Thursday, May 28

Response to the infamous "Tell me about yourself"...

"Tell Me About Yourself" may be the single-most important pitch moment you have and a favorite question that has befuddled many an unsuspecting candidate. Responses can range from strong to weak to irrelevant to fatal. Having a good response is as important as having a good tennis serve. There are several different types of responses. Two that are especially effective are the Specific Approach and the Overview Approach.

The Specific Approach allows you to identify specific, relevant aspects of your background, while the Overview Approach is more of a summary of your background. The Overview is also used to keep you out of trouble when you are not certain of what the interviewer wants to hear. With either approach, your response should be followed by a question that is intended to evoke a narrower question from the interviewer. That is, it forces him or her to ask a more specific question in line with you opening statement. Since I prefer to combine the two approaches, I have a model I advised folks to use. A simple 4-step approach:

1. PREPARE BULLET PHRASES. Do your research and prepare four or five bullet phrases relevant to a business challenge or a market threat or potential opportunity that the target firm or industry faces. Each bullet should be no longer than 3-seconds and associated with action-oriented successfully completed tasks (“I started-up this” … “I developed and successfully executed that” … “I spearheaded something and brought it to something other”). The bullets should also touch on your positive attributes and personal characteristics - all combined, a big order I know. Here are some examples of words and phrases that have impact and can trigger interest:

  • Ability to identify alternatives
  • Results-oriented
  • Successful business startups
  • Led both large and small companies
  • Decisive; easily cuts through non-essential information
  • Put through major changes
  • Ability to identify alternatives
  • Good long-range strategic planner

2. STORY-TELLING. Prepare a 30- to 50-second story for each bullet using a "story-telling" technique I refer to as S.O.A.R.

  • The Situation or circumstance in which you were involved - S
  • The Opportunity that existed for, first, your organization and then you - O
  • Actions you took in face of the opportunity - A
  • The Results of your action - R

Example: (S)The ownership of a physical therapy and sports medicine company recruited me to (O)lead, grow and concurrently stabilize a $4.7 million health systems company staffed by 85 professionals. (A) I developed and executed all business plans and opened new markets in industrial and corporate health promotion, (R) positioning the company for its very profitable $6.6 million sale, $2.5 million more than the ownership had anticipated.

Strong, well-articulated success concepts and persuasive examples of your successes using the SOAR technique are essential for securing a quality position.

3. BULLET PHRASE ROLL-CALL. In the Interview: When asked “Tell me about yourself” begin with "As you can see from my resume my experience covers..." and then recap your resume for him/her (eg. "... covers the full breadth of starting up a business from developing a business plan to obtaining seed capital to acquiring plant and equipment to hiring staff) and quickly roll through your four or five specific 3-second bullet phrases

4. THE SOAR STORY. After rapidly firing off your bullets you can wrap-up with “on which of these would you like me to elaborate?” or, if you learned something that is important to your target firm, you may suggest one upon which you can expand, such as "would you like me address some of the specifics of my business start-up experience?". I personally prefer to lay out the bullet phrases and let him/her choose thus giving the illusion that they are selecting the topic. BTW, I have yet to receive feedback of an Interviewer suggesting you talk about something other than one or more of the bullets that have been outlined. Now, once you have you marching instructions, the bullet phrase(s) on which s/he wants you to elaborate, you can provide you well-prepared corresponding SOAR story. Be prepared to keep in under 1 minute.

This method a great method for addressing “Tell me about yourself” combining your resume, bullets from relevant research and the “story technique”.

ope this answers some questions.

Rob Taub

Wednesday, May 27

Nurturing Those Spot Opportunities: Never overlook the potential rewards of project work.

I just hung up from a call with an individual who is in the throws of selling off his company’s real estate portfolio and considering taking on a bank job. No … nothing as dramatic as the "Bank Job" as in the Baker Street robbery in central London circa 1971; something a little less spectacular - Working with a bank's construction portfolio. This is not the level at which he wants to ultimately position himself, but the location is right and it makes good sense for the times, because ...the times they are(n’t) a changin’ (at least not anytime soon). And with some hard work and creative effort, he may be able to turn this ordinary “spot opportunity” into a tailor-made permanent position. If not and nothing else, he can at least learn about a new type of position that may fit in his future, learn about another side of his industry, meet new networking contacts and develop or polish some skills. In any case, when we hung up I was reminded of another person, a past client of mine whose story I'd like to share.

Right out of high school Bill moved into Banking as a clerk in a community bank. Over the next 28 years he survived five takeovers and rose to upper-middle management, responsible for branch security and a variety of backroom cash management functions. He never got around to getting a college degree. When the final takeover occurred, he did not make the cut. Now (then) in his mid-50’s without a four-year degree and his only experience in an industry that was, as is today, consolidating at breakneck speed, his chances of re-entry into Banking seemed bleak.

A friend who worked for a large beverage company that had recently reorganized approached Bill with an opportunity for a two-week assignment in their accounting area. We discussed its merits and agreed that he should accept the project. The two-week assignment turned into four, then into six and eight. It became clear to us that Bill was fulfilling an important need within the organization that had not yet been outlined by Management and that he would be a valuable permanent addition to their staff.

Bill moved into a permanent position that was created with only him in mind, and once in, his performance quickly overshadowed any lack of a four-year degree or experience outside Banking. Bill went on to play an important role in the company’s operations.

In short, the temporary assignment afforded Bill exposure to an opportunity for which, on paper, he would have been considered “unqualified”. It also provided Management an opportunity to observe Bill’s skills first hand, measure his proficiency in accounting and administrative matters, and at the end of the day benefit from the power of his wisdom and experience.

So, should a similar “spot opportunity” present itself to you, broaden your vision, evaluate it for its wider-ranging possibilities and if appropriate, jump on it for if not, someone else may!!

(Oh … and on “Power”? Managers often have power because subordinates depend upon them for rewards. In the same way subordinates may have power if they link the managers’ performance to their own. Or, as in Bill’s case the company’s operations performance to his own)


Thursday, May 21

…And May The Best Marketing Strategy Win!

Product Marketing is competitive warfare and the best marketing strategies win! What are the best strategies? Those that link product value and benefit quickly and painlessly to the customer need. In job seeking, that strategy may be your 15-second elevator pitch (similar “to point of sale” marketing) or any one of a number of marketing letters, including proposal format letters, or targeted person-to-person contact and more. These are not average times. According to some economists unemployment can rise to as much as 9-10% and consequently, average job search marketing strategies are not working. Average (generic) resumes are being auto-deleted by the thousands before reaching human hands. It’s war folks!

Generate maximum results with targeted resume distribution. “Blasting an unfocused resume describing work history to the greatest number of employers in hopes of gaining the highest amount of interviews is not effective marketing” says Marta Driesslien, Marketing Director for Waltham MA based R. L. Stevens & Associates, Inc., a 28-year veteran firm in career marketing. “Trying to appeal to those who have little or no expressed interest in what you are selling” she says “is counterproductive.”

Targeted resume distribution, however, is effective … targeted being the operative word here. Your resume reaches its destination and in 30 seconds conveys to the reader that you recognize and understand

· What it is that the s/he considers important

· The demographics of their marketplace

· Characteristics of their internal clients (employees) and external clients

· Type of business, product/service line, sales volume, competition… and more

This demonstrates you have done your homework on the company. (This is particularly important if you are re-careering and the firm is in a different industry than the one in which you previously worked).

Do not allow yourself to appear average–STAND OUT! Do deep-level research into the company. Also get into a habit of reading recent company press releases and annual reports, and viewing media coverage, industry blogs and social networking portals; and always consult with people you know and trust in your network. Learn to recognize market changes and recent effects they have had on the target company. Learn and understand not only the market and the competition but also how they have affected the organization, and ask yourself how has this also effected competitors and the industry overall? All of this information is helpful in identifying business strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, where a company may be looking to grow and develop, what needs they may have on their short- and long-term horizons; and consequently, provides you with the opportunity to sell your value-mix as unique, with direct and immediate benefit.

Differentiate yourself like never before. Believe your one-size-fits-all resume can still get you quality interviews like it did 5, 10, 20 years ago? Think again. This is the worse US economic downturn in two generations with a hypercompetitive, overcrowded job market and shrinking opportunities. It is not enough to just do the deep-level research and collect the data (i.e. company info; leadership; core businesses etc…), you must differentiate yourself from your competition, standout, and be recognized. So, process the data. That is, determine how to use it to your advantage. Look for kinks in their amour … think “covert”. Once accomplished your data becomes INTELIntelligence information on your target company with a big red “CLASSIFIED” stamp. You will be better equipped to effectively convey your value-proposition directly to a company’s business needs. You WILL stand out among your competition.

People buy your achievements and relevant successes, not your duties and responsibilities. (Long sentence coming) In your quest to standout and tie your achievements and accomplishments to the target companies’ business needs and strategies versus listing your job experiences one after another, you will have more than just a fighting chance to get to the next step – the interview, for the best marketing strategies always do. And when they DO buy, you will not come cheap! May the best marketing strategy win!




Thursday, May 7

How to Translate What You Do Into What’s In It For Others

By Liz Lynch of Smart Networking

I was reading Dan Schawbel's Personal Branding blog earlier today and happened upon a really good article by Liz Lynch. I left some comments on the blog which I also posted here, below. Please visit Dan's blog and the read Liz's article.

Comment to Liz Lynch's post: I have often counseled saying “people don’t give a hoot about what YOU want or what YOU have done or where YOU have been unless it relates DIRECTLY to them. That is (also) to say, people hire for purely selfish reasons: "What are you (candidate) going to do for ME and MY quality of life?”

I often see objectives on resumes that read something like this:

Looking for a growth opportunity in a growth organization that will utilize my skills and experience etc. Hey ... WHO CARES?! Think about it: If you left that objective off the resume is it then implied that you're interested possibly in a “non-growth situation and non-growth organization that cannot utilize any of your skills or experience"? Consequently, you have said nothing, right?

Clearly, the right objective or relevant opening statement on the phone or in a letter of introduction can set down the foundation for what it is you really CAN do FOR the organization and thus better ensure you capture their interest. Do your research. Find out what’s on their plate and direct your objective and subsequently your “elevator speech” et al to matters that matter (relevancy).

People hire for purely selfish reasons! … and it’s a good thing they do. If it’s for reasons that are good for them and they are in a hiring capacity, they are reasons that are good for the organization, right? I mean, who would want to hire the wrong people; more over, who would want to work for an organization that hires the wrong people?

Just some thoughts…Hope they help


Tuesday, May 5

A Few Words on Educators in Transition

There are hundreds of places where Educators are valued outside the pure practice of “educating”.

If you are an Educator and reading this consider the following: Your “value-mix” – your unique proposition to an organization – comes from what it is you can do, not where you chose to do it. It is your mix of competencies, education, skill sets, experience, talent, professional characteristics and more, NOT the venue in which you practiced them. When you consider the value you bring to the table, consider it from about 10,000 feet – the big picture perspective that is.

Educators are disciplined organizers who must learn early on in their careers to manage their time, and that of others, wisely. Although their classroom hours may be structured for them, all that they do in the preparation and creating of new approaches and the monitoring, et al is performed in an unsupervised environment. This means that they have to set the structure themselves, on their own time, and maintain the discipline required to keep at it. Have you ever known an Educator who does not have strong scheduling, planning, time management and administrative skills? Just to be minimally effective requires careful planning as to course content, materials to be used, pace of learning, plus the optimum mix of role playing, testing, lecturing, drill, and more – very similar to project managers in business and industry. Here are some perspectives on Educators.

Educators are project managers – good ones! They HAVE to be in order to get through the day, week and year. They are normally assigned duties beyond the classroom: Parent and teacher meetings; conferences; professional development workshops; associations meetings; coursework; and presiding over one or more student activities. It is left up to them to provide the organizational structure, goals, milestones for progress, and they are the final authority on matters that might be in dispute. At the same time, they have to understand group dynamics, build consensus, and enlist/enroll others to contribute so that they get the most out of the raw enthusiasm and talent that their students can bring to an activity. Too, it is they who see that the objectives are met and gets things done, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.

If an Educator fails to function well as expert project manager and leader, the evidence is glaring and staring them in the face. A poor newspaper article, a yearbook that doesn’t come out on time, a junior prom that flops, an art show with unfinished projects, an archaeology club with no field trips… lack of results has immediate and harsh consequences. When you think about it, time after time and year after year, Educators as a group do turn in outstanding performances in these many roles they are asked to fill.

Educators are Public Relations, Communications and Community Affairs professionals as they are involved in group and individual sessions with parents/providers/administrators/unions/board members. Often different aspects of the community are touched by Educators’ activities, thus tactful and carefully thought-out communications is a must. This has become especially critical in recent years as schools have been asked to take over more and more of the roles formerly filled by families and the community. For those who are creative and/or thrive on new challenges, it’s a jolt of adrenalin every day.

Educators are Counselors and Consultants. They are expected to provide the psychological and emotional support that many of their students AND families require. They also counsel and consult with each other. This requires the qualities of a good listener, advanced communications skills, a person who gets beyond the symptoms to the causes, a perceptive person who is supportive, compassionate and bold … all these come to the foreground in the Educators who function as counselor and consultant. And finally...

Many formal Educators are General Managers who have started and run small businesses during the summer. It makes little difference whether it is a concession stand at the shore, a landscaping or house painting company, part ownership in a local restaurant, operation of a summer camp or a basketball clinic, running tours for students, working in Retail, or building home additions. In any of these businesses, they learn what it means to meet a payroll and what cash flow and generating revenue are all about; and they learn to deal with the pressures involved in making a profit. They understand the importance of systems to control operations, costs and quality, and the importance of good customer service and “selling” too. They oversee operations; plan direction; serve as spokespersons; train and organize; recruit and motivate, and more … and they know how to “act in the moment” to make adjustments when things aren’t going as planned. These Educators also understand logistics and supply chain and many other aspects fundamental to running a business. In general, they can do almost anything good managers of successful small to mid-size businesses can do, and accordingly, for all the Educators who have run or helped run businesses, there are tens of thousands of potential employers -they include just about every small and medium-sized business in the U.S.

Just a few words on Educators! Hopes this helps someone.

Yours truly!