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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

When an interviewer poses a brain teaser to you, it may seem tedious, but the reasoning behind it is to see how you’d deal with stress on the job. It’s also to assess your personality: are you more optimistic or pessimistic?

Since nobody would come right out and respond, “I tend to be a pessimist,” many interview exercises are designed to reveal such things that you might not intentionally disclose otherwise.  Quite a few candidates are now being asked to take a personality assessment test prior to being considered for employment.  Employers want to see how quickly people think on their feet and out of their comfort zone.

Eleanor* contacted me, frustrated, for help, because her months of job search efforts hadn’t paid off.  What I saw in her results was more promising than she realized, though. She didn’t properly interpret what she received.

Eleanor was looking to return to the job market after having been a stay at home mom for several years.  Although she had been working hard to reestablish contacts and network, it became obvious that she was technologically behind and simply didn’t understand some current protocols in today’s job hunting etiquette.

She showed me an email she had sent to a manager, asking for information about an upcoming recurring seasonal temporary position.  Eleanor mentioned a mutual friend they have in common who recommended her for the position, then attached her resume and asked for the manager to review her resume and a time to meet when they might discuss any suggestions that the manager had to bolster or improve her resume.

In the manager’s response to Eleanor, she told her that the recurring seasonal position probably won’t be renewed for the upcoming season, due to budgetary problems, but that a different job might be available instead (it’s still not confirmed).  She gave Eleanor a name and contact information to follow up with for verification of this later in the month.

Eleanor used this email to demonstrate her disgust with how unhelpful people are, lamenting, “She didn’t even mention my resume!  You’d think she could take some time out of her schedule to have a short meeting with me, wouldn’t you?”

Although Eleanor called to engage my services, it was clear she was ready to Forget It! so I tried to take her step by step through this particular email and show her several positives where she saw negatives.

For one thing, I told her, the fact that she got a response at all is an indicator that someone cared . . . most people wouldn’t bother to write back.  This was clearly a personal response, too – not a form letter.  Another good sign.

Answering Eleanor’s question with “this position isn’t available” was helpful, but the manager didn’t stop there.  She obviously cared enough to offer help about another possible available position (and didn’t have to), along with a name and contact information.  These are all positive indicators.

While it’s true that the manager didn’t respond to Eleanor’s second request about meeting or critiquing her resume, I pointed out that this topic was all lumped into the end of the same paragraph as the first request.  It was obvious by the footer in the manager’s response that the she had replied from her mobile handheld device, which means that scrolling large amounts of text is cumbersome – and downloading a document is virtually impossible.

A better way to have sent this message would have been for Eleanor to break up each idea into its own very short paragraph, and send a link to her online resume, I explained.  Then, the manager could have more easily noticed the second request and connected online to view the resume.

It was as this point that Eleanor confessed that she didn’t have an online portfolio, and we got to work on building her LinkedIn account immediately.  She also upgraded her cell phone to a smartphone and began practicing texting and tweeting, to become more proficient with key words and how to market herself in today’s world.

Eleanor learned two different responses that she used whenever someone posed the “Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?” question to her that helped her seem more thoughtful and unique as well, depending upon her assessment of whether she found the manager to be more creative or analytical:

•     That depends.  If the glass is being filled, then it is half full; if it’s being emptied, then it is half empty.
•     Actually, the glass is entirely full:  half of it with water, the other half with air.

When Eleanor realized more what it’s like from the HR manager’s perspective, we were able to Fix It! and set her up on several interviews, until ultimately, she got a job offer with a company that was a good fit for her.

Changing her tactics – and mindset – helped Eleanor develop better interview skills and portray a more confident, talented candidate to each hiring manager she met with thereafter.  She didn’t just say she had a more positive outlook.  She actually found one, and it showed.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Shelby* and Tisha* know that every interview can be a learning experience

Yvonne* and Zachary* have to deal with the unexpected during their interviews

Olive* learns about office politics and the importance of networking

Speak To Your Audience

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I always have a great time at the NTEN & AFP conferences, catching up with old friends and making new ones, as well as learning new techniques I can apply in my job. I was shocked at what I saw, though, at one of the vendor booths at NTEN:

Like many of the vendors, PayPal was trying to entice visitors to their booth with a giveaway. People who entered the drawing had a chance to win a Nook. Many electronic devices were being awarded at the NTEN conference: iPads, Kindles, etc. Experienced attendees always bring many business cards for these drawings.

But how was PayPal – the company promoting online fundraising – accepting entries? Not with a business card, but with a paper questionnaire! (click to make larger)

Complete this survey for a chance to win 1 of 3 Nook e-readers.  Winners will be notified at the phone number that you provide below.

I asked one gentleman who was at the booth why a company that makes its living selling online commerce would operate in such a fashion and how they expected to compete with all the other vendors who were offering giveaways without requiring this much effort on the part of the conference attendees.

He shrugged and explained that he didn’t actually work for PayPal, but was just “helping out” for the day.

A couple of aisles later, I saw another vendor that was working to meet the needs of a busy attendee . . . on their terms:  The Chronicle of Philanthropy

In addition to providing free paper copies of the Chronicle, they were offering free sign up for people to subscribe to issues online, with the screen facing passersby, so that they could create an account immediately:

It makes a great deal of difference to your constituency how you engage them, and how much you ask of them. Prizes are nice, of course, but most of us left each conference without a new iPad – and will unsubscribe to all of the new emails we’ll be getting . . . unless they provide value and convenience to our lives.

The AFP conference in Chicago was held at McCormick Place, which is akin to a large airport! LOTS of walking is necessary to get from one session to another. Even the convention center itself has moved with the times to try to provide service that is convenient to its customers. I noticed this sign in a women’s restroom:

McCormick Cares   Please text the "Keyword" below: MCE3504F  followed by any Restroom needs to 69050

What can you do to keep your finger on the pulse of your constituent base? Have you been measuring your areas of growth, so you can address them and meet those needs? Online giving has increased in nearly all sectors, for example.

Mobile giving and texting are going to show explosive growth in the next year. While smart phones are currently only 13% of handhelds, they account for 78% of the handheld traffic. Does this impact how you might alter your strategy? Would you consider adding a graphic like the one below to your next direct mail appeal, for example?

QR codes are becoming very useful for a variety of things. You can search for a (free) QR code app on your smart phone to decode the one above, and if you wish to create a code of your own, it’s very easy. The code can translate into a word, phrase, phone number, hyperlink, or sms – and be in various sizes. Give it a try!

Just as with any new venture, the response rate will be smaller and slower than something already being done, but the segment of your population that uses this venue will appreciate your catering to them – and they will grow with you over time.  They will also remember who responded to their needs earliest.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Get To The Point!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

If I invited you over “for dinner” and you later realized I also wanted your help moving my furniture, this might not go over too well. Likewise, if I had a surprise blind date waiting for you. Clear, direct communication is most often preferred.

Consider the people whose emails, phone calls and visits you look forward to – and those you dread. What do the ones you dread have in common? Most likely, they are poor communicators who require a great deal of effort to comprehend, either initially, or with a lot of follow up. Concise, brief statements are appreciated more than ever in a world filled with 24 hour communication via a plethora of channels.

This is true, whether you are sending a direct mail piece, email, text message, tweet or updating a Facebook status on your page. Consider the same basic Who, What, When, Where, Why and How tenets and make a deliberate attempt to answer these questions as quickly and directly as possible. Also ask yourself if the message is necessary and relevant to your constituents.

Not only will constituents unsubscribe or withdraw from messages that are too frequent or too lengthy, but also when they feel they are being misled or taken for granted with a message that’s too impersonal, such as one that’s sent from no-reply@company.com.

Often, fewer words are necessary when a succinct graphic is used to tell the story. Most people are visually responsive, and offering an enhancement that supports your text provides another means for them to process your message.

Not only should organizations invest further in social media overall for 2011, but when looking at the statistics of how similar Twitter and Facebook users are in their consumption, it makes sense to reach out to people where they are already spending their time.

Twitter in particular encourages brief, direct messaging. Crafting an effective tweet takes practice, but those who do it effectively end up with many loyal followers – precisely because they understand how to provide useful information in 140 characters.

Consider the following examples:

In each case, I’ve provided a short, informative headline (e.g., “Make Donating To Your Cause Easy & Meaningful”), followed by a hyperlink to the article (http://bit.ly/gL9Mfu) that elaborates on the topic. The rest of the tweet includes several relevant hashtags, or searchable terms, designated by the # symbol, so that anyone interested in finding tweets related to these topics will find my tweet – and article.

How would you summarize your latest newsletter, email, video, annual report, etc. in such a fashion, so that interested parties could search and locate it on Twitter?

Engaging in Twitter is not only a sound social media practice for your organization, but it will help your overall communication practices improve, as you become better at writing in a more condensed fashion in general.

Once this objective of writing relevant information into brief statements has become the standard, your organization’s communications – both internal and external – will be taken more seriously and seen as substantial when viewed, rather than tossed into the dread pile.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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