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    A 6-year old's kick-butt cover letter

    Yesterday the always entertaining and informative Letters of Note site ran the following letter - essentially a job application cover letter for the position of Director of the National Railway Museum in York, England.

    Why this letter was deemed 'notable', is that is was written by a 6-year old. Check the image of the letter, with the full text (with my commentary in parentheses) reprinted below:


    26 July

    Dear Mr. Tucker (kid is networked or informed enough to directly address the hiring manager, nice)

    Application for director (hiring manager gets what this letter is about)

    I am writing to apply to be the new Director of the National Railway Museum. I am only 6 but I think I can do this job. (Acknowledge surface limitation, but immediately discount it, and boldly assert competence and confidence)

    I have an electrick train track. I am good on my train track. I can control 2 trains at once. (Demonstrable and relevant skills. Indicates passion for the work as well. Two trains at once in not easy)


    I have been on lots of trains including Eurostar and some trains in France. (Interest and expertise in the field) I have visited the museum before. (Familiarity with the business) I loved watching the trains go round on the turntable. (Humanizes and connects at an emotional level)

    On the other side is a picture of me.

    Hopefully I can come and meet you for an interview. (Asks for the interview)


    Sam Pointon


    To me, this letter is money all the way around.  I will be more than happy to give the 6-year old the interview based on this letter alone. And additionally, the pattern that young Sam followed to describe himself, assert what we was capable of doing, offer some insight to his passion for the work, and to plainly state his case is one that really anyone out there trying to make a similar pitch could do well to learn from.

    Sure, you can drop two or three bills with your local resume writer/cover letter coach/career guru to help you wordsmith that just right message, and it might be worth your time.

    Or you could take a lesson from a 6-year old that just made a pitch that quite frankly is better than 3/4 of the bilge that crosses most recruiter's desks every day.

    Oh and by the way, young Sam did not actually land the job as Director of the Museum. But, he was named 'Director of Fun', a post that sounds in some ways, way cooler that Director could ever be.


    'Like' this job on Facebook

    At the recent ERE Expo in San Diego, I had a chance to interview Stephane Le Viet, CEO and Founder; and Matt Brown, Director of Business Development of Work4Labs, the company responsible for the popular Facebook recruiting application known as 'Work 4 Us'.

    Work 4 Us is a Facebook application that allows organizations to quickly and easily add job listings to their company Facebook page, whether by automated import from the company ATS or career site, or via manual entry. Once imported or entered, the company can then leverage the social sharing capabilities inherent inside Facebook (individual jobs can be shared and 'liked'); and the supported integration with the Facebook advertising platform allows the creation of more precise ad campaigns designed to get the company job listings noticed by the target candidate audience on Facebook. Tracking and analytical tools allow the organization to assess and evaluate the reach and success of their job posting campaigns.

    That's assuming the desired candidate pool is on Facebook. And considering that pretty much everyone these days from your 12-year old nephew to your 83-year old Grandma seems to be on Facebook it is a pretty good bet that at least some of your desired candidates are out there.

    Work4Labs claims over 6,000 organizations have installed the Work For Us application to date, with large, multi-nationals like L'Oreal and Citi among the applications' most notable adopters.

    Yesterday the team at Work4Labs announced a new enhancement to the Work For Us application, namely the ability to present the Facebook user that views a job description in the application with a suggested list of Facebook friends, and optionally LinkedIn contacts that might be a suitable match for the job, and perhaps would be interested in the job details. Once authorized, the app processes Facebook and LinkedIn profile data – education, work history, interests, location, and so on – to suggest the most relevant friends for the job.

    Sample job listing posted using Work For Us with suggested friends:

    This is the kind of functionality, a matching algorithm based suggestion engine, that social recruiting technology solutions are increasingly adopting in recognition that simply broadcasting links of available jobs to all of one's social connections is not only inefficient but can also be seen as highly annoying. By making the social sharing and referral process simple, easy to use, and more relevant by narrowing and suggesting social contacts to share the job information with, the hope is that the organization will not only just see it's job posting shared widely, but that the likelihood of social discovery of candidates that are good fits for the positions will increase.

    More and more organizations are actively pursuing so-called 'social recruiting' strategies, whether it is using blogs, LinkedIn groups, Twitter accounts, and even Facebook to advertise positions, communicate and articulate the company employer brand, and more effectively engage with candidates and prospects. If your organization is starting down this path, or is considering adding a more active Facebook component to the mix, then you should give Work4Labs a look.

    The Work For Us application installs to a Facebook page in literally minutes and has a number of pricing plans, ranging from Free (allows posting of one open position at a time), to $799/month that offers unlimited job postings, automatic import from an ATS, and other customization capabilities. All paid plans offer a 30-day free trial period.

    So are you actively recruiting on Facebook? Thinking about starting?  Would the Work For Us application work for you?


    The Right Person for the Job

    ...might actually be the exact opposite of what your job requirements say.

    Now hear me out for a second. I know if you are the recruiter responsible for hiring, say, the next anesthesiologist for the operating room, that you had better be darn sure that to folks you present know how to safely administer sedation, monitor their patient's condition, and respond quickly and effectively if something goes awry.  These critical skills and experiences for that kind of role are obvious and non-negotiable. I get it. Similarly, if you were hiring the next pilot for your company's charter airline service, things like 10,000 hours flying comparable aircraft, and a history of 'not showing up drunk for work' are pre-requisites for anyone aspiring to the gig.

    But most of the jobs in the American economy are not life or death propositions, and the relative importance of published job requirements are certainly up for debate.  Sure, if you are looking to hire a Sr. Developer in 'XYZ' programming language, then at least some demonstrable knowledge and experience in XYZ are a real and defensible requirement, but again, most companies slap an artificial 'years of experience' qualifier to whatever particular technical skill they require. 

    The thinking makes sense, you need a really proficient XYZ Developer, one that you don't have time to train, and that you are willing to pay the going market rate that kind of skill commands.  So you draw on your personal or organizational insight and determine for someone to actually have developed the level of XYZ expertise you are after, that the person must have been messing about with XYZ in a professional capacity for 2 or 5 or 10 years. It doesn't really matter what 'number' you land on, but rather that you have set the 'floor' of experience that you say you need. 

    But by setting that more or less artificial and experiential floor, you have determined that you really don't care so much about actual and potentially demonstrable technical ability as you do about a candidate's ability to had you a resume that 'proves' the 5 years of experience is all in order. We don't really care what the candidates can do, we just care that they have done something related to the job description for the proscribed amount of time.

    But what actually made me think about this topic, one I have written about before, was a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review's 'The Conversation' blog called 'Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities. In the piece, author Tony Golsby-Smith articulates a case for organizations that are increasingly challenged to innovate faster, to surface more creative ideas, and to simply 'out-think' their competition, that a more expansive and inclusive set of hiring practices should be leveraged. Instead or bringing in yet another class of Top 20 Business School educated MBA's, firms should consider recruiting more students from humanities programs, as in the author's contention, humanities training can produce more innovative thinking, enhanced capability to embrace ambiguity, and perhaps most critically, more effective communication skills, both written and verbal.

    We can debate the 'required skills' versus 'find the smartest people' issues forever. But for me, one thing is certain, each additional 'position requirement' you list on the job requisition makes your potential pool smaller, and of course that is what we want. 

    But at some point, the combination of these (possibly arbitrary) requirements, and the other non job skills specific factors (salary, location, company reputation, prospects, etc.), narrow the pool so much, that millions of jobs sit unfilled at the same time more millions of people are out of work.

    In NFL football, when the teams hold the annual player draft, each team determines a position or two of dire need, that they really want to try to fill with a new college draftee.  But when their turn comes to select a player, and the most talented options for their position of most need are all gone, they don't pass on their turn. Instead they select the 'best player available' regardless of whether or not they really need another player at that position. 

    They know, as most high performing organizations do, that assembling the most talent, even if they don't exactly fit into a pre-determined set of boxes is, in the long run, a winning strategy.



    This Job is Not For You

    Came across yet another one of those 'offbeat and quirky job adverts/application processes' yesterday, this one from the folks at UK Ad Agency SELL!SELL!

    Titled  'This Job is Not For You', the application form for the position, a junior level role in account/project management, asks candidates to answer questions like, 'Who's the best, Batman or Colonel Oliver North? Why?', and asks them to 'Post a video of yourself telling a joke on YouTube and share the link (can be private) here'.

    The application form is below, and is also posted here.

    These kinds of unusual application processes and job descriptions are starting to get more common, especially in creative fields like advertising, design, or even marketing; and I suppose really are not all that newsworthy anymore. But what I liked about this advertisement and application process is its explicit focus on why candidates would not be right for the job and how it focuses prospective applicants that were not going to be a good fit for the position to really challenge themselves to consider self-screening out.

    Most typical and boring job advertisements for similar roles across organizations read kind of the same; an Administrative Assistant position at Company 'A' reads exactly the same as a similar role at Company 'B'.  But the myriad of other factors that would make a qualified candidate a better 'fit' at one firm versus the other are normally not even hinted at, much less explicitly communicated.

    Sure, a phone screen or in-person interview might shed light on these culture and style issues, and be reasonably effective at weeding out candidates that are not a good match culturally for the organization, but the unusual method of communication and atypical format of the job application like the one above from Sell!Sell! would provide an efficient pre-screening filter for applicants.  

    I know what you are thinking, these kinds of crazy application processes and offbeat blog postings that encourage candidates not to apply might work for a boutique, creative ad agency, but for my staid and traditional firm they would never fly. I need to roll out the fully approved and vetted (and incredibly boring) job description to my online ad, and make sure I require the same resume, cover letter, and list of references from every applicant, (who all have been well-coached to not submit anything at all 'unsafe' or potentially interesting, lest they stand out from the pack too much).

    The end result, often, is a stack of barely distinguishable candidate packages that don't do all that much to offer any insight to the candidate's likelihood to be a good match to your organizational culture.

    Unless of course your 'culture' is centered on plainness and looking like every other competitor, then almost all in your pack of candidates will seem like a fit.

    Happy Weekend!

    Note - I know the application form above asks for videos, pictures, etc.; the kind of things that at least in the US can get you into trouble, I am not advocating that companies do anything that runs afoul of laws and regulations around EEO. So there.


    Good advice at any age

    Last night I had the chance to catch my friend Lauren Berger, better known as the Intern Queen, speak to a group of students at St. John Fisher College located near Rochester, NY.
    If you are not familiar with Lauren, or her website, InternQueen.com, the basic premise is to match college students seeking internship opportunities with organizations that offer these opportunities. Hundreds or organizations across the country have signed up with InternQueen.com, and the site provides a kind of unique platform to help facilitate this niche labor market. Kind of like what TheLadders.com does at the high end of the market, InternQueen.com does for the internship space. Except of course that InternQueen.com does not charge students to use the site.

    Lauren’s talk at Fisher was not really about InternQueen.com though, it was more focused on strategies and advice for students that are just starting out on their professional journey. Some of the recommendations were pretty specific to the college internship space, but surprisingly much of what Lauren advised would hold true, perhaps in a more general sense, for job seekers at all levels, or anyone interested in furthering their careers.

    Some of the highlights of the talk:

    Know what is important to employers

    Lauren suggested that quality internships are critical to today’s students because the first question prospective employers will ask is “Where did you intern?”, not what your GPA was, what clubs you were in, and how many awards you won at school. Those other things are still important, but unless you have a good answer to question number one, you won’t get too far in the process.

    Control your image

    Lauren gave the students the expected, and solid advice about being in control of your image and projection on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Even in 2011, with stories of employee hijinks and inappropriate behavior all over the web, I still get the sense that many college students don’t fully realize the potential negative impact that wild pictures on Facebook or late-night Tweets can have on one’s image.

    Lauren also described some example of how students could turn this around and use social to their advantage - by connecting with potential employers and hiring managers online, and contributing to the dialogue in their fields of interest by participating in discussions, commenting on blogs, and even creating their own blogs.

    Networking is everything

    Probably the most compelling part of Lauren’s talk were her stories of how she was able to leverage the connections she made in her early internship positions later in her college experience, and in her new entrepreneurial venture. She advised the students that during their internships they must connect with everyone that they can, learn, volunteer for assignments and tasks, and connect some more. And just not with your boss, or the company executives - forge connections with your fellow interns, they are quite likely to be as driven, ambitious, and intelligent as you - exactly the kind of people that form the foundation of a great professional network.

    How can students (or anyone for that matter), stay connected after the internship is over? Lauren advised the students to stick to their college schedule and make sure you reach out to these contacts three times a year (Fall, Spring, and Summer), just like college semesters are typically configured.

    All in all it was an excellent talk with advice and information that while directed at students and the market for internships, had many salient and applicable points for anyone in the job market.

    If you are a college student, or an employer that is looking to source some of the brightest and most driven college interns around, I suggest you check out InternQueen.com.