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How I Found A Job (3/20): Target Companies Are Critical

February 28th, 2018

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a couple of favorite companies based on location (practically no commute). I was really quite interested in working at either of those companies because I thought they had good stuff (even though I’m not completely enamored by what they do),  I could learn a ton, and working there would allow me to spend time on JibberJobber and not on commuting.

The opportunities at one were far and few between… they just weren’t looking for product managers. The other company regularly had openings but for some reason I didn’t make it far (I think I know why… that is tomorrow’s blog post). I even had a first, and then a second interview at one of the companies. But I didn’t get past that, I got the cold, horrible, inhuman rejection letter. I have strong feelings that candidates (aka job seekers) should not get cold inhuman letters the farther they make it down the interview process.

I have a whole collection of those letters.

At least I was making more progress in this job search than I had 12 years ago, right? Hurray. I was still getting rejected.

I got to the point where I opened my target company list and looked at companies further away… up to an hour commute. This was not a fun idea, but hey, if it was the right thing then I’d do it.

In the back of my mind I had a target company, BambooHR (spoiler: this is where I got hired!), but I didn’t see any product jobs from them. So while I thought it would be awesome, there didn’t seem to be anything there.  Another target company, one of the few HR companies in SLC, couldn’t understand that I wanted a job and wouldn’t do JibberJobber at work. I knew the founders, had lunch them more than once, and thought this would be a good and fun conversation. Instead I got a cold reception during the first interview (one lady left half way through (without an explanation), ask me what I really think about that), and then in the VP interview he was completely hung up on me having a side hustle.

That was demoralizing, but it was a learning experience. From then on, when an interviewer asked about JibberJobber, I had the perfect set of answers to draw from.

Having a list of target companies was critical. This helped me focus my time on the right places and not get lost looking at everything that came along. It helped me focus my research time on their opportunities and industries, and figure out who people where that I could have conversations with. Sometimes, in my research, I’d come across another company to add to my list. My list grew, but it was a very particular and focused group of companies.

Want to know the real power of this? If you have ever been asked “How’s your job search going?”, you need to read this article I wrote on LinkedIn:

The Best Answer for the Worst Question in Your Job Search

This is where you can REALLY get value from having your targeted company list!

If you don’t have a target company list, stop everything and create one NOW!

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How I Found A Job (2/20): Job Postings and Purposeful Online Applications

February 27th, 2018

I talked about using job postings and job alerts in my job search. Yes, I could have networked. In fact, I did go to a couple of meetups of product managers. But I am an introvert and going to a new group of a bunch of people with shiny business cards was not comfortable for me. I would go to as many as I could, I told myself, but they were about once a month, and I didn’t want to make slow progress based on their schedule.

I was also reorganizing my business and figuring out which of my tasks to turn over to who, and what projects to finish up in hopes that I would have a job, and what systems to put into place so things could go smoothly while I was gone. I was enormously busy and very focused on getting my own house in order.

So, I turned to job boards to see what good alerts I could create. I had learned years ago that browsing job boards was a huge waste of time. Not to mention the emotional roller-coaster that you rode throughout the day (oh! This one is perfect!). Instead, I used the alerts to do the looking for me and just spent a minute each day seeing if there was anything interesting.

I found that LinkedIn had the best postings FOR MY LEVEL AND LOCATION. I’m not saying LinkedIn will be best for you, but it was for me. There might be a better board for you based on where you are and what you are looking for.

When I saw a job that looked good I’d spend the time applying (which has got to be one of the lowest points of a job seekers day… the online application process still sucks with too many job board software platforms). But I’d also go onto LinkedIn and learn what I could about the company and look for networking opportunities and introductions. I’d go to the company website and learn about what they do and generally soak up anything I could about the opportunity.

I remember one company had a picture of their company meeting… it was a 50ish year old owner and all the rest looked like they were 20 year old cross fit people. This was a software company. It was the one place I applied where I thought there was no way I’d get in (I am 44 and was recently diagnosed with “Dad Bod”). And I didn’t.

I was very interested in two companies that are practically in my backyard. I wasn’t bought into their culture or their products/offerings (not a meaningful change the world opportunity, which I was interested in), but the commute!!!  To die for. I watched those like a hawk but unfortunately didn’t get far with either of them. I have close friends that work at both companies but frankly that didn’t help. (I didn’t leverage them much, though)

My strategy was to use the job board tools as tools, not as my lifeline, and then do other things that were important (for me: wrapping up and transferring many duties at JibberJobber, which I still oversee). When you build a project you have many tools, and you use them each for what they can do. Job boards are a tool not to be ignored, but they aren’t the only tool.

Speaking of tools, one night my wife asked me “are you using JibberJobber to track all of this stuff?”  The answer: Yes, of course, definitely. All of the important and relevant stuff I was doing in my job search was put into JibberJobber. Definitely. It was cool to use my own product as a real job seeker :)

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How I Found A Job (1/20): Knowing What I Want And Focusing On That

February 26th, 2018

This is the first of many posts where I start to share my journey of having gone from a career as an entrepreneur to actually getting a day job with a commute and a salary. I have run JibberJobber for almost 12 years now but along came an opportunity, at just the right time, that landed me a job.

I have written on this blog that I believed I was unhireable. This is for a few reasons, including all of the bashing I’ve done on the job search and hiring process. Fortunately I’m in a position where I can still be involved deeply in that conversation. I’ve also thought I’ve been unhireable because I’ve sunk myself into entrepreneur mode, and I’ve learned that if there’s any group of people who are more untouchable than an out-of-work job seeker, it’s an entrepreneur (especially one who hasn’t sold their business).

Alas, here I am, employed (and running JibberJobber as my “side hustle”), and I want to walk you through the journey. I’ll leave out the pre-pre-part, where I went through a lot of soul searching and guilt and other feelings about even getting a day job. Maybe I’ll do that another time.

When I figured out it was time to look for a job I reached out to Rob Merrill, a solid friend and personal adviser (he’s wicked-smart), and said “what kind of job/title would I even look for?” Again, no one wanted to hire a generalist entrepreneur.  He said clearly it was Product Manager, that I am one at JibberJobber, and that’s what I should look for.

I thought, yes, of course, that’s how I can package myself. And it is what I love. And then I remembered that is exactly what I was looking for years ago in my first job search!

So I went and set up some job alerts in Indeed and LinkedIn. I set up a few elsewhere but those were spammy crap, and the quality of leads were F, whereas what I got from LinkedIn were A and Indeed were B-.

There’s been plenty of talk about job postings, even on this blog. I’m a believer that if you apply online all day (like I did 12 years ago) you are spinning your wheels and wasting your time. But, I’ve also stated plenty of times (and did a course or two on this) that job postings are a great way to learn about the needs and strategic direction of a company. Job boards could be a super place to do company and industry research. And while a good deal of postings are already filled by the hiring manager’s friend or an internal worker, that’s not always the case.

Some job experts say to look for opportunities as opposed to jobs. The idea is if you see a lot of openings in Marketing at your target company, you can start to piece together information you gather and learn there is OPPORTUNITY in marketing, even if a particular job isn’t posted (maybe it will be soon hasn’t been yet.

My first task, though, was to get really honest with myself and define my niche role. I can do a lot of things (for 12 years I’ve worn many hats, and for the few years before that I was General Manager (doing a lot of things) and before that IT Manager (doing a lot of things with technology, including development and running a dev team).

I found 12 years ago that being too general and open was too confusing for hiring managers and recruiters. If they were looking for a widget spinner they didn’t want to see a resume that said “I do widget spinning and knife making and pie eating and water surfing and finger painting and… ”  They were most interested in the resume that said “I am a master widget spinner, here are all the widget spinning experiences I’ve had…”

THAT IS REALLY HARD TO DO!

You look at your master widget spinner resume and think “but if they only knew, I have so much more to offer! I want to tell them about this and that and the other, and then they’ll see how valuable I can be to their organization!!”

There is definitely a time to share that information, but I think when you want to get your dream job you figure out how you are a perfect hand-in-glove fit for that dream job, and focus on that.

I know, just reading this, it seems obvious, but you have to do your own soul searching and ego checking, and that can be an enormous job. But it’s the right job for this point in the journey. Get help… I had to. I had to have someone I trusted, and someone in the know (a recruiter!) help me, the job search guy who had been doing this for more than a decade, get clarity about myself and my own direction.  Don’t do this alone.

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Transitions, Moving On and Moving Forward

February 5th, 2018

This is one of the weirdest blog posts I’ve every written.

An Announcement

In a nutshell, I got a job. A real, go to work, at an office, in a company, job.

It’s been twelve years and almost a month since I was laid off. Here I am, twelve+ years later and I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

What does this mean for JobberJobber? Nothing, and everything. Nothing because nothing big will change.. We’ll keep moving forward, and the team has plenty of work to do. Everything because of the way I’m restructuring things, I’ll be more focused on strengthening the core of JibberJobber, and doing the right things for the product and our users.  More on that below.

A “Coincidence”

Is there such thing as a coincidence?

A few weeks ago I started my fourth book, which I’m leaning towards titling The Twelve Year Job Search. Little did I know that half way through writing this book I would accept a job, almost exactly 12 years to the day I was let go from my last “real job.”

The intense emotional roller-coaster I’ve been on these last few weeks was something I was not prepared for. I know a lot about the job search process but had forgotten just how intensely stressful parts of it can be (for me, the parts where I have no control).

A Real Job

For the last twelve years my “real job” has been entrepreneur, founder, owner, and more. I’ve authored three (published) books, became a professional speaker, authored 30 Pluralsight courses, done webinars and podcasts and written ebooks and white papers and blog posts (for others). I built my JibberJobber team bringing in talented contractors from around the world, five of which work as a team on the product right now.

I was looking for a product management job, and happened to see an opening from a company I was really, really interested in (BambooHR). The job wasn’t on the product team, but the description was close enough that it piqued my interest. As I read it I thought “I’ve done all of these things… I could totally do this.” I applied on a whim, thinking I was really more suited for a product management job.

You can read all about this job here: I need a top notch program manager

bamboo-program-manager

This is one of three postings I found for this job (they were all a little different). I thought, “Is this real? I know it’s not in product, but man, it seems like this job was written for me!”

A Company and A Boss

I got a reply from the hiring manager and was brought in for my first interview… and the rest is history. But more importantly, in my research and then interview process, I fell in love with the company. BambooHR makes HR software (including ATS software – that strikes me as funny) for small to medium companies.

It’s not the software I fell in love with (I hadn’t had much exposure to it), rather I fell in love with the history of BambooHR and the culture they have created. As I learned more I couldn’t help but want to be a part of this culture. I want to contribute to this culture, as I build out the vision of the thought leadership programs under my new boss, Rusty (see link above).

I found Rusty’s Ted talk, and a short talk he did for Toastmasters, and read about his background. He is the type of person I want to work with. I am excited for the opportunity to learn from him and build these programs with him. I trust him, and believe in his vision, and want to be a part of this!  I know the alternative… working for someone you don’t like or don’t trust, and I have no interest in that. I feel lucky to have found this opportunity at this company for this leader… a great combination!

A Future for JibberJobber

JibberJobber was born almost twelve years ago. We have had over 100,000 people sign up and try to manage and organize a job search. We currently have five people (aside from me) with dedicated roles, including customer support, QA, server admin, and software development. I have been the product manager, and with this big change I started to transition many of my functions to Liz, who many users have already interacted with.

I plan on spending time, regularly, with JibberJobber, as the Chief of Product. Liz will add product manager to her duties, and will work closely with me to ensure the team focuses on the right things for our users and our future. While my team will continue to stay busy, we’ll make sure the limited amount of time we have is spent on the most important projects.

When I spent four years developing Pluralsight videos I spent a lot more time there than as product manager in JibberJobber. After Pluralsight I went back to JibberJobber with a renewed interest and was appalled at where we were at. I take all of that on me, as product manager. This time I will not make the same mistakes. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with Liz talking about vision and priorities, and have met with each of my team, and I’m dedicated to making this a great time for JibberJobber, not a time of strategic neglect.

I hope this is reflected in the product, and your experience.

A Conclusion

I’ve written a few more pages but really, this is too long already. If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll be available mornings and evenings, and hope to continue our relationship.  

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Not in a Job Search? Start Using JibberJobber Now…

August 16th, 2017

Most people who read my blog and use JibberJobber are job seekers.

I say most… but there are a few users who are not in a job search.

I have users who are “happily employed.” They are competent, they make good money, and like what they do.

Why would they use JibberJobber? We originally created it as a tool to organize and manage a job search

Because they know how easy it is for things to change.

You know what’s amazing? The tens of thousands of people at Enron who one day had a great job, the next day they were locked out of their building and their entire retirement fund was dried up. Ouch.

They were competent, they made good money, and some of them even liked what they did.

And then it dried up.

Can you imagine being forty and having to start preparing for retirement from the beginning?

Can you imagine being sixty four, months away from a great retirement, and then learning that NO, there is no money?  WHAT DO YOU DO??

Oh, but Enron is an example that is too dramatic, right? That just doesn’t happen to everyone, or many people, right?

I have a phrase I use in my presentations to job clubs: “getting Enroned.” It means you are doing your job, either well or extremely well, and all of the sudden, due to no fault of your own, you have no job (and none of the promises, like retirement). It goes away overnight.

Focus on this:

“no fault of your own

I’ve heard many reasons for this… including:

  • You loved your old boss, but you got a new one and you are like oil and water. There’s no way that you will both be employed for much longer.
  • You are part of the back office and the sales team just announced they lost their biggest contract, and sales will be down by millions.
  • The investors of the company you work for just pulled some funding off the table, and have demanded that the execs start trimming fat and cutting costs.
  • You were recreating on your own time and got poked in the eye with a branch, and now you have recurring medical conditions that have a serious impact on your performance. It was an accident, but you can’t do your job, so you are gone.
  • You love your job but one day go to the office and can’t get in. Turns out your boss was doing illegal stuff and not only is the company (including you) under investigation, the boss is IN JAIL.
  • You have done an excellent job and your company is getting acquired. The only problem is, the acquiring company already has someone who does your job, and they aren’t about to get let go. You are out.
  • Someone accuses you of something inappropriate and for some reason the investigation isn’t thorough, and before you know it you are on the street wondering what just happened.
  • The boss’s boss’s boss’s admin doesn’t like you… and you are done.

Any of these sound familiar?  These are not “with cause” reasons to lose your job, but the result is the same: you are out of a job! 

It’s kind of like being in an accident… even if it wasn’t your fault, and even if the insurance money comes your way, or you can sue for damages, you still lost something. It’s just rotten all around.

Losing your job, for whatever reason, can be unsettling. Sometimes it’s unfair, many times it sucks, and of course, sometimes it is a blessing in disguise. But you are still left jobless.

This is why some people who use JibberJobber to organize and manage contact relationships and target companies are happily employed. Because they know that something might happen, and they want to be as prepared as they can.

What does that mean? How do they use JibberJobber?

They are adding contacts, new and old, to their system. It’s a lot more fun to start a job search (and network) when you have a list of names than to be freshly laid-off, staring at a blank piece of paper trying to come up with your network.

They are logging conversations, or important information (like birthdays or contact info or who we met info). A name becomes a relationship once you start adding this additional information about your contacts.  This is real, meaty stuff you can use to take the relationship to the next level.

They are tracking companies they might be interested in working at. They might have customers or vendors or partners they work with, and have a company record and relevant contacts listed… what an awesome bit of intelligence they’ll have when it’s time to start networking into companies!

They are using it as a networking and follow-up tool, because networking is not just for job seekers! JibberJobber allows you to log and track conversations, emails, etc., and set up reminders to remind you to follow-up. Networking without follow-up is like eating without food!

Should you use JibberJobber? YEP! Start now… when you are in transition, you’ll be very grateful!

 

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Associations in JibberJobber Just Got Easier

April 28th, 2017

In JibberJobber we have “associations.” You can associate, or connect, a Contact to a Company. Doesn’t that make sense? As you network into a target company, you will talk to people… so you have a person (or a contact) that is tied to the company.

In JibberJobber you can associate multiple Contacts and Jobs to Companies, multiple Jobs and Companies to Contacts, multiple Contacts and Companies to Jobs, and all of those to Log Entries.  That might sound confusing, but trust me that associating is awesome, powerful, and useful.

In a Log Entry, at the bottom left, are buttons/links to associate Contacts, Companies, and Jobs (and create Action Items). Let’s say you apply to a job, and followed up with someone… now, in the Log Entry, when you want to associate type @ and then three letters (1), and you’ll see a dropdown (2), like below.  Choose any name from the list and that Contact will be associated to the Log Entry!  More coolness to come…

jibbejobber_LE_at_smartness

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Awesome Journey of a Job Seeker (Felix Feng)

December 14th, 2016

Take the time to read this very awesome and insightful article by Felix Fang: I spent 3 months applying to jobs after a coding bootcamp. Here’s what I learned.

This is a MUST READ for anyone in job search. Think about Felix’s processes and what he tracks and does. It’s a very strategic, purposeful journey.

In his first “pro-tip,” he links to a list of companies that people are collecting where it is easy to apply, as opposed to the ridiculous application systems that require you to copy and paste parts of your resume.  This is super cool: The github “easy-application” list.

Felix talks about the resume black hole and networking into companies.

Felix is a developer.  Even if you aren’t a developer, you should be able to glean quite a bit of wisdom, and correct your tactics and strategy.

Have you thought about sharpening your saw, and becoming a better candidate, even as you interview?  Read Insight #3 and see how someone intent on getting a six-figure offer did it.

Insight #4 is about dissecting your personal brand, and how you come across to others.  It’s critical that you understand how your branding may be hurting your job search!

Felix also talks about questions you could ask during the interview.  Don’t make the mistake of not asking smart questions!

Insight #5 is hard because, well, I’m impatient.  But if you don’t respect the longevity of the job search, and sprint, you might wear yourself out and be less-than-effective.

Here’s what I want you to get out of this article: tactics and strategies and ideas.  More than that, though, I want you to see what your “competition” (other job seekers) is doing. I want you to see that it’s not just a apply-and-pray approach.  Please, be smart, strategic, and purposeful as you spend your time in this job search!

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Dream Job Lost: Plan for Moving Forward #Sree

July 26th, 2016

Many years ago I came into contact with Sree Sreenivasan. Back then Sree was a professor at Columbia (and a dean there, as well as the Chief Digital Officer), and a tech reporter for WNBC, where he actually featured JibberJobber twice, in NYC.  About three years ago he announced he was leaving Columbia to be the Chief Digital Officer of The Met (aka, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC)… what he said was his dream job.

Last month Sree announced that he was leaving The Met.  I saw this two minute video of him, talking about what he did.  I hope the video embeds well.. if not, go here and watch it. My commentary below this video (scroll down).

I have to say, I was surprised to see that Sree is moving on from The Met. Sree has always seemed to have the perfect career… he had a lot of power and authority, influence and impact, opportunity, and he was in an extraordinary position to meet lots of new people and have real, deep relationships. To jump from over 20 years at Columbia to a new employer was a leap of faith… and here we are, three years later, moving on.

Let’s dig into his video… first I’ll comment on some of his important points, and then I’ll end with an observation that he didn’t talk about:

“I was angry for a little bit”  I too was angry (for a long time).  He said he had to channel his anger… as did I.  I know you will feel a lot of emotions, even anger at whoever did this to you (and maybe at yourself).  Channel that energy into something useful, and don’t nurture resentment and bitterness.

“I put it on Facebook” Seems kind of obvious but too many people don’t do this simple thing: REACH OUT. Maybe not on Facebook, but to your network.  Reach out and let people know that you need help, and that you will accept help, and how they can help you.  Don’t do the job search thing alone!

“I made a google form” (asking what he should do)  This was brilliant… it served a few purposes: (1) it made people think about Sree and what his next move could be, which surely would (2) make them think about how they could help him achieve that (hopefully with introductions and leads). It also (3) invited people to share positive thoughts and ideas with Sree.  As you know, at any point in a job search it’s easy to get into a pity party and think negatively about yourself.  I found that after weeks of rejection and non-response, I started to actually believe that I had nothing to offer, and my prospects for the future were getting darker by the day.

“This could happen to you” This has been my message for over ten years. I don’t care how happy you are, how much of a producer you are, how great your company is… so many variables are at play here, that you have no control over, that no one is safe. Feel safe?  You better STILL be preparing for a change in career.

“What is your Plan B, C, D” Quick… if you had to change jobs right now, what is it to?  What is your Plan B?  Let’s go a little further and think about your Plan C and D and maybe even more.  You might be insanely loyal, but you are only doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have a Plan B (and C and D, etc.) AND aren’t preparing for those plans.  I had no Plan B, and learned that making it up on the fly was hard and painful.

“Save money” I know that most of us are living paycheck to paycheck, but we need to save for a rainy day. I had $1,000 in savings by the time I got laid off, and within one week spent it all on car repairs. Whoops!

“What are you offering the world today?” You need to think bigger than “I do a good job, and my boss knows it.”  What are you doing today that would make other companies and hiring managers say “wow, we want that!”

“People want to help you… “ When I was speaking in SoCal a few years back and made this point, a lady on the front row said “no one wants to help me, least of all my family.”  It was really sad to hear her talk about how she had zero support.  I would argue that in most cases, we all have people who want to help us… even if we don’t think so. Our family, friends, neigbors, colleagues, etc.  don’t want to see us suffer like this.  Here’s a big eye-opener, though: the people you might be sure will help you might not be able to… too busy, not know how, or not realize that you look to them for that much help. But please, believe that people want to help you.

“You have to be willing to accept the help” which is “very difficult” to do Yes, very, very difficult to do. We are generally good at giving help, and just unaccustomed to receiving help.  It takes heaps of humility to accept help graciously.  Get good at this.

What does Sree not talk about? He doesn’t talk about how he has spent years being nice, working on great things, and nurturing real relationships. His Twitter account has over 7o,000 followers (granted, not all of those are real people) because he is a giver, and a networker.  Sree has a contagiously charming personality, and people like him.  He has helped many people, and when you meet him in person you instantly like him.

I know that has a lot to do with the results he had with his Google form… he had a network, with real relationships, and actually tapped into that network.  You could too. I’m not saying you can’t be an introvert, but I am convinced that we all need to get much better at real relationships with people: family, friends, colleagues, etc.

Thank you, Sree, for being a great example to us!

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Story of a Job Interview

April 6th, 2016

Vincent Wright passed this cool youtube video along to me… what an amazing experience!

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Cover Letters Are About Preference: Here’s Mine

March 15th, 2016

Since announcing my contract sales positions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and this blog, I’ve gotten a number of emails. Some of them ask for more information. Others include a resume.  Not many include what has historically been called a “cover letter.”  “Experts” have poo-pooed the cover letters for years, causing job seekers to wonder “should I include a cover letter?”

Here’s a recent post citing a hiring manager at Bain on cover letters, which he says are NOT OPTIONAL.

My experience is this: I honestly have no idea if you are doing the “spray and pray” method of job search, if you are really interested in doing sales, or if you are going to give this an honest effort.

The lesson learned, for me, is that cover letters are ESSENTIAL.  I want to know that I’m not just a number, and that you read up on the opportunity and that you know something about JibberJobber.  Bonus, of course, if you are a JibberJobber user.

If you send me an email with just a resume, I don’t have much to go on.  You are asking me to sift through all kinds of data and draw a conclusion that amounts to “this person would be great for this job!”   Don’t make me sift, and don’t make me draw conclusions… give me, in your cover letter, helpful information, such as:

  • that you think you are qualified for the job, because ________.  I was talking to a recruiter who said that 80% of the applications he got (which was over 10,000 a month) were NOT QUALIFIED.  Come on people… we are better than that.  Want to stand out, and be part of the 20% the recruiter wants to seriously look at?  Tell the recruiter or hiring manager that, and why, you are qualified.
  • That you are interested in this job, and think you could excel at it, and why. Are you self-motivated? A hard worker? Driven by a commission-based compensation model, which means you have unlimited earning potential?  Do you have lots of recruiter and HR contacts?  Have you done sales before, and you are ready to get a lot of “no” answers while you find the “yes” answers? Are you a relationship builder, and love to help people come to proper solutions?

Can you ask questions? Sure.  You can let me know that you have some questions, and you look forward to learning more.  We could do that on a phone interview, or you could email me your questions.  But realize that getting me on the phone is as valuable as getting a prospect on the phone… you want to start that relationship (and so do I).

Let’s get a little more personal, and have more of a human touch.  Please, please start sending this type of information as you apply.  For every recruiter that poo-poos the idea of a cover letter, realize that there is an inexperienced hiring manager looking at this stuff who really wants more than just your name and a resume, which somehow looks the same as the thirty other resumes they’ve just been given.

 

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