How to engage successfully with recruiters on social media

By Neil Patrick

Today, I read an interesting and insightful piece by the ever clever Glen Cathey here, called ‘14 Tips on How to Use Twitter for Social Recruiting’.

Glen’s piece was about how recruiters needed to up their game in terms of using Twitter as an effective tool to find suitable candidates.

It got me thinking that there’s another side to this equation, which is how job seekers should use social media to engage with recruiters effectively.

Over on my Twitter account, I have set up lists of recruiters, so anyone who wishes to can find and follow relevant recruiters more easily. I have organised them by continent here. Please feel free to subscribe to any list that you feel may be helpful to you.

As Glen pointed out though, many recruiters have yet to fully grasp how to use Twitter effectively in their hunt for the best candidates. Many simply use Twitter to tweet jobs as a means of free advertising.

This is far from ideal for a recruiter. Unless they have a lot of followers who are the right type of profile for their search, they won’t achieve much reach on Twitter.

But this post is about job seekers not recruiters, so here are my thoughts on a strategy for job seekers to engage effectively with recruiters on Twitter.

Ensure your profile on Twitter is right for a recruiter

It may well be that when you first set up your Twitter account you were not job hunting. If that is the case, and you are now looking to job hunt, it’s time to adjust your Twitter bio so it describes you in your professional capacity rather than a purely social role. You have 140 characters to do this - but less if you include a link to your LinkedIn profile which I recommend.

Because space is so limited, you cannot talk about your accomplishments and nor should you – that’s for LinkedIn. Instead describe yourself succinctly and professionally. What’s your area of specialism? In what industry or sector? What experience or capabilities set you apart from your peers?

I do not recommend that you mention you are presently job hunting. This will exclude you from the screening for some recruiters who (wrongly in my view) are only interested in candidates who are presently employed.

It’s also time to adjust what you are tweeting about. Try and focus your tweets on matters which are relevant to your career and professional interests.

Find and follow all the recruiters relevant to your search

My Twitter lists are a good start point for this, but you’ll find many more if you do a Twitter search for recruiters in your city/area such as recruitment Dallas, recruiter Dallas or jobs Dallas.

Don’t worry about whether or not they follow you back

It’s great if they do, but what you want is to get their tweets in your tweet stream. 

Get noticed by RTing them

There will probably only be at most a dozen or so recruiters that are appropriate to your sector and geography, so it’s not a great deal to manage.

RTing of job tweets isn’t that common, so you’ll find it’s an effective way to get noticed by a recruiter. If you RT them regularly, some will acknowledge your support and follow you back.
You now have the start of a relationship

So it’s now time to invest a little more. Apart from helping the recruiter spread the word about their jobs, by RTing them and earning some goodwill in the process, you can now take it to the next level.

And the way to do this is to pay it forward by helping them some more. Don’t just think about your own job hunt. Think about the recruiter’s goals. Do you happen to know someone that would be a great fit for a role they are seeking to fill? Yes? Tell them - but talk to your contact first to make sure they are happy to be referred. 

Take the relationship to the next level

Once you have exchanged some tweets with a recruiter, and hopefully an identifiable person at the recruitment firm rather than just an anonymous corporate account, you have a basis to connect with them on LinkedIn too. To avoid the risk of rejection though it’s best to ask first on Twitter. This has the double benefit of showing them some courtesy and giving you the highest probability they will accept your LinkedIn invitation.

Continue the process on LinkedIn

The pay it forward approach I am recommending can continue on Linkedin. You are now in a higher visibility and higher impact relationship and platform with the recruiter. If they are using Linkedin well, they will be posting information here, not just jobs but other pieces too. You may well feel qualified to comment on some of their posts. Do it. This is a great opportunity to show what you know and add value to the discussion.
You are now in a privileged and high visibility position

By following this strategy, you should have managed to build a relationship with a handful of the key recruiters in your area of specialism and territory. Do not abuse this status. You might think I recommend taking the relationship next to face to face. I don't.

Whilst this is great if the recruiter initiates such a move, don’t invite it yourself. Recruiters are extremely busy people and they have to prioritize their time for getting the best prospects for their clients. But you can now be sure they’ll contact you when the right position comes along if you've pursued this strategy. After all, you are one of probably just a handful of people that they have such a close relationship with.

As Glen pointed out, 'Ultimately, people like helping people they like, and people like people they feel that they know'.

I think the time to carry this process out is only about 3-4 weeks. It’s not a substitute for other parts of your job hunt activity, but it’s probably more likely to yield results than spending the equivalent amount of time sending off another pile of resumes.

If you’ve followed this strategy or a similar one, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. And if you're a recruiter. I'd love to hear what you think too.

People think sleeping with your boss can boost your career…but it’s still a really bad idea

By Neil Patrick

'Unconventional' tactics to win promotion and pay rises in the workplace are as common as ever it seems. So too is sexual harassment.

Unfortunately sometimes the boundaries between the two become blurred, despite the fact that one is consensual (if ill-advised) and the other is obviously non-consensual and hence illegal.

These days, it seems rarely a week goes by without a high profile individual facing accusations of misconduct.

This week, the UK press has been full of the story of how senior Lib Dem, Lord Renard is facing claims of sexual harassment by co-workers. The peer resigned the party whip last year amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to several women and touched them inappropriately.

The alleged victims are asking for at least an apology. But Renard and his allies claim the complaints are unfounded and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Nick Clegg seems to disagree and has said that Renard should issue an apology even though the accusations are presently unproven.

Whatever the truth of the matter, one thing seems clear to me - letting your personal conduct slip in the workplace is almost guaranteed to wreck your career and quite possibly the rest of your life.

The stakes are terrifyingly high

High standards of professional behavior at work seem to me to be as important as any other aspect of our career.

Engaging in sexual relationships with colleagues risks the breakup of your family if you are married, will possibly cost you a small fortune and will wreck all those years of investment in your career.

The risks were highlighted in another high profile case when Mark Hurd, the chief executive of computer giant Hewlett Packard, resigned his job over the alleged sexual harassment of Jodie Fisher, a former reality TV contestant turned marketing consultant.

But it cost him more than just his job. Hurd who was married, settled the matter out of court for a sum which was undisclosed, but I’d wager it was substantial.

Perception is reality

If the risks of family break up and devastating legal and financial penalties are not enough to convince you, what about your reputation and relationships with other colleagues?

I looked for research into the topic of how such actions are perceived by colleagues. And discovered that Vanderbilt University had carried out a study on this topic in 2010.

In this study, having an affair with the boss was perceived as likely to boost your career by respondents, especially if you are a woman.

37% of office workers said that from their experience those who slept with their superiors were rewarded with a career boost.

But is this fact or perception? I don’t know, but perception is reality in its own way - and it seems that at the very least, even suspicions of such behavior will gain you more enemies than friends.

A function of gender inequality?

The study for the U.S. Centre for Work-Life Policy also claimed that, no matter how successful, female executives will not reach the very top of their profession unless they find a 'sponsor' who will speak out on their behalf. More often than not such sponsors are in a position of power and influence, and almost always male and married.

If this conclusion is reliable, it suggests that some women seeking to reach the peak of their careers consciously or unconsciously may be tempted to secure the ‘patronage’ of an influential man.

This is a high risk choice for both parties. The woman risks being seen as given unmerited advancement, the man risks possible legal ramifications in future. Both risk loss of personal credibility.

Your peer group respect level plunges too

In terms of morale, 61% of men and 70% of women lose respect for a leader involved in an affair.

Don’t expect that colleagues will have no idea what is happening - 60% of male executives and 65% of female executives suspect that salary hikes and choice assignments are traded for sexual favours.

And once they find out, don’t expect any sympathy if it all turns sour.

Some 48% of men and 56% of women feel animosity towards the involved couple, and both report a fall off in productivity as the team splinters.

But none of this seems to deter people

Despite all the risks, affairs in the workplace are still a common occurrence. Some 34% of women in executive positions said they knew a female colleague who had slept with their boss.

Even at director level or above, 15% of women admitted to having had an office fling.

Do you really want to play for such high stakes?

For everyone involved, office affairs are a really bad idea. The more senior person already has power - why put that status at risk? For the junior person, once you start the relationship, how do you know your boss is going to fulfill their end of the implied deal?

Even if it happens in the short term, everyone will know what’s going on and you’ll lose their respect.

It also poisons the atmosphere of your team, damaging the performance of the whole group.

And the label you’ll gain is almost as permanent as a tattoo. Especially if you are female, the gossip will likely follow you around your industry for years and years.

You really have to ask yourself, "Am I so committed to this relationship, I’m prepared risk everything for it?"

If the answer is no, then don’t even start it.

Why the Euro is bad for jobs, admits EU Commissioner

By Neil Patrick

Yesterday I read something I thought I’d never see. Lazlo Andor, the Hungarian economist and EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs has admitted that Europe’s single currency has created ‘increased unemployment and social hardship’.

Back in November 2012 here, I criticised Mr Andor for failing to acknowledge the social impact of the EU’s policies on employment. Essentially, I felt the EU policies he was presenting then would result in a deterioration of employment opportunities, particularly in the weaker EU member states, since most people cannot easily move freely around the EU for work.

Yes there may be few legal migration barriers, and a minority of young and educated people have moved to find jobs. But is a 50 year old Greek shopkeeper with a failing business really going to up sticks and set up business in say Helsinki? I doubt it.

In an astonishing turnaround, Mr Andor has published a 496-page report this week, entitled ‘Employment and social developments in Europe 2013’. It argues that the surrender of national sovereignty and local currencies has led to a lack of flexibility in tackling the economic and jobs crisis.

This will be viewed as heresy by his peers

He has thus turned heretic in EU circles, but it is refreshing to see such an admission of policy failure coming from the heart of the European Commission itself.

Essentially, the problem admitted to in the report is that with the loss of the ability to devalue national currencies, the poorer Eurozone members in particular have been forced to drive down living standards. For example in Greece, average incomes have reduced by more than 30%. This collapse is unprecedented in Europe since the great depression of the 1930’s.

The report concludes, “In the absence of the currency evaluation option, euro area countries attempting to regain cost competitiveness have to rely on internal devaluation (wage and price containment). This policy, however has its limitations and downsides, not least in terms of increased unemployment and social hardship.”

Worse, the single currency is impeding recovery

The criticism of the European Central Bank and the Commission’s own policies continues in the report, stating that internal devaluation isn’t working and indeed has fueled a continuation of the recession in the Eurozone, which has fallen seriously behind Britain and the US in terms of economic growth.

(In a more or less simultaneous announcement this week, the IMF upgraded the UK's growth forecast from 1.9% this year to 2.4%, whilst UK unemployment levels were reported with glee by the government to have fallen faster than expected to 7.1%).

Martin Callahan, leader of the European Conservative and Reform Group of MEPs said, “Wage compression and weakened economic stabilisers in individual member states spilled over into others in the form of weaker external demand.”

The report charts a gulf emerging between north and south in the Eurozone. The average unemployment is 17% in southern countries compared with 7% in the northern countries.

Mr Andor has urged the EU to reform its policies to deliver “…a fairer distribution of costs and benefits among the participating member states”.

The recession is far from over in the southern Eurozone, but if this report is acted upon, instead of rubbished, perhaps we'll see some more sense coming out of the EU and ECB. Mr Andor is to be congratulated I think for having the courage to speak out against the idiotic policies created by his own employer.  I take back every criticism I laid at his feet and hope that his stand gains support rather than a backlash from his peers.

How to turn yourself into a winning job candidate

By David Hunt, PE

In replying to someone’s comment on my posting Am I a Fit? in a LinkedIn group, I had a flash of insight for another essay.

When writing resumes, and especially when in an interview, there are several acronyms for techniques used to outline your accomplishments. The one I know is SPAR - Situation, Problem, Action, Result. What was the Situation – the environment, the product or service – in which you were working? What was the Problem you faced; what Action did you take; what Result came from that action (ideally something quantifiable)?

But there’s something missing. And so at the risk of creating an unwieldy acronym, I want to propose:


Situation, Problem, Action, Result… Transferable, Aimed, Customized, and US.

Transferable: Based on your research, can you highlight the skills you exercised in this item that can transfer directly to the company where you are interviewing?

Aimed: The examples need to be aimed at specific problems they’re having – or are likely to be having.

Customized: The more you can customize your story to that particular company, the better.

US: Try to discuss the problem and your transferable skills as if you were already there.

Now that I’ve probably got your head spinning, let me back up. Much of this presupposes that you already understand specific problems the company is having. Well, as many job search advice articles hammer home… do your homework.

Read up on the company, both on their own website, the product line, competitors, and the industry in general. Peruse the job description word by word. Often times the order of duties in the description/posting is keyed to the problems they’re experiencing. Can you network to people in the company through LinkedIn or elsewhere to learn more – assuming, of course, that you have the time to do this. But even an after-hours phone call can yield great information; you don’t need a face-to-face lunchtime informational meeting. An article on LinkedIn gives some interesting tips for this.

Can you post to topical LinkedIn groups? Put out the word on your own network (alumni groups can be of enormous help in this) that you will be interviewing at the company… not only will you – hopefully! – get some good info, but it’s entirely possible that someone from that company might see your request for information. First, they might offer to help. Second, they may know someone who is interviewing you (or be one of the interviewers). Showing publicly that you have an active interest in being informed can, IMHO, do nothing but good things if the company learns you are doing solid preparation.

Next, there’s the interview itself. Take charge. As the hiring manger enters the room, be standing already. Proactively go over as they come in, shake their hand; “Mr. So-and-so, glad to meet you. I’m really excited at being interviewed for <position title>; what kinds of problems would you have me working on out of the gate?” (Remember, many people don’t like doing interviews; so long as you’re not pushy about it, they may appreciate your taking an active role in the conversation.)

Wham! You’ve shown you have energy, drive, and you’ve opened the door for them to vent about their “pain points”. You’ve also painted yourself as if you’re already in the position ready to get started on Day One.

As they talk, take mental notes. The things they say will then guide your SPARTACUS answers from then on. Remember – you are not in an interview because you need a job, but because they have problems they need to solve.

By taking a SPARTACUS approach to the interview conversation you:

1. Highlight accomplishments you’ve already made

2. Show how you can transfer skills to their problems – don’t rely on them to make those inferences

3. Demonstrate enthusiasm and initiative because you’ve clearly taken the time to do your homework

4. Get the interviewer to envision you in particular in the role

© 2014, David Hunt, PE

David Hunt is a Mechanical Design Engineer in southern New Hampshire looking for his "next opportunity" that allows him to design new products and shepherd them to stable production. His LinkedIn profile is:; he blogs at and tweets at @davidhuntpe.

The top 10 trust-melters on your social media

By Neil Patrick

The importance of trust in your personal brand and social media is something which often gets overlooked in an age where clever techniques are assumed to trump everything else.

If people like you, they’ll talk to you. If they trust you, they’ll do business with you. - Zig Ziglar

I have plenty of tips on this blog for better social media management to help build your personal brand. The thing I have never talked about until now is trust and how we can enhance or reduce it in terms of our social media activities.

We all know trust is difficult to win and easy to lose.

The question is how should we present ourselves and behave on social media to enhance this aspect of our online reputation and not diminish it?

Based on what I see day in day out on social media, here’s a list of some of the basic things I think we should all pay attention to.

1. High intensity recirculation

Digital media is designed to make sharing easy. One click and you can share almost anything you like. But this characteristic of social media risks creating digital overload for your network. I see plenty of people who churn out shared content at a frantic rate. They do it because it’s easy, and in the misguided belief that that the more you do, the more you’ll benefit.

I don’t agree. It’s the equivalent of social media spamming. It’s not big and it’s not clever. And it does your personal brand no good at all. Everything we share should be for a reason and it should have a value to its recipients – even if that value is just entertainment or amusement. 

Think before you click!

2. Buy me now! 

I quickly lose interest in professional profiles which try too hard to sell. Your personal profile on Linkedin especially isn’t the place to be shouting at people ‘buy this’. It’s the place to tell people who you are, what you have accomplished and why you might be of value to them. They’ll decide later, possibly much later if they want to buy you or from you.

And remember, that time isn’t when they first encounter you on social media. People, love to buy but hate to be sold to. Isn't that why no-one in their right mind will follow someone on Twitter whose profile says something like – ‘I got thousands of followers free – let me show you how you can too’?  (did you ever notice how none of these people actually have more than a few dozen followers?)

3. Engage on old world media too 

Social media is great for finding new people and starting to build a relationship with them. But it’s absolutely no substitute for meeting face to face, a Skype chat, talking on the phone or even emailing each other. Every single one of my most valuable social media relationships may have started with Twitter or LinkedIn, but the real value is created away from social media, not within it.

Social media is the start point for building valuable relationships not the destination.

4. Your profile picture says more about you than you ever can 

This is such a basic point that it seems almost too obvious to mention, but it is hardwired into humans to make split second evaluations of each other based on what the other person looks like. So invest in a professional headshot, with a professional photographer. 

Not only will you look better, the difference between a mobile phone snap against a blank wall and a professional headshot sends a powerful subconscious message…I should be taken seriously, because I care about being professional in every detail of my work.

And use this same picture for all your social media platforms. This is an exercise in brand presentation and consistency, not personal vanity. 

5. Be human 

Showing a little of your unique personality on your profile and social media interactions is a good thing. You are not a machine, so why try and present yourself as one? 

People form relationships with other humans, so show your personality a little. It’s not a substitute for being professional first and foremost, but it’s our individual quirks that people respond to and remember, much more than the dry matter of our professional accomplishments. If something about you is unusual amongst your peers, then use this. I happen to love heavy metal, so I drop small references to it here and there which shows I am just a little bit different.

6. Be likeable 

I am constantly amazed at how some social media interactions are so hostile. Perhaps these interactions should be called ‘anti-social media’. Just because someone has an opinion that is different to yours, it isn’t a reason to attack them. Respect others’ opinions, be courteous, even if they are not courteous to you. 

On Twitter for example, I think sometimes people forget that our tweets are public. If someone follows me and their tweets don’t show respect and courtesy to others, I am unlikely to follow them back. 

7. Pay it forward 

Helping others before we help ourselves is perhaps the best way I know of showing who we are and building goodwill towards ourselves. Help others, ask for nothing back. This might be something as simple as clicking the like or share buttons on their content regularly (provided of course you do actually like it).

It gets you noticed, it shows that you care about others and most importantly, it shows that you understand the power and value of collaboration.

8. Choose your friends carefully 

Rightly or wrongly, we are judged by the company we keep. I’m not saying avoid the people who for whatever reason are not superstars. On the contrary, helping those perhaps less experienced than yourself is a very positive and laudable thing. But we should also work hard to build relationships with the high profile people in our professional space. And more than ever before, social media allows us to reach out to people that in the analogue world would be hard to reach.

Having connections with these people isn't just valuable because of potential opportunities. Even if you never actually progress your relationship with them further than a Twitter connection and the odd retweet, their connection with you carries weight and influence within the social media platforms which see that you are connected and respond accordingly. 

9. Create your own unique value 

Sharing the work of others is great, assuming you are selective and discerning. But the most powerful way to build your standing is through the creation of your own unique material. It could be as simple as adding insightful comments to the work of others.

It doesn’t have to be a full blown blog either – images are always popular and if writing isn’t your thing, it’s easy to build your profile and content with interesting pictures. Smart phones make this easier than ever.

10. Be consistent 

We are all multidimensional as people. But in the world of professional networking through social media, it gets confusing if your content and activities are really diverse. In the purely social space, we can indulge our whims and fancies. 

With professional social media we need to stay focused. If you have multiple interests and activities, then at least with Twitter, you can have separate Twitter accounts for them. Sadly the same isn't possible with LinkedIn.

So decide what you are about within your professional social media space and stay on topic. Everyone will appreciate it.

I am sure this isn’t the last word on the subject, it’s more a simple checklist of what seem to me to be sensible best practices. So if you’d like to add points to the list, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Why digital communications are making people less productive

By Neil Patrick

Why do 71% of US workers feel unhappy and unproductive?

The digital communication revolution creates an exciting new world of opportunity if we can harness it to achieve our goals.

But there is worrying data which shows that over two thirds of workers in the US feel unhappy and unproductive in their work and much of this can be attributed to digital information overload.

How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

It’s easier to understand this paradox if we accept that 20th century business models based on constantly increasing productivity and top down command and control no longer work at least for many knowledge-based organisations.

This way of managing organisations when combined with digital communications has a negative impact on both productivity and employee satisfaction levels.

How come?

Employee empowerment and lateral and collaborative ways of working are hugely valuable currency for the 21st century enterprise. This way of working is harmonious with the characteristics of the digital age. Just a few days ago, I reported here how Zappos is taking the bold step of removing managerial job titles and authorities in keeping with this philosophy.

To capitalise on this paradigm shift, an organisation needs to fundamentally rethink its values and culture. But many will struggle with the new levels of trust and delegated authority required to make this happen.

If we apply it to a 20th century culture based organisation, digital communication has as many or more negative impacts as positive ones. For example, at the sharp end, people are swamped with email. Instead of engaging in really productive work, they invest far too much time trying to appear that they are adding value by merely adding yet more to the communication overload.

They devote more and more of their time trying to appear productive, when in fact they are becoming less so. Open office environments, designed to lessen barriers to communication, have the opposite effect as workers pay more attention to trying to be seen to be busy than actually doing the things which really create value for the organisation and importantly boost their satisfaction and sense of self-worth.

Technology now means that most of us can work from almost anywhere for much of the time. In fact most people that work from home report that their productivity levels soar when they do this. But again, applied within a 20th century cultural framework, flexible working creates as many problems as it solves due to resentment and suspicion that co-workers are not working when they cannot be seen at the office.

I believe that most organisations have not yet fully grasped how to redesign themselves to accommodate the new open and collaborative models that characterise 21st century working. A perfect example of this was yesterdays’ post here about how JP Morgan got their Twitter strategy so catastrophically wrong. Essentially they were combining a 20th century command and control mentality with 21st century media and networks with disastrous outcomes.

In this brilliant RSA animate, Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, describes what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and critically combined it with a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.

In other words, a culture which is consistent with the characteristics of the technology it uses.

It’s revolutionary stuff, but I suspect it describes not an imminent transformation rather the direction of evolution of the only the most enlightened organizations.

So whilst I share the vision, I think sadly we’re not going to see too many changes too soon.

And 71% of people are still going to be unhappy and unproductive for a good while yet…

What do you think?

Words thou shalt not use on thy LinkedIn profile - but then again...

By Neil Patrick

LinkedIn tells us there are certain words we shouldn't include in our profiles, but I disagree and here's why.

Linkedin sent me an email a few days ago informing me that I had used the word ‘strategic’ in my Linkedin profile and because many hundreds of thousands of others had too, I might want to remove it - especially since it was in their top 10 most overused buzzwords list.

I didn’t.

The reason I didn’t was that during my career, I’ve held executive board responsibility for strategic planning in three businesses - two of which were plcs. Rightly or wrongly I think this means I can and must use the word. How else could I describe it? Author of non-tactical business plans? Hah!

In fact I replied to Linkedin to explain to them why I thought they were wrong in making this recommendation to me. So far I've had no response.

Anyway, the whole notion that some words should be blacklisted through overuse seems nonsensical to me.

For the record, the top 10 must overused words according to Linkedin were:

1. Responsible

2. Strategic

3. Creative

4. Effective

5. Patient

6. Expert

7. Organizational

8. Driven

9. Innovative

10. Analytical

This got me thinking that typically it’s not the words themselves which are wrong but their application. There shouldn’t be a ‘blacklist’ of banned words which we cannot use just because loads of other people have abused or misappropriated them.

In my opinion, every single one of these words is absolutely fine provided we use them with thought, justification and most importantly, evidence.

Here’s my list of words I think we must be careful with, but not automatically reject, just because others misuse them. I also provide my thoughts as to why they are risky and how you should use them to ensure you don’t risk a backlash.


These are just tired and worn out buzzwords which make you look like you’ve given no thought to what you are really trying to communicate. Using them actually suggests you are lazy and unimaginative (unless you provide clear evidence that demonstrates why you are using them):

  • Passionate 
  • Driven 
  • Strategic 

For example, I think it's fine to say something like, ‘Author of strategic plan to take business into 14 new markets between 2010 and 2012, resulting in increased global market share of 32%.’


These words should be used with extreme caution. If others chose to apply them to you  (for example in their recommendations) that’s wonderful, but if you attribute them to yourself, you just sound like a bit of a jerk: 

  • Thought Leader 
  • Inspirational 
  • Innovative 

If you are lucky enough to have had anyone else actually write these words about you by all means include them, providing them in the form of a quote, such as ‘Described by XYZ magazine in September 2013 as one of the top 10 thought leaders on sustainable energies’. 


These are words which carry no real weight – they mean nothing unless they are backed up by quantified outcomes or benchmarks: 

  • Responsible 
  • High Impact 
  • Dynamic 

Saying you were responsible for this, responsible for that, tells the reader nothing about what you actually accomplished, merely the things that were on your job description. Much better to talk instead about what you achieved and to give quantified results.

If you say you are dynamic, what measure are you using to arrive at this conclusion? Compared to whom are you dynamic? If you've got a benchmark for dynamism, I'd love to know what it is!


These are words which must in my opinion be supported by hard evidence if we are to use them: 

  • Expert 
  • Motivated 
  • Successful 

For example, I think to say, ‘I was motivated by a desire to prove that small businesses could take significant market share from larger multinationals’ is just fine. Or to say, ‘I was successful at increasing revenues by an average 22% each year between 2007 and 2011’, is also great.

However, I think to describe oneself as a 'successful business expert, passionate and energetic'…well I think you know what I’m getting at…

These are my thoughts for what they are worth. I do hope you find them useful and if you have any other pet hates you’d like to share here, do please drop them into the comments below.

Why managers are in danger of extinction

By Neil Patrick

A headline caught my attention this week that the online retailer Zappos, now owned by Amazon is in the process of removing managers and all job titles from its structure. Instead, the traditional top down hierarchy is to be replaced by a series of self-governing circles.

You can see the original news post by Jena McGregor on the Washington Post website here.

To quote from the original article:

"... this gives employees more of a voice in the way the company is run.

According to Zappos executives, the move is an effort to keep the 1,500-person company from becoming too rigid, too unwieldy and too bureaucratic as it grows.

“As we scaled, we noticed that the bureaucracy we were all used to was getting in the way of adaptability,” says Zappos’s John Bunch, who is helping lead the transition to the new structure. The company has become a force in online shopping as it expanded beyond shoes into apparel, housewares and cosmetics.

The holacracy concept is the brainchild of management consultant Brian Robertson, a serial software entrepreneur who says he launched the idea after realizing he was “more interested in how we worked together” than in his own job. The concept has a couple of high-profile devotees — Twitter cofounder Evan Williams uses it at his new company, Medium, and time management guru David Allen uses it run his firm - but Zappos is by far the largest company to adopt the idea.

At its core, a holacracy aims to organize a company around the work that needs to be done instead of around the people who do it. As a result, employees do not have job titles. They are typically assigned to several roles that have explicit expectations. Rather than working on a single team, employees are usually part of multiple circles that each perform certain functions."

This may be a portent of a much more general trend I think and here’s why:

Hierarchies prioritize command, control and consistency...and are slow Traditional hierarchies have been used for centuries to organize all sorts of human endeavors from military operations to the manufacture of goods to the delivery of public services. But I think we should at least consider alternative styles of structure for some organisations in the 21st century. For a start, a rigid hierarchy just cannot respond fast enough in a world where customer interactions are measured in seconds and minutes, not hours and days. Which is preferable for the consumer – a uniformly average service or one in which they feel perfectly satisfies their individual needs at that moment?

Businesses must reflect the nature of the environment in which they operate. We all know that digital media doesn’t work in a top down fashion. It’s the most democratic form of media ever created. And it scales laterally. Influence is gained or lost not by the endorsement of our superiors, but by our peers. The organisational corroborative of this isn’t a flat structure, it’s a democratic one. If we accept this, then why shouldn’t teams of professionals working together be able to choose who has authority in any given situation?

Hierarchies stifle dissenting voices AND suffocate innovation. A hierarchy ensures that positional authority trumps specialist expertise every time. Sometimes this is for the greater good. Sometimes it creates dissent, frustration and resentment. Depending on the culture and individuals involved, it can also lead to a clamping down on innovative thinking as responsibility for direction is always deferred upwards.

Hierarchies are too slow for consumers. Customers hate slow service and slow decisions. When you are trying to serve consumers, you are always going to have a minority who for whatever reason are unhappy. Whether their complaint is justified or not, the one thing you must do is act fast. And that means that your staff must be empowered to do whatever is necessary to rectify the problem without the delays imposed by referral up the hierarchy. The converse is that if your organisation is hyper-adaptable to customer feedback, you’ll be more agile and better able to capitalise on what they are telling you.

For these reasons, I think that the idea being implemented at Zappos, shows some real vision and genuine merit. It’s not without weaknesses too of course. Where does accountability rest in this model? If decisions are made more or less democratically, who ensures that the decision is consistent with the wider strategy of the organisation? For sure there are lots of operational practicalities to be ironed out.

But I do think this may be a glimpse of the future.

What do you think? I’d welcome comments below.

Body Language Makeover for Interview (and life) Success

By Neil Patrick

We all know that some people are more confident about themselves than others. We also know that this confidence often makes them more successful, whether their true aptitude warrants this or not.

And we’ve all observed how confident, even arrogant personalties seem to be able to harness something almost primal to win through. What is this?

Is it just attitude? Is it body chemistry? Is it social conditioning?

Are there things that we can all do which can make us feel more confident and thus perform better? There have always been plenty of coaches and other pseudo-scientific types telling us that this is indeed possible. But the assertion was always just that – it was never really backed up by much science.

But it turns out now that this isn’t just new age nonsense. The truth is now borne out by the results of experiments.

Amy Cuddy at Harvard business school has carried out research to discover how certain body postures affect our performance at critical events in our lives. She tested results at job interviews in particular. She used what she calls ‘power postures’ to see if these could make a difference. And the findings are frankly amazing.

Both humans and animals express power through their bodies. They tumble in on themselves when they feel unsure, making themselves smaller by hunching over, crossing their arms over their chest and avoiding big movements. When they feel on top of the world, they sprawl out. Amy wondered - could adopting these postures change a person’s internal state actually make them feel more powerful?

Not only that, could this feeling of increased power really result in better performance and how we are perceived by others?

“Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds,” she says.

But it’s not just about feeling better, Amy’s research found that when positive physical postures and self-talk, as she calls it, ‘fake it until you make it’, have a profound influence on the actual outcomes in people’s lives.

If you think that you’ve not really got the results you deserve, then this is a must see video. Better still, you’ll discover what you can do that takes almost no time at all, to capitalise on what Amy has discovered.

To hear Cuddy’s powerful story of how power posing helped her get her own life on track, watch her TEDx talk below. You’ll hear stories of how power posing has worked for others, as well as transforming her own life, enabling her to overcome a car accident which seriously damaged her mental faculties.

The acclaim for Amy’s work has been widespread:

From a male high school physics teacher in the United States:

“I introduced my AP Physics students to power posing last spring. One student in particular was always so nervous during assessments and therefore her test scores did not represent her abilities at all. We all know that old saying about correlation and causation — and this was no scientific study — but from that day forward that student power posed before every physics test and her grades went from high ‘C’s and low ‘B’s to where she belonged — in the mid to lower ‘A’s. I’m convinced that power posing helped her even if it is difficult to prove.”

From an online commenter:

“It’s nice to see that there’s scientific support for Oscar Hammerstein’s King and I lyrics: ‘Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid …The result of this deception is very strange to tell, for when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.’”

From a male musician in Canada:

“I tried your ‘power positions’ right before I went on stage with a symphony, and I have to say, it was the best performance I have had in terms of nerves in my life.”

From a woman in finance in the United States:

“I power posed before my third interview for a job the other day! Moving onto fourth and final interview on Tuesday!!! I was seriously nervous and power posing calmed me down … Okay, there was a fifth interview today. I was freaking out, so while waiting I walked outside and power posed on the street. I can’t believe how much better I felt. And I did really well on the interview.”

How does Linkedin Search Rank really work?

By Neil Patrick

I posted yesterday about how you can improve your chances of being found by head-hunters on LinkedIn. Today, I'll go a little deeper into how the LinkedIn people search algorithm actually works.

Now of course this information is a closely guarded piece of IP at LinkedIn so we are never likely to discover exactly how it works. Moreover it is evolving constantly, and the rankings delivered depend on the profile of the searcher as much as the searchee, so two people doing the same search can get different results in terms of the rankings shown.

But LinkedIn do provide a little information about this on their help page and this is what they have to say about the topic. NB the emphases in bold are mine:

Search Relevance and Rank on LinkedIn Search

How are profiles ordered in search results?

Last Reviewed: 06/18/2013

LinkedIn uses proprietary algorithms to rank and order the results you get when you search for people on the site. 

There is no single rank for LinkedIn search. Unlike the standard search engines, LinkedIn people search generates its relevance score uniquely for each member. As a result, even though a query will return the same results for everyone, the order is determined in part by the Profile, activity, and connections of the person searching. Testing a query from a handful of users is not likely to reflect the overall rank any Profile has across the millions of queries that LinkedIn has every day. A better measure would be the number of views your Profile gets (check the "Who Viewed My Profile" module and statistics on your home page). 

Searcher relevance is based on a variety of factors. Relevance is a proprietary algorithm which we are constantly improving. Our goal is simple - optimize search results for the searcher. Before we return results, we consider the searcher's activity on LinkedIn, the Profiles returned by the query, and other members who have made similar searches in determining the sort order. These, along with other factors, combine to provide us with data to improve the overall quality of our members' search results. 

More keywords aren't always better. Our advice would be to only include the keywords (including repeated keywords) in your Profile that best reflect your expertise and experience. If you integrate an extended list of keywords into your Profile, you are likely showing up in a high number of searches. The question you need to ask yourself, however, is whether members consider your Profile relevant to their search. If not, their behavior as a collective group may be influencing the algorithm used to rank you in search results.

Note: Search results may vary from user to user.

I also ran a couple of tests to see how I fared against an advanced search for two of my key work activities, Marketing consultant and blogger. I selected a 100 mile radius from my location and was pleased to find I came out top of Page 1 for both searches. Of course if you do the same search, you might not find me in the same position – this would I presume be affected by the nature and connectedness of our mutual networks.

But, I do know this – a year or so ago I wasn’t even on page 1 for these searches, let alone at the top.

So what has changed that might have helped improve my search ranking?

I cannot tell you for sure that these things have specifically lead to this outcome, but they are things I have done which I suspect have made a difference: 
  1. I have shared information and updates on the site (not a lot – just one or two posts from my blog each month) 
  2. I have posted some comments on Groups I am a member of. Again, not a lot – just a couple a month or so. 
  3. I have removed a lot of ‘fluff’ from my profile and stripped it down to the most essential pieces of information and keywords. 
  4. I have networked more actively, connecting with people I have encountered on other social media, especially Twitter. 
  5. I have kept my profile current by adding new information from time to time. 
And that’s it. No SEO trickery, no mass sending of invitations to connect, just occasional but minor adjustments and refinements and a bit more networking. Essentially, just being an active rather than a passive LinkedIn member.

I hope this information is helpful so you can improve your own search rankings – and if you have any additional advices I’ll be happy to share them here and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.

How to get headhunted on LinkedIn

By Neil Patrick

LinkedIn currently has over 250 million members and continues to grow rapidly.

If you're hoping to get head hunted, this growth of the network means it’s no longer enough just to have a basic profile, sit back and wait.

As LinkedIn’s membership grows, unless we adopt some active measures to increase our visibility, we’ll never be found. Our profile will just be buried under a pile of other people’s.

If you are a passive LinkedIn member, there’s almost no chance that a head hunter will find you and contact you about that perfect job.

So it’s not a good idea to simply approach LinkedIn as a static online resume. LinkedIn like every other social media network rewards it’s most active users with higher rankings and visibilty. But since we all have too much to do every day as it is, how do you know what are the best things to invest your precious time in doing?

Some people try to game the system to improve their search ranking, for example by keyword stuffing their job title, but LinkedIn's algorithm is smart to such tactics and will not reward this. In fact you just end up looking rather silly whenever someone views your profile.

What’s the real value of an endorsement vs. a recommendation? How can you make your profile capture the interest of headhunters? What things should you do on LinkedIn which will boost your chances of being found?

These and many other questions are answered here.

In this interview by Mark Neilan, Managing Director of Finlay James, asked LinkedIn Senior Relationship Manager Jonathan Gaskell how we can ensure we get found by recruiters on LinkedIn. Given that Jonathan is part of LinkedIn’s management team, he’s a pretty reliable source I think.

My thanks go to Finlay James and Jonathan Gaskell for sharing these insights.

Why Baby Boomers and Gen Y need some mutual understanding

By Neil Patrick

Last month, my friend Marc Miller posted a timely and thought provoking piece on his blog Career Pivot entitled, Could you work for a Gen Y boss?

Gen Y, also known as ‘Millennials’, are those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

As Marc pointed out; “For most baby boomers, thinking about working for a Gen Y boss might seem like a nightmare. Could you work for your kid…or someone your kid’s age?

Projections show that by 2014 millennials will account for 36% of the American workforce. In 2025, that number balloons to 75% of the global workplace.

What does this mean?

You WILL eventually have a Gen Y boss.”

Marc’s piece prompted me to think about the attitude differences between Gen Y and the baby boomers. How the economic environment that each group has experienced has shaped their attitudes and ideas. And how both groups need to learn some mutual appreciation.

The emergence of Gen Yers into positions of seniority and authority is inevitable, so Baby Boomers need to understand them much better and what shapes their attitudes.

We are all victims of the economic crisis

Baby Boomers and Generation X have both been affected by periods of economic downturn at critical attitude development ages (18-25). On the other hand, Generation Y grew up during a period of exceptionally low interest rates and inflation accompanied by significant asset inflation.

This created a level of comfort with debt which was unheard of amongst previous generations.

Unlike the Baby Boomers and Gen X, Generation Y is a group of young adults whose financial attitudes are forged out of cheap debt and easy credit. They also view debt from a perspective of historically low interest rates, and struggle to reconcile this with an economic environment that has now transformed from everything they have ever known.

The explosion in higher education, largely paid for by student loans, has also created an additional debt burden on Gen Yers which was largely absent amongst their predecessors.

Given this, it is not surprising that a recent building society survey* indicates the vast majority of Generation Y who have access to credit, are in significant personal debt. This attitude to debt undoubtedly helped fuel unsustainable increases in consumption when viewed against a harsher economic outlook.

Generation Y is ill-equipped to understand the extent of the current financial turmoil and its potential implications. This financial illiteracy, coupled with extensive borrowing, leaves Generation Y particularly exposed to a recession that it is unable to voice its views upon, as it does not yet occupy sufficiently senior roles in the public or private sectors.

For their part, the Baby Boomers have been left chronically exposed to the aftermath of the credit crunch. Dramatic falls in the stock market have eroded the value of savings and pensions held by Baby Boomers and for most, this has happened at a pivotal moment in which they would have been anticipating moving to a position of asset divestment.

Other assets held outside financial institutions, most notably property, have suffered a fall in value after years of high growth. Ironically, the previous inflation in property prices has been fuelled by Generation Y’s determination to own their first homes, financed through high borrowing ratios and parental subsidies.

In contrast to Generation Y’s position of weakness, their parents are perceived (often wrongly in my view) to enjoy a position of financial strength and even culpability for the present financial crisis. Consequently, I have witnessed an attitude amongst Gen Yers which places blame for their economic frustrations firmly in the hands of the Baby Boomers. An example of this blaming attitude was posted by Australian blogger Mark Fletcher which I posted on this blog here.

Just because something is fast and free doesn’t mean it’s automatically better

Gen Yers have grown up in an age where instant communications and gratification have always been available to them online. Thanks to Facebook and other online networking, they are conditioned into the idea that anything you want can be obtained more or less instantly and often for free.

It’s a far cry from a time when baby boomers like myself were quite happy to save our money for weeks just so we could buy the latest album by our favourite group pressed onto a piece of black vinyl. I also have distinct memories also of doing my homework by candlelight during the power cuts of the 1974-5 brought about by the industrial action of the coal miners. TV companies were obliged to shut down at 10.30pm to conserve energy.

In terms of attitudes to work, Gen Yers unlike baby boomers are less inclined to see their work as the way they define themselves. Boomers when meeting new people habitually open their conversations with something like, ‘And what do you do?’. Gen Yers are much more inclined to discuss the things they like to do outside work. To them work is often nothing more than what they do to pay for their leisure lives.

It’s time for some mutual appreciation guys, or ‘group hugs’ if you’re Gen Y

So how can Boomers and Gen Yers each obtain a better mutual understanding? For Gen Y, I believe they need to appreciate that Boomers have been just as hard hit by the economic crisis as they have. And that they have much less time available to them to try and recover. But having experienced financial hardships before, Boomers are much more financially savvy and resilient than they are. Boomers may not be as comfortable with digital media, but they have an attitude to work which places quality over quantity and speed.

For Boomers to engage successfully with Gen Y, they need to improve their comfort and familiarity with digital media and communications and understand that the Gen Y attitude to their employers as more or less disposable is much more in tune with today’s fluid employment situation.

You also need to really get really comfortable with being a team player. Gen Yers have been conditioned by social media to communicate freely and laterally. That’s the nature of social networks which are digital. It’s not the rigid hierarchy that boomers grew up with.

So Boomers, if you do wind up with a Gen Y boss, you can fully expect them to be texting you with questions or demands at midnight…frequently.

*A report by the Skipton Building Society found that 73% of people under the age of 35 in Yorkshire have some form of debt, with the average person owing £8,477. Their biggest monthly expense on average, other than rent or mortgage payments, was servicing debt.