A “Foolish” Thought about LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedInI’m a firm believer in the power of LinkedIn. As the go-to Fool for PR and company-wide networking, LinkedIn is an absolutely crucial tool that I use every day. With it, I can search and dig through company rosters to ensure I’m reaching out to the right person for my specific request. I honestly can’t imagine doing my job without it.

Because it’s a network aimed at professionals, the growth of LinkedIn has brought with it a number of etiquette questions. For example: What should you post on your page? With whom should you connect? How should you describe yourself? And on and on.

On the subject of connecting, the best advice I’ve read is to use the “help test.” Ideally, you would be willing to help any of your “connections” if they reached out to you with a request. If that’s not the case, you might want to reconsider some of those connections. On the other hand, if you’re inviting someone to connect with you, and you don’t think they’d say yes if you reached out to them for help, it might be worth re-examining that invitation.

One of the more bewildering things I come across is what I call the “cold connection request.” Occasionally I’ll get an invitation from someone I don’t know, whom I’ve never spoken to or corresponded with in any capacity. The person might be in a similar field, but not necessarily. Either way, I’m hesitant to accept cold requests. You wouldn’t accept a face-to-face meeting with someone you didn’t know unless they gave you at least a little context, right?

If you ever find yourself needing to “cold connect” with someone, I highly suggest tailoring the invitation. LinkedIn allows you to write your own invitation instead of using the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” If someone personalizes the invitation, it shows me that they at least care enough to put some thought into why they’re reaching out to me.

To be sure, I’m not looking for anything fancy. Just tell me something about who you are and why you wanted to connect with me, and I’d be much more likely to respond. It’s a low bar, really.

As you build out your networks on LinkedIn, be thoughtful about who you include. After all, a well-constructed LinkedIn network can be a powerful tool when it comes time to ask for help. Just make sure that your connections are people who’d be willing to help you, and vice versa. You’ll have more success that way. I promise.

There’s No Perfect Job Candidate, But There Are Foolish Ones!

Ideal Candidate

Ideal CandidatePeople applying to jobs often go through the string of questions: Did I go to the right school? Did I pick the right major? Did I do the right internships? Does my resume have enough details of what I do? Is my resume too long/too short? Does my cover letter summarize how I can do the job?

In my opinion, there isn’t a right answer to these questions because there is no such thing as the perfect applicant.

Many companies or organizations go down a checklist for candidates:

Bachelors degree – check

Proficiency in office applications – check

3-5 years of experience – check

1-2 years of experience in relevant field – double check

I am happy to say that at The Fool, our checklist is bit different.  Here at The Fool, people come to us from all walks of life.  We have former bartenders and biology teachers turned investors and MMA fighter (Mixed Martial Arts) turned techie. We’ve hired Fools ranging from baristas to Tigger and Goofy from Disneyworld to NASA rocket scientists.  We do things different in all of our business aspects, so why not recruiting?

When you apply to our positions you see that we want cover letters that don’t bore us and we ask questions that aren’t the norm.  Other recruiters might ask how this helps us find the right candidates.  To us, the ideal, not perfect, candidate embodies what we call Foolishness (with a capital F) and these questions let Foolishness shine through!

So how do you prepare to be an ideal candidate?

Some might say that filling out an application or preparing for an interview was a lot easier ten years ago.  The hardest, and most asked, question to prepare for used to be, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  Today, this question doesn’t carry the relevance it once did.  We’ve become a culture of change; change in what we want to learn and when we want to learn it all the time. Our passions and dreams change and therefore so do our career paths.

The other day I received an email about the 25 strangest interview questions.  The subject said it all…strangest.  There were questions on the more bizarre side of how many cows there are in Canada or estimate how many windows there are in New York to tell us your favorite song and perform it for us.  I often think that the people asking these types of questions are abusing the system. I can tell you I’m an extrovert and I would not get up and perform a song in an interview!

In our applications and interviews, we aren’t trying to embarrass you or make you feel uncomfortable but rather we want to know what makes you…well YOU!  Letting us in, even just a little bit, to see different sides of you is all we want.  How will we know if we want to sit next to you everyday? Or if you might participate in our office banter?

I recently had a friend tell me that she would hate to sit through one of my interviews because she wouldn’t like being put on the spot with some of my questions.  I thought a lot about her comment when I went into my next interview and realized that it really isn’t about what the answer is but more the insight it gives me into the person.  Answering with one word doesn’t provide much to me but answering with something that starts a conversation and shows your interest in something…that is what we want to see!

So next time you’re applying to a job, writing a cover letter, or preparing for interview, think about what makes you you and let that come out!

More Tips on Standing Out in a Sea of Job Candidates

Application Tips

Application TipsI wrote a post last January that generated a lot of traffic – tips on how to get your job applications to stand out. It seems a lot of you are here (rightly so!) to learn about career opportunities and how to get them. Since then, I’ve read through countless more applications and made lots of connections at conferences and networking events. So what else can you do during your job hunt to make it a success?

  1. Make sure you’re applying to the actual job that’s listed. If the opening is, say, for an editor, and you go on and on about how you want to work in market research, you’re not the ideal candidate for this job. It’s better to spend more time on fewer applications and make sure they’re the best they can be and appropriate for the job opening, rather than sending generic applications out to hundreds of places a day. Quality, not quantity.
  2. Do some research about the company you’re applying to. Let them know what you learned in your application. Mention how your skills would fit into the company’s work.
  3. Actually write a cover letter. A real one, not just “I’m applying to this position. You can reach me here.” This is a marketing document. Brag about yourself! List relevant accomplishments! Show the recruiter your personality! An amazing cover letter fills in the gaps on your resume. Are you looking to switch career fields? Your resume will show no relevant experience, but a cover letter can list your transferable skills. Are you a recent graduate just starting your career? Your resume might be a little empty for now, but your cover letter can discuss student leadership roles, volunteer work, and other ways you got experience even though you haven’t held many jobs yet. Trust me – applications with no cover letter get eliminated from consideration immediately at a lot of companies!
  4. Show gratitude. A lot of people helped you get to where you are, so write them a quick thank-you email. The recruiter who interviewed you? Always send a follow up email to thank them for their time and reiterate interest in the job. The person you met through a friend who answered your questions or introduced you to someone who was hiring? Thank them too! No need to send flowers – just a nice, sincere note.