Just Ivy Leaguers for these Bush League Recruiters?

I have blogged before about Nick Corcodilos and his book Ask the Headhunter – I can’t recommend this book enough to job hunters and am most thankful to my friend David White who first directed me to it. Nick’s new book will help you work effectively with headhunters, too.

Nick doesn’t mince words when it comes to HR recruiters: you should avoid them, to the extent possible. Instead, connect directly with the hiring manager and “do the job in the interview.” Ask the Headhunter tells you how. Do that and you’re home free…right?

I hope Nick doesn’t stroke out from this recent question posed on the Job Doc section of the Boston Globe website (also appeared in the August 9 Boston Sunday Globe). In a nutshell, the fellow of a think tank organization has an opening for an assistant. He knows who he wants to hire. He has worked with the candidate before. The candidate has a strong work and academic record. Not so fast…

None of this, however, negates their HR department’s top-ranked snobbishness. They would rather hire an Ivy Leaguer with a degree in something completely different. They do not even entertain applications from lower-ranked schools. This fellow has gone through four assistants in three years because his HR people keep giving him Ivy League grads who are experts in other fields. The position involves actual skills (lots of math) that a philosophy major from Harvard can’t learn on his/her own.

I am not the entitled type, but this is bordering on ridiculous…We both anticipate this being a problem but don’t know how to approach it.

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Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)

I have referred to business author Bruna Martinuzzi’s article Optimism: The Hidden Asset previously on this blog (here and also here) as a wise and pragmatic exploration of a positive character trait that tends to come in handy for anyone looking to succeed in marketing, anywhere in business… or at life itself. Optimism is just one of a wide array of highly desirable character traits, including humility, empathy and generosity, to name just a few.

Hopefully you have worked for a person who demonstrates these traits routinely; who communicates with openness and dignity, and leads by example with honor and integrity. If you have worked for such a person, as I luckily have, you have had the unique pleasure and personal enrichment that can only come from working for a mensch.

mensch (měnsh)  n.  Informal. A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose: “He radiates the kind of fundamental decency that has a name in Yiddish; he’s a mensch” (James Atlas).

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mensch (accessed: July 21, 2009).

Take this quick survey: What one word best describes your boss…

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Job Hunters, Read this Book: Ask the Headhunter (Book Review)

I was in a job interview and I opened a book and started reading.  The [HR recruiter] said, “What the hell are you doing?!” I said, “Look, I have one question for you. If you are in a spaceship that’s traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen?” She said, “I don’t know!” I said, “Forget it, I don’t want the job.” – Stephen Wright

Submitting job applications online, waiting for responses after interviews, braving overcrowded job fairs…this is what most people may think of when imagining the necessary components of a job search.

But there is a better way: show the hiring manager directly the compelling work value you will provide. So says Nick Corcodilos, former headhunter and author of the book Ask the Headhunter: Reinventing the Interview to Win the Job.  I owe some serious thanks to my friend David White, a business intelligence researcher for Aberdeen Group, for referring me to this book very early in my layoff-induced job search. If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall getting nowhere in your job search, read this book.

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The Power of Critical Thinking in Marketing (or: Devil’s Advocate, Get Thee Behind Me!)

I read a great blog entry entitled Critical Thinkers vs. Critics by Mark Logic CEO Dave Kellogg. (Quick aside: Any blog by a CEO/Chairman/Founder that is regularly updated and features plenty of wisdom, wit and insight is evidence that company has a competitive advantage in leadership. Good on you, Dave.)

Dave Kellogg raises the important difference between a “critic,” a person who criticizes everything, generally without proposed solutions” and a “critical thinker,” a person who attacks ideas in the spirit of making them better, and who can hold both sides of an argument in their head at once.”

Point very well taken. I’d additionally define a critical thinker as someone who will also not allow herself/himself or others to fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.” Even more importantly, by virtue of being unafraid of taking a hard, unbiased look at issues and listening to others’ opinions, concerns and doubts, and in fact welcoming such open discussion, a critical thinker is also an optimist by nature.

I like how Dave assesses the level of critical thinking applied in the crafting of successful marketing positioning (emphasis added):

Critics “attack” other people’s ideas but not their own. Critical thinkers “attack” everyone’s ideas, especially their own. For certain disciplines (e.g., marketing positioning) one of my primary tests is not to examine the substance of a proposal, but instead to examine the critical thinking in the process that led to it [for example, reviewing a marketing proposal recommending a new company tag-line]:

  • How many other tag-lines did you think of?
  • Why didn’t you pick tag-line 3?
  • Did you consider tag-lines based on the higher-level notion of satisfaction?
  • What’s the argument against the tag-line you’re proposing?
  • What are the direct and indirect competitors tag-lines and their relative strengths and weaknesses?

As David Ogilvy once said: “good writing is slavery” (see page 33 of Ogilvy on Advertising). So is good positioning. And it comes from critical thinking and plenty of it.

I think delving into the multiple meanings of Dave’s word “attack” is important here, too.  A critical thinker will indeed “attack” an idea much differently than a critic. There is a world of difference between “attack,” as in how a critical thinker will “earnestly initiate” a rigorous debate of an idea, in such a comment as, “The European sales team will have concerns about the time they will need to devote to the new product. Let’s work out how we can address that concern and ensure they will have time to complete their deals in the pipeline,” versus how a critic might truly “attack,” as in, “beat down,” an idea with a discussion-dampering remark:  “Oh, the European sales team always marches to their own drummer. Mark my words, they will ignore the new product. I’ve seen it before.”

Dwight Schrute-A good example of an office criticHow to effectively deal with the “critic” is addressed in author Bruna Martinuzzi’s article on optimism, which she kindly allowed me to republish on this blog. Bruna accurately identifies the behavior of the “critic,” aka “devil’s advocate,” as symptomatic of general pessimism, which can discourage critical thinking:

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Me 2.0 Sure Beats “Me Too” (Me 2.0 Book Review)

I am thankful to have met David Meerman Scott a number of times over the years, including welcoming him as a guest speaker at past Boston Product Marketing Association events. I’ll hazard a guess that it is likely you have David Meerman Scott’s WebInkNow blog bookmarked already; if not, you’ll probably want to once you visit his site.

Me 2.0 Book - Dan SchawbelRecently David Meerman Scott featured 20-something author – and fellow Bentley University alum – Dan Schawbel on his blog. Although just starting out in his post-Bentley career, Dan Schawbel has already racked up some impressive accolades old 40-something guys like me would be very proud of. He has positioned himself as a personal branding expert, with a self-branding blog and magazine, and now a brand new book hot on the shelves: Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success.

I can vouch for the value of Dan’s advice in his book, not to mention his wise advice in his free e-book Blogging Your Brand (PDF), which I have found indispensible as I get this blog, and in so doing, my own personal brand, off the ground.

David Meerman Scott’s discussion with Dan Schawbel is well worth reading in its entirety. A few specific comments from Dan Schawbel I found of particular personal interest follow:

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“Differentiate and Thrive” – Part 1

The phrase “Differentiate and Thrive” title of this post is derived from the book Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout. Well, I thought, let’s declare the glass “half full” and more positively (and semi-originally) say Differentiate and Thrive \~/

Differentiate or Die by Jack TroutJack Trout’s book is a great, very useful read (a second edition was published just last year), in which he emphasizes that companies who fail to differentiate their products or services in the minds of their customers don’t stand much of a chance in their respective marketplaces. Amid the “tyranny of choice” in every conceivable product or service, differentiating your offering from all others is an absolute must.

Jack Trout proceeds to discuss a number of authentic differentiating ideas, and a process to identify the differentiating idea relevant to your product or service, culminating in actively communicating your difference:

If you build a differentiated product, the world will not automatically beat a path to your door…Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising. Your brochures. Your website. Your sales presentations…The bottom line: You can’t overcommunicate your difference.

Jack Trout goes on to say, “If you want to be successful today, you’ll have to find the money you need to spin those marketing wheels.” Of course, no company can afford to make marketing mistakes, particularly in this economy. In part 2, I will share some product differentiation best practices I have found very helpful, and explain the “Got $1 billion?” in this post’s title!

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