Part Two of Two Parts
In Part I of this two-part blog we looked at three of the six most common mis-branding mistakes that can effectively—and quickly!—eliminate you from the hiring game. In this, the second part of the blog, we’ll examine the other three most common mis-branding mistakes that can practically guarantee that you won’t be hired, or at least not hired anytime soon.
Just to refresh your memory, based upon my professional experience of being in the job market each and every business day, the first THREE of the SIX most common mis-branding mistakes are the following:
1. Candidate name and email address are totally “out of sync” and cannot be easily reconciled by the person “screening” candidates.
2. Voice mail messages left with “headhunters,” hiring managers or Human Resources professionals are generally weak and without direction.
3. Making the “headhunter,” hiring manager or the Human Resources professional guess which phone number he or she should use to contact the candidate.
The remaining three mis-branding mistakes we’ll cover in this blog are . . .
1. Mis-branding yourself as employed (when you are not), or Mis-branding yourself as unemployed (when you are not).
2. Mis-branding yourself as a “job hopper.”
3. Mis-branding yourself by not branding yourself.
Now, let’s examine each of these mis-branding mistakes in more detail, as well as look at ways to avoid making them in the first place.
1. Mis-branding yourself as employed (when you are not), or (Unwittingly) Mis-branding yourself as unemployed (when you are not).
Since most professionals will look for a new position only five or six times in their lifetime, it’s quite understandable that they can easily “forget” the pertinent “rules” of the hiring game, or at least that they might not be quite up to speed on the current rules. As a result, they can easily, and oftentimes, unwittingly, mis-brand themselves. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I’m talking about here.
In today’s very challenging job market I (and hiring managers and Human Resources professionals) routinely receive résumés with date ranges indicating that the candidate is currently employed, when in fact they are not, e.g., XYZ Corporation – 2008 to present. So, when I ask the question, “You are still with XYZ, correct?” and am told, “no.” Unfortunately you are sunk at that point because I feel that you have attempted to deceive me. (Believe me, hiring managers and Human Resources professionals feel the same way!) Claiming that you made “an honest mistake” or sent me an “older” version of your résumé will not change anything or fool me. FACT: You will no longer be considered. Period. End of discussion.
Certainly, it is understandable, though definitely not appreciated, that today a candidate may attempt to avoid being labeled as “unemployed” when searching for a new career opportunity. But it boggles the mind as to why a candidate would (usually unwittingly) brand himself/herself as being unemployed when in fact they are still employed!
Suppose, for example, that you received a résumé that had the following most recent job history entry in it:
XYZ Corporation Jan 2008 – April 2011
What would you automatically assume? If you are like most people, you would undoubtedly assume that the person’s employment with XYZ Corporation ended in April 2011, right? Well, that may not necessarily be true. Let me give you a recent example.
Earlier this month, I called a candidate with just such a date range on his résumé. He had the exact experience and expertise we were looking for, which is why I called. As I interviewed him I asked, “Why are you no longer with XYZ Corporation?” His response was, “Oh, I am still with them,” to which I then responded, “Then why do you have through ‘April 2011’ on your résumé?” His response: “That shows the time frame that this resume covers.”
BRANDING SOLUTION: As is the case with most things in life, when it comes to your résumé, honesty is not only the best policy, it is the only policy! If you attempt to “get under the wire” by falsely implying that you are currently employed when you are not, you will be found out, eventually. Today, virtually all statements made in résumés (particularly those dealing with current or previous employers) will be checked at some point in the hiring process.
And, remember, if you close out a date range, a “headhunter,” hiring manager or Human Resources professional will automatically assume that you are currently unemployed. And that means that there is a very good chance that, because of such “mis-branding,” you could easily get passed over for a great career opportunity!
2. Mis-branding yourself as a “job hopper.”
Being “branded” as a “job hopper” has never been a positive attribute for a job candidate and that is particularly true in today’s job market. Yet, I review résumés every single business day that, at first glance, suggest that a candidate is indeed a “job hopper.” Let me give you an example of what I mean here.
Suppose you pick up a candidate’s résumé and here is how she lists previous (and current) positions held:
XYZ Corporation June 2010 – Present
XYZ Corporation Feb 2009 – June 2010
Sales Representative XYZ Corporation Jan 2008 – Feb 2009
A cursory glance—and that is all your résumé is likely to get today, a cursory glance!—would suggest that this candidate has held THREE different positions with THREE separate companies within the last three plus years, right? But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these three separate positions are in fact with the same company. The way the candidate could easily have avoided giving the wrong impression, by unwittingly branding herself as a “job hopper,” would have been for her to have presented her job experience in the following manner, sublimating the positions held, not the employing company:
June 2010 – Present
Feb 2009 – June 2010
Sales Representative Jan 2008 – Feb 2009
I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking, “Well, Skip, you should have taken more time and made more of an effort to more closely read this candidate’s résumé.” The fact of the matter is, however, I simply don’t have enough time in the day to try and figure out what a candidate actually meant to say (or imply) in his or her résumé, and neither does a hiring manager or Human Resources professional.
It is crucial to understand that, today, recruiters (and hiring managers and Human Resources professionals) get literally hundreds (and sometimes, even thousands!) of résumés each and every business day. Our firm averages about 200 résumés a day. Thus, each résumé will get about 20 seconds of attention. Maximum! That means it is vital that your résumé instantly and clearly communicates all relevant information because you won’t get another chance to “clarify” anything on your résumé!
BRANDING SOLUTION: When compiling your résumé always put yourself in the place of the person(s) likely to be reviewing it—knowing that, at best, they will spend 20 seconds or less doing that review. Understand, then, that you must make everything in your résumé absolutely (and instantly) crystal clear, if you are to stand any chance of being seriously considered for a subsequent interview. (And, coincidentally, that is what your résumé is designed to do, or at least should be designed to do—get you an interview, not a job!) If you don’t have the time, or the expertise, to incorporate these characteristics in your résumé, then I strongly advise you to seek the assistance of a competent résumé professional. It could be money well spent!
3. Mis-branding yourself by not branding yourself.
What is it that you do (or have done) that separates you from other candidates? In other words, what about you makes you unique? If your résumé, cover letters and any (and all!) communications you send to prospective employers don’t quickly and clearly answer these questions, then you are guilty on mis-branding yourself by not branding yourself!
Résumés and cover letters that are routine and mundane will, ipso facto, “brand” you, but you’re not likely to appreciate the “brand”—someone who is downright boring! My finger (and, you can be assured, the fingers of hiring managers and Human Resources professionals) hovers over the DELETE key . . . what, if anything, will keep me from hitting it?
To make this point, let me share with you the typical cover letter prepared by most candidates today. Then, I’ll show you how the cover letter can be rewritten, significantly strengthened and clearly communicate the candidate’s uniqueness.
Cover Letter (BEFORE)
Dear Mr. Smith:
I am interested in applying for a position in public relations with your company. I am graduating with a degree in Public Relations and Communications from The University of Alabama in one month. I have a strong work ethic, get along well with people, can work alone or with a team and I have some relevant experience.
For example, I am a member of the Greek Community at the University of Alabama, have had an internship with the Grand Ole Opry marketing team and have been involved with the Ad Team working on the 2011 JC Penny Campaign.
Mr. Smith, I would like to work for your company. I look forward to hearing from you.
Cover Letter (AFTER)
Dear Mr. Smith:
XYZ Corporation is a ground-breaking, ‘one-stop shop’ for digital marketing bringing both artists and fans together.
For years my goal has been to be in public relations within the music industry in Nashville and be a major facilitator in bringing artists and fans together. And the current reality is this…no matter how well it has been done in the past, the world changes daily. In the future, the leading companies will be those that get social media right, ensure there are appropriately coordinated cross-media campaigns, address the way mobile is changing the game and realize that we have fans with attention spans that are only as long as 140 characters!
I am graduating with a degree in Public Relations and Communications from The University of Alabama in one month. I can bring to you creativity, fresh ideas, energy and an unparalleled work ethic…which can help XYZ continue to reach, engage and deliver the right messages for its artists. The evidence that I have the correct critical exposure and experience for you is:
• Active involvement in public relations and communications with the UA Greek Community
• PR Director for the UA Advertising Team developing the 2011 JC Penney campaign
• An internship with the Grand Ole Opry marketing team
• PR with the CBS College Sports Network
Mr. Smith, may I suggest we set up a time for a 15-minute “virtual cup of coffee” to discuss how I can help XYZ address the opportunities and challenges of the ever- changing entertainment business and dynamic fan base?
I think you will agree that, while the first cover letter comes across as “ho-hum” at best, the second cover letter clearly brands the candidate as someone unique, someone offering much more than the “average” candidate. And more importantly, it brands the candidate as someone that a prospective employer is likely to want to interview!
BRANDING SOLUTION: Ensure that you are using POWER words and phrases in all your marketing literature, i.e., your résumé, cover letters, Thank-You notes, etc. This will help you clearly and effectively communicate your uniqueness, as well as the fact that you bring something new, different and better from the “typical” candidate!
Some readers undoubtedly will conclude that the mis-branding mistakes I have covered in this blog are really nothing more than just common sense. And indeed that is precisely what they are! Still, I (and hiring managers and Human Resources professionals) see these mis-branding mistakes come across my desk every single business day! What’s more, all of these mistakes can easily be avoided, and of course should be. In today’s extremely challenging job market making such “common sense” mistakes will practically guarantee that you will be “out of the running” before you ever even get in the game.
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.