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12/29/08
The Power Of Thank You Notes
Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:12 pm

My son ran into his High School AP Biology teacher at the grocery store yesterday.  George was thrilled to see him, and told him how much he appreciated the thank you card Michael sent him for writing a recommendation letter in support of Michael’s scholarship application.  George went on to say, “Out of the hundreds of AP students I’ve written recommendations for, how many thank you notes do you think I’ve received?”

His answer:  “Zero.”

Just think about what a difference it makes to someone to be appreciated!  Michael literally made his mentor’s day with that card.  How much influence and (positive) visibility will you create for yourself just by simple steps like this, where all you are doing is the right thing - something our parents and grandparents taught us?

And with the low percentage of people who take the time to take the extra step to thank people in writing (even if it’s by email), you have a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd!

By the way, George also commented on how professional the card was that Michael sent him.  If you’re interested in a simple system that will make it extremely easy (and inexpensive) to send very professional, personalized cards, here’s what Michael used, and what I use in my own business, as well as for all my personal birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. cards:

http://www.SendOutCards.com/24906

 

2 comments
12/27/08
How To Kill Every Interview
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:14 pm

(Re-Printed by popular request, from my Career Tips newsletter)

Don’t you just hate getting invited in for too many interviews? Especially those where you might end up forced to expend precious mental energy evaluating a lucrative offer for your dream job? To save a lot of time and energy, here are some tried and true methods to ensure you kill off those interviews as quickly as possible.

1. Don’t Bother With Research

This is a big time-waster. After all, if there’s something important you need to know about the job, the company, its goals, etc., the interviewer will tell you. That’s their job.

Why should you spend any time in advance of the interview poring over job descriptions, reviewing key information on the company website, reading the company’s annual report and press releases, and reaching out to your network to see who can give you insights into the company’s challenges, key players in the department, etc. Who’s going to be impressed by your efforts, anyway? It’s not like they are paying you to do any of that.

And why bother to ask for the departmental organization chart, or an interview schedule with names & titles of the interviewers? You’re not going to Google them or look them up on LinkedIn or ZoomInfo ahead of time, are you? You’ll be introduced to them as you go along, so why rush it?

2. Don’t Worry About Your Psychology

Hey, you’re SUPPOSED to be nervous in interviews. People expect that. Why disappoint them? Why bother with any of those calming techniques to build your confidence walking into the interview?

And you SHOULD walk in with an a psychology of scarcity - there are probably thousands of people interviewing for the job, and you’re no better than any of them, and probably a lot less qualified than many. So just accept that and get on with it.

3. Why Develop Rapport?

After all, the hiring manager is going to be your BOSS, not your FRIEND! Why would you want to develop rapport with him or her? It’s not like they are going to be more likely to hire you just because they like you, is it? Those stories about supposedly less-qualified people getting jobs because someone liked them are just fairy tales.

4. Focus on Your Years of Experience, and Duties You’ve Performed

Don’t you just jump up and get all excited when someone tells you they’ve been doing a particular job for 15 years? Isn’t it really interesting when they talk about all of their duties? Of course it is! Dive deep down into all of the details you can remember, taking as much time as you like for every story.

Don’t worry about expressing the results you’ve achieved. Those take too much mental energy to draw out of your past accomplishments in the first place, and besides, it’s so hard to quantify them. And I’m sure busy executives are going to be very sympathetic, and won’t draw any conclusions about your work ethic or leadership potential just because you have trouble doing that.

5. Save Your Questions For The End Of The Interview

If you actually take the time to develop some insightful questions of your own ahead of the interview, don’t make the mistake of wasting them early on. Always save them for the right time, like when the interviewer asks “Do you have any other questions?” Otherwise, you’re going to look like a real loser when you can’t think of anything else to say - since there probably won’t be anything shared during the interview that would make sense to follow up on.

Besides, if you ask questions early on, you risk turning the interview into a CONVERSATION! Heaven forbid! You might actually have to interact with the interviewer, building unnecessary rapport and showing that you are more than someone who can answer questions when asked.

I’m sure employers will be very impressed that you saved the most insightful questions you could think of for the very end of your discussion! And they’re probably hoping that they won’t have to spend much time exploring such big questions, so if you time it right, they won’t have to!

6. Why Waste Time On Challenges?

You’ll find out about their challenges soon enough once you’re hired, so why waste energy exploring them during the interview? Focus instead on everything about you - your experience, the job titles you’ve held, and the objectives you have for your own career. It’s not like having a deep discussion about the company’s, department’s or boss’s issues is going to have any influence. That’s not why they hire someone, to solve their challenges, is it?

7. Don’t Bother With Thank You Notes

No one reads these, right? Thank you’s are just an outdated concept that only our grandmothers expected of us. Sure, you could go to the effort of trying to write a marketing document that describes why you would be a great addition to their team, based on everything you learned in the interview, but isn’t it THEIR job to take good notes and figure that out for themselves?

Even if you are going to bother with a thank you, at least don’t waste time writing to everyone you met with - just go straight to the top. No one else has any influence, and you don’t really care what they think about you. It’s not like the hiring manager might compare notes with them before making a decision!

Just follow this prescription, and I personally guarantee you won’t be wasting your precious time weighing any annoying job offers!

And if you are really ready to work on doing the RIGHT things to give yourself the best chance to turn interviews into offers, check out my Interview Boot Camp at:

http://www.JHACareers.com/InterviewBootCamp.htm

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12/20/08
Hit The Ground Running (Part 3)
Filed under: Career, Performance, New Job
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:56 pm

OK, so now you’ve actually started the job.  Look around you.  You are embarking on a seemingly endless series of first impressions - and those can have a lasting impact on your career at your new company.

People are making snap judgements about you:

Once made, those impressions are very hard to undo, so go about making the best ones you can up front.  In fact, one of the first impressions people will have of you is beyond your control - the memo or email your boss sends out announcing your hire, or what he or she says about you in advance of you getting a chance to meet those people.  And what message does it send to people if no announcement is made, and you are basically a surprise on your first day?

Ths provides another reason to reach out to your boss in advance of your start date, as I mentioned in the previous entry.  Perhaps you can influence what is sent out, or even whether something is sent out - and at the very least you could get a copy of the announcement.

So what do you want to do to make strong impressions?

Think of this as your chance to go out on a series of mini interviews.  Yes, I know, you thought you were done with interviews when you landed this job!  But here the intent is a bit different.

When you are interviewing prior to landing the job, it is never in the company’s best interest to air all of their dirty laundry.  After all, if you are a good candidate, they want to attract you!  That doesn’t mean they are actively trying to hide things from you, just that they aren’t going to make a point of telling you every detail of the negative side of things.

Now that you’re an insider, that dirty laundry can be aired.  Your job is now to uncover it so it doesn’t trip you up later.  Make a plan to:

This will at least get you started on the road to creating the best first impressions you can…

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12/13/08
Hit The Ground Running (Part 2)
Filed under: Career, Performance, New Job
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:31 am

OK, you’ve let everyone know about your success, your new contact information, and generally ensured that they will continue to be valued members of your network going forward.  What’s next?

Now you want to start making the best possible impression at the new job.  One way to do that even before you start is to reach out to your new boss and ask about coming in to meet key members of your new work group BEFORE your first day on the job. 

Think about it.  Most candidates relax once they accept an offer, and use the time until their start date getting everything else in their lives in order.  You have a clear opportunity to stand out just by going in to visit during that period.

Imagine the signal this sends to your new employer!  You are showing yourself to be particularly eager to get to work, to meet everyone, and to start making a real contribution to the operations.  Even if your boss turns down the opportunity, just the fact that you reached out this way starts him or her thinking that you are a real go-getter. 

When you talk to your boss, you can ask about information you could read to get a head start on integrating into the new operation:

Think of it this way:  Once you start the job, you are going to be making a long series of first impressions with people at your new job.  What better way is there to enable you to make the most of those than by jumping in ahead of time (or at least offering to) and showing what a self-starter you are?

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12/06/08
Hit The Ground Running In Your New Job
Filed under: General, Career, Performance, New Job
Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:09 pm

Over the next few weeks, let’s explore some of the ways you can make the most of your new job…

Before you even start your new job, you need to think about the networking you’ve done and the contacts you’ve made during your search.  Hopefully you’ve kept careful records of who you’ve met along the way, and what advice, leads, introductions or other assistance they provided.  If not, then sit down right now and pull out your calendar, cell phone, phone book and email history to reproduce the list as best you can.

I’m assuming you’ve also made a point of thanking all of those people as you went along - dropping them thank you notes or emails after your meeting, and keeping them informed as to any positive developments from whatever advice or contacts they provided you.

Now’s the time to let them all know about the results of your search.  Don’t leave them wondering what happened to you!  Don’t make the mistake of allowing the network you built up lapse into disuse - after all, the insights, perspectives and resources of your network add to the value you bring to your new employer, and will be critical to your future career development.

Split your list up into at least 3 groups:

  1. Those who provided such substantial advice, were so helpful, or are such close (or critical) connections that they deserve a personal phone call.
  2. Those who don’t make it into category 1, but still deserve individual handling.  For these you can come up with a relatively standard ‘thanks for your support’ email or letter you will send, individualizing each one where possible. DO NOT SEND AN IMPERSONAL, BLAST EMAIL WITH A DISTRIBUTION LIST!
  3. Those who it would still be good to keep in your contact list. These you can send a simple email just alerting them you have landed. Even though you aren’t going to personalize these, don’t use a distribution list if at all possible - at least use Word’s mail merge feature to make each one go out individually to that person’s name.

If you don’t have your new business contact information yet, you might also do this in 2 steps (a mini-keep-in-touch campaign!).  First, send your notes / make your calls to everyone in groups 1 & 2, letting them know that you value them as a professional contact, and that you will forward your new contact information once you start at the new job.  Then, after you start, you can send them a second email or letter to let them know the new contact info .  If you like, you can hold the #3 list for this second round, when you can include the contact info.

And here’s an article I contributed to that includes a number of nuggets for the new employee:

http://www.examiner.com/x-828-Entry-Level-Careers-Examiner~y2008m12d4-Ten-ways-to-impress-your-boss-during-the-first-week

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