may hang in the balance.
Increasingly, we have observed a wide variety of summary styles for resumes. What we are going to talk about here is what makes the most effective resume summary (which we almost never see) and some summary styles to avoid in composing your resume.
The Traditional Resume Summary: The most frequent resume that we see is a fairly short generic summary. These are typically 3 to 5 lines in length, and are relatively generic. They give a brief description of your background and experience. This style of resume summary is moderately useful, but only moderately so.
Is the Summary too General? In writing and reviewing your summary, one question to ask yourself is whether it is so general as to be meaningless — or worse, boring. The last thing that you want on your resume is for the first thing the prospective employer reads to be something that puts them to sleep. This is your introduction to the employer. It must be something that creates interest and makes them want to read more.
The Summary as An Impact Statement: One of my mantras, so to speak, is the importance of impact statements in your resume and your interviews. An Impact Statement is something that tells the employer how you positively impacted your previous employers, and is the real answer to that all important question of “Why should I hire you?“ One way to make the summary a more effective and less boring part of your resume is to incorporate one or more impact statements. Examples might include:
- Consistently exceeded expectations as far as both revenue and profitability.
- Added 27 large key accounts in my last three positions.
- Successfully led turnaround efforts for five previously declining brands.
- Have saved my last three employers approximately $5.3 million through cost controls.
Notice several common threads to each of these statements. 1) They are all accomplishment oriented. 2) they are all true summary statements, encompassing more than one single position. 3) They all involve some level of quantification of your accomplishments (not essential but a big plus). And you tell me — if you were reviewing a resume, if you read any of those statements in the first two or three sentences of a summary, would you want to read more? That is the purpose.
Targeting your Summary Statement: Now we are going to take the concept of the impact summary described above one step further. In this era of word processing, where it is so easy to make changes in your resume, consider editing the impact statement for a specific employment opportunity. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Let’s say you are a marketing manager (or brand manager or product manager) that has some new products experience scattered through your career. You identify an opportunity with Big Company A. Because of conversations with your recruiter or from an Internet ad or from someone you know in that company, you are aware that one of the key components of this position is working with new products. For this particular opportunity, invest a short amount of time to incorporate a strong statement of your new product experience into your summary statement. For example, “Extensive experience in new products including the successful development and launch of 23 new products and line extensions.“ This not only places impact statements in your resume summary — you have created an impact statement directly related to the position for which you are applying.
Let’s now take another example for those of you in the sales profession, giving a couple of situations. In this case we are talking about a National Account Manager that has experience in Office Products Superstores (including specifically Staples) and in the Mass Market (including specifically Target). You have identified two different opportunities — one of them calling on Staples, and one of them calling on a number of Mass Market accounts (but not Target). For the first job, you want to incorporate one or more impact statements into your summary focused on your effective expertise with Staples. For the second job, you want to incorporate one or more impact statements on your broad based national account experience in the Mass Market. Although you might mention Target in that last summary, simply because Target is such an important account — resist the urge to focus on your Target experience. Doing that may create an impression that you are only truly interested in positions calling on that account.
The Run-on Summary Statement: The biggest mistake that we see with summary statements is for them to go on and on and on and on . . . We have seen so-called “summary statements” that actually take up almost all of the first page of a resume. This is typically done by someone who keeps adding and adding “information” to it, afraid that they might leave out something important.
Understand that the summary statement is not supposed to take the place of your resume. It should not be so long that you are, in effect, turning your resume into the dreaded functional style.
The summary statement should be a teaser. The primary purpose that it should fulfill is to make the person reading the resume want to read more. The better resume summary does this by using impact statements. The best resume summary goes one step further by incorporating one or more impact statements directly related to the position for which you are applying.
An interesting trend over the past five years is the increase in resumes that feature a period of time in which a professional has had their own consulting practice. This is different than someone working for a consulting group or for a marketing agency or advertising firm. What we are considering here are situations in which a candidate is using their own self-employment as an independent consultant for part of their employment history.
It is not at all unusual in such situations for a third-party recruiter or an interviewer with a prospective employer to explore this particular period in some detail, especially if it is presented as the most recent employment on your resume or at least fairly recent employment. And why not? If it is part of a legitimate job history, you should expect that experience to be explored at least as fully as any other experience.
The secret, as with all areas of the interview, is to be prepared. However, preparation is especially important in this instance because claims of consulting experience will be suspect to some of the individuals interviewing you. We know you don’t want to hear this, but it is a fact.
- Were you obtaining consulting assignments yourself, or were these contract assignments through an agency or marketing temp firm? You may be asked this just to establish the type of consulting environment in which you were operating. If these were through a marketing temp firm for example, be prepared to reveal who that firm was. Also, don’t be surprised if you are asked why none of those assignments converted from temporary to permanent.
- Who were your clients and what was the nature of the consulting work? This question will almost certainly come up. Be prepared to talk about this, but also be aware that there is a right way and a wrong way to present this information. The most important thing to remember is to try and keep this discussion relevant to the job for which you are interviewing. For example, if you are interviewing for a brand management job involving a lot of work with new products, try to use examples that illustrate consulting work with new product launch or designing new packaging, or examples that emphasize your creativity and conceptualization. If you are interviewing for a marketing research job that requires experience with syndicated research or with focus groups, use examples from your consulting work that highlight your skills in those areas. If you are interviewing for a job involving Search Engine Optimization, focus on SEO related success stories in your consulting. Keep it relevant to the job.
- A Resume Addendum? It is generally a poor idea to busy up a resume with extraordinary levels of detail about every consulting client and assignment. However, if you have a particularly strong story to tell about your consulting experience, you might consider including an addendum to your resume as a part of the portfolio that you take to job interviews. As a brief overview, it is recommended that this be organized in bullet format with the client as the header for each bullet. In addition to the client name, include a very brief description of the nature of the assignment and, much more importantly, any success stories related to each assignment. In other words, tell what you accomplished for each client, quantifying these accomplishments to the extent possible. When this period of your work history comes up in the interview, you can then use this to help establish that experience as strength rather than a potential weakness.
- What were your Earnings as a consultant? Especially if this is shown as your most recent job experience, you will almost certainly be asked this. There is a tremendous temptation for some individuals faced with this question to exaggerate, and that is a disaster waiting to happen. At some point, you will probably be asked to provide this information in writing on an application form. Plus, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a tax reporting record as evidence of the accuracy of these claims. You may think that exaggeration of this income is safe because it is a little more difficult to confirm through standard reference checking, but being caught may very likely mean losing this job opportunity entirely.
- Be Prepared with References: This is an era of more cautious reference checking. If independent consulting is a part of your work history, you should be prepared with at least one or two solid references from your clients.
If you are one of that increasing number of professionals that include a period of independent consulting in your career track, don’t be ashamed of it. More and more companies appreciate some element of entrepreneurial experience in prospective employee backgrounds. However, be prepared to present that background with strength and credibility in order to increase your chances of landing your desired job.
At the same time, beware of exaggerating. Again, like it or not, fair or not — many recruiters and companies are already at least a little suspicious when they see this background presented on a resume. You want it to work for you — not against you.
Everyone in marketing understands the concept of trends – trying to stay on top of them, and most of all trying to anticipate them. Not too many years ago, the hot trend in marketing positions was ethnic / diversity / multi-cultural marketing. That disciplinary area is still important, not only in terms of the number of positions available but also its overall impact on the profession. And it continues to experience growth.
However, the new hot area for marketing career development is e-Marketing. This is also frequently referenced as on-line marketing, Internet Marketing, or eCommerce. Once considered a subset of Direct Response Marketing, e-Marketing is assuming a life of its own. The growth in this area allows for a wide range of differing talents and job preferences. These include:
- Classical marketing roles such as strategic marketing, project management and client acquisition;
- More technical roles such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), database management, technical web design, and web analytics;
- Creative roles such as graphic arts and visual web design (the Internet version of packaging and “visual merchandising”); and
- Advancing trend roles such as the use and integration of “social marketing” (MySpace, FaceBook, blogging, etc.), mobile marketing and the Internet, and exploring the use of video and podcasting on websites.
Why focus on this here and now? There are a couple of reasons.
First, for candidates who are reshaping their career track, or contemplating doing so in the future, the world of eCommerce and electronic retailing is a growth area for you to consider. If you have the opportunity to build expertise and resume content in the eCommerce side of Integrated Marketing and/or Direct Response Marketing — or as a current Product/Brand/Marketing Manager or Director — it can be valuable to your long term career growth and stability. And, if you already have experience focused in the disciplines of Internet Marketing / On-Line Marketing, it is a point of leverage in advancing your career.
This is a dramatic change. At one time, career moves into internet marketing (much as with B2B marketing) may have resulted in marketing professionals becoming “stuck” in that area with little room for promotion. Now, however, the exponential growth in e-Business makes it relatively easy to believe that this may become one of those core areas of experience critical for advancing into higher level marketing and general management positions in a company.
Second, the technology and methodology of e-Marketing is already beginning to change the recruiting industry itself. The use of blogs by recruiters is expanding as a way of communicating useful information and advice to both candidates and clients. However, it is also a form of “social marketing” on the internet designed to reach new active candidates, establish relevant visibility to clients, and connect with other marketing professionals who are not yet actively involved in a job search.
Podcasting is also being used in a more limited way as both a training tool and a social marketing medium. Video is being explored as an additional means of training, for video resumes, and for on-line video interviews. And at Marketing Talent Network (www.MarketingTalentNetwork.com), we are providing instant alerts of new marketing and e-marketing jobs and updates via mobile phones, PDAs and instant messaging.
So whether you are a marketing professional exploring new directions and options in their career track, or whether you are someone in the midst of a job search and you are noticing some new developments in recruiting – welcome to the brave new world of e-marketing.
Listen Carefully – No, the number one rule isn’t something that you should say. It is listening. And the most basic form of this is not listening because you are so intent on the next thing you want to say that you don’t hear precisely what is being said to you. One of the most common complaints from interviewers is that the candidate they were interviewing wasn’t even really answering the questions being asked. If you listen carefully, the person interviewing you will tell you almost everything you need to know to get the job.
As much as possible, keep answers brief and focus on your accomplishments: This is a balancing act. You want your answers to be complete – but the interviewer doesn’t want one individual answer to go on forever and eat up valuable interview time. Most important, focus on your accomplishments – not what you did, but how well you did it, and the positive impact your decisions and actions had on your previous employers.
Never Ever Dwell on Negatives: Speaking of brevity, this is the place to really follow that rule. While you can’t dodge an uncomfortable question, you must not dwell on it either. Anticipate questions that might point to limitations in your background, and practice a short answer to effectively answer each of those questions.
Have some Well Thought Out Questions of Your Own: What are their goals for the company? What do they see as the most important things for the person in this position to accomplish in their first six months? What is the single trait that is most important for someone who works for you? These are just three examples. Consider ahead of time the questions you want to ask – questions that will not only give you information, but questions where the answers may help you emphasize your experience and skills.
Show Enthusiasm, Passion and Interest during the entire Interview: and if we have to explain what we mean by this, well then, never-mind.
These are the five basic rules. Oh sure, there are others – like never ordering spaghetti for a lunch interview. But these are the basic guidelines that should be the foundation for the rest of your interview preparation.
One of the areas that we regularly stress is the importance of truthfulness in your resume. We no longer live in a world where credentials are checked haphazardly, if at all.
This should be obvious. Except we have had candidates who sent us resumes with a changed career track that is very different than the resume they sent us three years ago. In other words, the same person had different jobs with different employers at different periods of their career than what they had reported before. And yes, we do keep them.
And we have had candidates who have told us that another recruiter told them it was okay to just drop the short term job that they held in 2006 for about eight months in between two other jobs. Or to go ahead and fudge on that title a little. Although, thank goodness, lying on a resume is usually the candidate’s own idea and not that of another recruiter.
What’s wrong with this, other than the fact that it is lying? The point was driven home in an article at the top of the “Who’s News” section on page B5 of the May 2nd Wall Street Journal. Quoting the first paragraph briefly:
“. . .the President and Chief Operating Officer of Herbalife, Ltd., lost his job after acknowledging he claimed a fake Master’s degree in corporate filings.”
Yep — the bigger they are . . . well, you know the rest.
Don’t let this be you. If a company discovers that you have lied about credentials on your resume, you face two problems. First, if they find out during the hiring process, you almost certainly won’t get hired. But what many don’t realize is that if they find out after you have been hired — even several months later — you may very well be summarily discharged.
And if you encounter that rare recruiter who tells you to lie on a resume (remember, there is a bottom 10% in every profession) – “Well, you’re only a couple classes short of a degree, so go ahead and put it on there” or “I tell all my candidates to leave off a job when they were there less than a year” or “No one will understand that title, so just put down Director of Marketing, since that’s really what you were anyway” — run from that recruiter as fast as you can.
Not only are they putting you in jeopardy as far as your career. But, if they are willing to let you lie to the employer about your credentials (an employer that is paying them by the way), how many lies are they going to tell you about the company and the job? (Sure you’ll be promoted in the next six months . . . you bet).
Of course, all of this applies to interviews as well as resumes, but more on that another time.
Shortly after 9-11, a number of people in the recruiting industry noticed an interesting trend in terms of changes related to the willingness of professionals to relocate. Suddenly candidates were less willing to move if they were living close to family, and if the were open to relocation there was a strong preference to move close to where they had family ties. Purely a lifestyle decision, and understandable given the circumstances.
During the past several months we have been noticing a new trend — this time based on financial decisions and brought on by the housing crisis. Many candidates have lost equity in their homes — sometimes a lot of equity. This makes it far more difficult for some of them to relocate to a new city.
From a hiring and careers perspective, this creates a variety of different dynamics:
- People Less Willing to Move with Companies: often a company makes a decision to relocate either their entire headquarters or just the marketing department to a new city. This always raises the question of how many of the current marketing professionals for that company will relocate. The percentages seem to be shrinking. We are encountering more and more people who are looking for a new position because they do not want to make a move with their company, and more clients who are looking for good talent to fill the positions left vacant after this type of a move.
- People less willing to move for a new job: for the same reasons, more candidates want to focus search efforts to a commutable distance from where they currently live. The biggest difficulty this presents is that it significantly limits the available positions appropriate for their background and this stage in their career. Result? A much longer job search, often not because there are less jobs on the market, but because of the narrow limits they have placed on that search.
- People who are surprised after they decide to relocate: This is perhaps the worst of all scenarios. Someone decides to relocate, accepts the new job, and then they are shocked at the housing market. It is important that all professionals enter the job market at this time with their eyes wide open. When it comes to such factors as the length of time it will take to sell your house or the amount of equity you will have from the sale, to be surprised in the early stages of your job search is one thing — to be surprised after you have already accepted a position in another city is something else entirely different.
What do we suggest given this current set of circumstances?
- If you are a marketing professional who believes their company is going to move you, and you don’t want to go — don’t wait until the last minute to look for a job. Start your job search at the first hint this this situatuon may be in the wind. Because if you are unwilling to move, your search for a new position will be more difficult and take longer.
- If you are a marketing professional that is willing to move for a good career change — don’t wait until the last minute to start shopping your home. Talk to some realtors. Get a realistic appraisal and an estimate of how long it will take to sell your house. Start taking action early.
- If you are a hiring manager or human resources manager in a firm that will be moving a group of professionals to another location, don’t blindly expect the best. Talk to a reputable recruiter early about starting to help fill your gaps as that relocation takes place. Because filling those positions will affect the efficiency with which that department handles their work, and it will also affect the attitude of those individuals who went ahead and made the move.
Bottom line, plan ahead and take action early. And don’t take the entire burden on yourself. Work with one or two good recruiters that specialize in the marketing field.