GETTING CREATIVE IN JOB SEARCH
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Some companies, no longer relying on traditional job posts to attract candidates, are asking job seekers to tell them what kind of job they want. That’s proving to be a boon to creative candidates.
The business communications company SlideRocket, based in San Francisco, Calif., posts this statement on its career page: “If you don’t see a job that is right for you, email us and tell us what you can do for us.”
“Unique approaches always stand out, especially since we’re a company enabling people to make their presentations stand out,” said Chuck Dietrich, chief executive of SlideRocket. SlideRocket is part of virtualization-software business VMware Inc.
This approach lets candidates highlight the skills they can bring to the table. SlideRocket has hired 13 people this way in the past year — more than 50% of its new hires, including developers, marketing professionals and customer support.
It’s how SlideRocket product manager Hanna Phan got her job.
Going beyond the résumé
“A résumé does not cut it,” Phan said. “I set myself apart by crafting a story using SlideRocket’s presentation application and targeting SlideRocket CEO Chuck Dietrich. I approached it like a love letter that told who I was and why I wanted to work at SlideRocket.”
Phan calls it a présumé, the combination of an online presentation and her résumé. She tweeted a link to the presentation directly to Dietrich, who was on a plane when he received it. After watching it, “I called her as soon as we landed and hired her on the spot,” Dietrich said. Watch Phan’s presentation on SlideRocket’s site.
Phan began her job search with one question in mind. Who did she really want to work for? The company had to be a tech start-up making a product she could get excited about. With a passion for presentations and technology, SlideRocket fit her criteria. She researched the company by reading blogs, press releases, newsletters, and Twitter feeds. “Then I took my chances and sent them a présumé using their own software, highlighting my personality. I put all my eggs in one basket and it paid off.”
Attracting the cream of the crop
“This is a brilliant technique to attract and engage top talent from a deep, muddy and often tepid talent pool,” said Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University.
By using an open-ended “tell us what you want” approach, companies are skimming the top of the talent pool in a strategic and effective way that will have a positive, long-term impact on their recruitment and retention, Langerud said.
For the company, there are numerous benefits to this approach, he said. They are not promising the candidate the job he or she proposes. Companies get access to talent that would never apply for one of their current openings. The company can reframe the conversation with the candidates around existing positions and bypass the thundering herd of average job seekers. And companies can bring in new employees, particularly Gen Y employees, who will be highly engaged because they designed their own job.
Another benefit, Langerud said, is positive reviews through social media about the companies if their positive hiring messages go viral.
“With the high numbers of job seekers there must be another way to differentiate yourself,” Langerud said. “This is a good way.”
After three and a half years at UBS Investment Bank, Alex Bertha was ready for the next stage of his career. He said he’d been thinking about consulting and wanted to help a company drive growth. He came across New York-based Fahrenheit 212, a consulting firm that develops ideas and helps clients innovate.
“I fell in love. I stalked them on the web for months,” Bertha said.
During this time, he went to the company’s website every day and read their white papers, all of them twice. He later found out that at one point he had the highest volume click rate on the company’s site, out of everybody who went there. He networked to find people inside the company and got several informational interviews.
Along the way, he impressed those he met. They saw his passion for the company and he finally got an interview with Fahrenheit 212’s chief operating officer and director of hiring, Pete Maulik. Even at that meeting there wasn’t a specific job on the table. Maulik asked Bertha to take some time to think about how he would introduce a new drink at a beverage company, and then said he should come back in for another talk.
Bertha threw every skill set he had at the question and filled a 20-slide PowerPoint deck leveraging the information he had. He credits his PowerPoint and his dedication for learning everything about the company to his getting hired.
“We don’t ask job searchers to email us and tell us what they want,” Maulik said. Instead, Maulik said, he wants candidates to reach out to the company through their own initiative. “I want people who are innovative thinkers to take an innovative approach. And that’s purposely not stated on the website.”
Fahrenheit 212 grew from eight to 43 people in five years. “Over half reached out to us to be working here,” said Maulik. Maulik didn’t set out to be on the cutting edge of hiring. He said the company simply found that the strategy of having job candidates reach out to them works. “Every day I’m humbled by the number of people who say, ‘this is the place I want to be.’”
Hard work, and time-consuming
DePauw University’s Langerud said that while it’s a great idea for job seekers to initiate contact with potential employers, it’s not an easy or fast strategy. Job seekers have to figure out what value they can offer, and they have to determine the type of environment they’d thrive in. Then they need to be innovative in how they articulate what they are seeking, and they should identify someone inside the company to contact.
“You cannot create this overnight,” said SlideRocket’s Phan. Job seekers should give themselves plenty of time to explore this new approach, she said. Focus on a single company and get to know its culture. Then, and only then, she said, should you craft your presentation and send it in.
Fahrenheit 212’s Bertha made the same point. “What is the DNA of the company? What’s the company’s culture? What are its buzz words?”
A key step, he said, is to try to get a lot of interviews with people on the inside. Leverage your networking skills, without putting any demands on those people for a job. Show whomever you connect with your passion about working there. Do extensive external research to be able to show them exactly how you would perform a job they didn’t even know they needed.
“The process took a bit of time,” Bertha said. “I had my first interview at Fahrenheit 212 in early May and didn’t get an offer until October.”
by Marty Orgel
November 10, 2011