Linkedin reveals what the future holds for its users

By Neil Patrick

In my conversations with my business network a common question is, ‘What’s next for social media?’

There is so much hype and confusing information. Mobile will dominate. Big data is the future. Engagement will fall as platforms are forced to increase revenues and justify their share price. The biggest will kill the smallest.

It may be backed up by data trends, but this is all speculation. I don’t know the answer. But I do know this. Content has always been king. And now with the 2013 changes to the Google algorithm, called ‘Hummingbird’, unique high quality content, peer endorsement, interaction and others sharing your content are more critical than ever.

For professionals the number one platform is and I think will continue to be LinkedIn. But LinkedIn has its fair share of problems right now.

I've observed the transfer of what I call Facebook style content strategies to LinkedIn over the last year or two. You know, those endless ‘inspirational’ quotes, mathematical puzzles, pictures of lions.

If you like to share that sort of content, that’s up to you. But in my view, it does nothing but harm to your professional profile, on LinkedIn at least.

Why do so many people seem to ignore the fact that LinkedIn is professional social media platform? It’s not Facebook and it’s not Twitter. T-shirts and jeans are fine in these places. But on LinkedIn we should all be wearing our business suits.

Sharing your insight and expertise is the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter if it is super-specialised or niche. Your real peers will be interested in it, especially since our LinkedIn connections typically include a large number of connections who for whatever reason have something in common with us professionally.

And LinkedIn seems to be recognising this distinctive aspect of its social media USP. According to comments by LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue made in a recent interview with Ian Burrell of The Independent, this is a critical moment in the evolution of LinkedIn. The idea is that professional people will offer their insights into the fields in which they have expertise, leading to valuable discussion and debate with their industry peers.

LinkedIn sees its future value being massively boosted by the creation of quality content from the most insightful, articulate and prominent people within its membership. And it is already cultivating content from this select few.

To date only 60,000 LinkedIn users have been invited to be LinkedIn authors, a tiny fraction of the 277 million worldwide membership. Many more will desire the opportunity to enhance their LinkedIn profile by being given the chance to publish their insights. LinkedIn has set up a “Waiting List” for the next tranche of authors.

At a higher level on LinkedIn’s publishing roster are the “Influencers”, an elite group that includes Barack Obama, David Cameron and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. This list has been extended to “C-Suite” executives of large or prominent organisations and will, no doubt, be a holy grail for corporate PR people, envious of how Sir Richard Branson has already acquired a LinkedIn following of 4.1 million.

The irony here is that few of these people will actually produce their own content. Sure they may sign it off, but it will be a product of their PR teams, not their own personal work.

This development will potentially become a threat to established traditional publishers. Big name writers for newspaper comment pages now have a new platform where they can reach a coveted professional audience. Smart publishers, such as The Economist, The Washington Post and the Harvard Business Review, have spotted the opportunity on LinkedIn and are curating “groups” where their articles are discussed.

Blue believes this business-oriented content will find its way to LinkedIn rather than rival platforms, such as Facebook. “The difference is the professional context,” he says.

It also helps lessen the negative impact of troll-type interaction; the bane of many other social media platforms. The first authors on LinkedIn’s open platform have reported high-quality responses and interactions compared with the uninformed and even abusive responses which surface on other forums. “You will see hundreds of comments between commentators and the author,” Blue says.

Apparently, LinkedIn’s vision is that in time, all members will have the opportunity to become authors. Currently, all writers are unpaid, but it is likely, as more and more people recognise the value of such material, that large numbers of members will want to mark themselves out as industry opinion formers by posting articles that bolster the visibility and value of their Linkedin profiles.

The difficulty for many though will be over-strict company policies which have still not adapted to embrace the social media world. As I reported here, only 20% of firms surveyed by FTI Consulting, had policies which allowed employees to publish content on their LinkedIn profiles. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle for LinkedIn's vision and one which they can do little directly to overcome.

Blue says that LinkedIn has developed technology which ensures contributors cannot exploit it by writing articles that contain obvious marketing messages. The cherished “professional context” will act as a quality control on articles published.

“If you produce things that people don’t read, they’re not going to get distributed through LinkedIn; and if you produce things of low quality [the members] are going to tear you down in the comments,” says Blue. “People take what they read on LinkedIn very seriously and no one wants their time wasted.”

So just as the adoption of Hummingbird by Google has had a profound impact on the nature of web content, reducing the ranking power of spammy SEO tactics, this latest move by LinkedIn will I hope have a similar impact of the quality and value of content on LinkedIn.

And hopefully, the number of lion pictures in my LinkedIn news feed will reduce soon…

Banker suicides: Why banking is now the most dangerous career choice

By Neil Patrick

I have become fascinated this week by a news story which is being largely ignored by the mainstream media. This virtual news blackout in itself is intriguing. Over the last few weeks, at least five and according to some sources as many as twenty banking executives have committed suicide.

If these people were musicians, actors or politicians, I am sure this story would be front page news.

The facts we know so far are this. In the last two or three months, between five and twenty traders and managers involved with FOREX trading and derivative currency trading have all allegedly committed suicide. Several have thrown themselves from the tops of bank buildings in New York, London and Hong Kong. William Broeksmit, 58, a retired Deutsche Bank risk executive was found dead in his London home in January.

The fact that even the exact number of deaths is so vague is difficult enough to comprehend.

Others with strong connections to investment banking have also met unusual deaths. Michael Dueker, former vice president of the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve, was found dead at the side of a highway that leads to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was 50.

The cause of his death is still undetermined.

The strangest of these deaths was Richard Talley, a former investment banker with Drexel Burnham Lambert who shot himself with a nail gun at least ten times at his home in Centennial, Colorado.

There is much speculation based on the known facts that these events have occurred at the same time as regulatory agency investigations of fraud, price fixing, and “front run” trading in the FOREX markets and earlier in the LIBOR index.

Ten global banking giants including JP Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Lloyds Banking Group, and others, have found themselves subject to criminal investigations.

Some are attributing the cause of these deaths to high levels of mental stress within the industry. I find this difficult to accept as a plausible explanation. Sure, I know these guys work crazy hours and have huge pressure to perform. And I am sure that many are finding the regulatory investigations extremely testing. But if job-related stress is the cause, why would we see so many more or less simultaneous suicides?

Stewart Black, professor of global leadership and strategy at IMD, the top business school in Lausanne, Switzerland said that the people at greatest risk are “those who have not cultivated friendships and networks outside of their company. A lot of executives keep their nose down, work hard, do great work and don’t really cultivate extra networks,” he said. “Those broader networks act as safety valves.”

A more interesting source of comment is Peter Rodgers, chairman of the City Mental Health Alliance: “Banks are starting to realize the scale of the problem”, he said. Membership of his group includes Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

Is this a clue? Are these ‘independent’ respected commentators being used by the banking industry to deflect suspicion away from what is really going on?

If simple stress and overwork is the true explanation, why haven’t we seen a steady trickle of similar suicides over the last few years? Why didn’t we see similar events during the meltdown of 2008, which was arguably the most traumatic year ever for the big banks? And why would those no longer actively working in the sector also be killing themselves?

JP Morgan, which has had at least two suicides so far this year, isn’t a member of the City Mental Health Alliance and hasn’t publicly announced measures to deal with the aftermath of the deaths.

“JP Morgan haven’t come forward to us and we haven’t approached them either,” Rodgers said. “There’s a period of mourning. The last thing they need is us sticking our heads in. I’m confident they will come forward.”

The ‘alternative’ financial media is having a field day with this story as you’d expect. Conspiracy theories are running amok and all sorts of ‘experts’ are being called on to provide their interpretation of what might be going on.

They knew too much. They were possible whistle blowers, they had sudden attacks of conscience or guilt as a result of the regulatory investigations. All these theories and more are being put forward.

And of course as usual, the most extreme of them all is coming from Max Keiser, whose commentary is in this clip. I have a feeling this story has far from run its course.

How to get people to say ‘yes’ – the science of persuasion

Whether you are applying for a job, pitching a sale, negotiating with a customer or even just going about your day to day work, how much is it worth to you to get more people to say ‘yes’?

There are scientifically proven methods that have a massive impact on this. Better still, they are simple, ethical and almost completely free.

The interesting thing is that these methods are especially relevant in the online world. Whether it’s how we engage with people on social media, how we set up a website, or what we say on our Linkedin profiles, the applications of this knowledge are endless and astonishingly powerful.

These tips are also short-cuts. Success is found by working smarter not harder. Knowing these principles you’ll find dozens of applications whatever kind of work you do.

If you want to know the 6 principles of persuasion so you can apply them, this simple and insightful explanation from an RSI Animate video will give you all you need to start to benefit straight away.

The video is presented by Dr. Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, co-authors of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week International Bestseller “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive”.

Totally recommended viewing!

How professional services firms can become social media superheroes (Part 2)

By Neil Patrick

This is part two of my post on social media for professional services businesses.

In part one here, I presented the latest evidence from FTI Consulting which showed that professional services firms:
  • Lag behind other sectors in their utilization of social media
  • Are handicapped by compliance and regulatory obstructions, lack of understanding of how to execute it and difficulties in producing the necessary content
Nevertheless, most reported that they anticipated an increase in their use of social media in 2014. And critically, those that had already successfully implemented social media programmes reported not only higher numbers of new clients, but also a doubling of the average value of business generated.

To recap, the research asked 408 US-based financial advisors about their use of social media for business. They grouped respondents into the following 4 categories:

In the Wings (25%) Respondents who don’t use social media in business at all. However, they are active users of social media in their personal lives. For example, 62% of this group use Facebook, 33% use LinkedIn, 58% view or share videos on YouTube, 27% use Twitter and 24% use Google+.

Network Novices (38%) Respondents who use social media passively. They use it to build their personal brands, enlarge referral networks and connect with other professionals.

Connectors (17%) Respondents who use social media more actively to cultivate relationships with prospects and current clients.

Power Professionals (20%) Respondents who use social media to deepen business relationships by gathering information and disseminating thought leadership. Power Professionals are more than twice as likely as Network Novices and more than 60 percent more likely than Connectors to use social media for business on a daily basis.

In this post, I’ll look at how the most progressive users of social media in professional services are overcoming the obstacles and examine 5 keys steps to making this happen.

1. Demolish the obstacles

The FTI Consulting research examined what professional services organizations can do to move up the ladder from passive to active users of social media. Part of this research asked respondents what their company could do that would increase their usage of social media.

The results from this open-ended question revealed the most serious obstacles. The major barriers to successful social media use are very pragmatic: regulatory and compliance issues and a lack of training and content.

20% to 25% of respondents from all four segments were asking for modifications to compliance requirements. But regulatory constraint doesn't seem to be the problem per se. Rather, the primary issue pivots on an understanding of compliance policies. Moreover, these policies are often unhelpful because they were framed before the existence of social media. They are reflective of a different media age and the associated top down, command and control approach to communications which characterised it.

In the Wings respondents were twice as likely as Power Professionals to cite regulation as a hindrance. However, once respondents felt they understood compliance policies, they called for more training, content and social media marketing from their firm.

I would endorse this observation. Recently I was consulting with the marketing team of an established financial firm. They were keen to grow their social media activity. But they had one big obstacle. Every single item they wished to post online had to be approved first by their in-house compliance team. And this could take up to two months. TWO MONTHS! That’s an age even in the old world of marketing. In the digital age it’s an eternity.

The pattern is clear. The most progressive companies and professionals are coming to terms with regulatory boundaries and are learning how to use social media within the constraints. So for professionals to reap the rewards of social business, professional services organizations must tackle these three issues:
  • Modify or loosen policies as much as possible
  • Communicate and provide training
  • Invest in the creation of meaningful content

2. Trust your people and liberalise your policies

To help professional services firms take a closer look at their social media policies, FTI asked respondents to tell them which of 12 common LinkedIn activities their company permitted them to use. These activities ranged from passive tasks such as accepting connections and listing the company name in a profile to active outreach, including sending InMail and requesting recommendations.

More than 90% of respondents reported they could use LinkedIn at work at least to accept connections. The vast majority were allowed to accept and request connections and name the firm on a profile page. Some 70% were allowed to join LinkedIn groups.

However, the percentages declined for more active outreach activities. Permission to post content to groups had been granted to only 27% to 55% of respondents, depending on the segment. Permission to write or request recommendations ranged from 21% to 41%. However, at least 20% of respondents, said their company allowed them to engage in each activity.

This suggests that most social media activities are on their way to acceptance. While seemingly small, 20% indicated that every activity, from accepting connections to posting content, was permissible. We can conclude that liberalized social business policy is moving from a small cadre of progressive professional firms into the mainstream.

Interestingly, Network Novices - professionals whose use of social media is most passive - may be the group best primed for action. Network Novices are less likely than Connectors and Power Professionals to use social media for outward communications such as posting updates to their profile or to groups. Surprisingly, respondents in the Network Novices group were most likely to believe that their firm’s policies permitted them to do so - sometimes to an even greater extent than Power Professionals.

3. Communicate and train people to give them confidence

Companies need to communicate their policies clearly and make sure employees understand the content. Effective communication of policy bolsters social media use and also prevents its misuse.

Communication should be anchored in training and education. With the exception of In the Wings, respondents from all segments are asking for more training in social business skills and information about best practices.

Given the hectic schedule of most professionals, on-demand training may be the best choice for their firm. For example, companies can provide pre-recorded webinars on complex topics such as social business strategy or simple fact sheets covering straightforward issues like LinkedIn usage policies. Ideally, professional services firms would offer training, best practices and sample content on a single platform so professionals easily can access what they need as they need it.

4. Create and share pertinent content

A growing number of experts are warning about social media fatigue. As a tsunami of content hurtles around the globe, they assert that the bar for getting noticed is rising, arguing that creating fresh, compelling content is becoming more and more difficult.

I would partly dispute this argument. It is applying the old world marketing model which scales vertically by expenditure to the new digital world which scales laterally through peer to peer endorsement.

Put another way, if your audience is well targeted and engaged, then you are not fighting it out to gain attention from a largely disinterested audience. You are successfully engaging with people who know you and are interested to hear what you have to say. It doesn’t mean you can settle for substandard or sporadic content, but I think this alleged threat is over-stated.

Of course as the volume of content shared expands, so the finite capacity for your audience to consume it comes under pressure, but this is more than compensated for by the nature of social networks which amplify your reach through the process of sharing content they like.

Nevertheless the requirement for sound content at the core of social media remains a challenge for firms who are already stretched. There’s no short cut to the production of great content. However, once a firm understands that this is a sound marketing investment (and that compared to traditional marketing is relatively low cost), the investment needed becomes much easier to bear.

5. Choose your platforms with care

Although respondents view LinkedIn as their primary network for social business, the number has declined slightly. In a study conducted in 2012, 90% of respondents said LinkedIn was their primary business network; in 2013, the number was 80%. This fall has coincided with the growth of the Linkedin userbase and the attempts by Linkedin to drive up user engagement and revenues. Inevitably this more diverse membership and commercialisation of the platform has resulted in some reacting negatively to these developments.

30% of respondents said that if their firm allows them to use it, Facebook would be the best platform for brand building. Twenty-seven percent see Facebook as the most desirable tool for improving the effectiveness of their network. For cultivating prospects, Facebook would be the platform of choice for 33% of respondents.

I wonder if this apparent endorsement of Facebook is skewed by the respondents’ personal experience of social media platforms however. As one of the earliest and still the largest platform, Facebook is familiar to most of us. But neither this fact, not its scale mean it is automatically the most suitable platform for business users of social media. Personally I feel it is not the best environment for a professional services firm to be seen in. It may be fine for restaurants and travel businesses, but accountants and solicitors...?

Although these percentages are lower than those of LinkedIn, respondents were slightly more likely to say that Facebook was the preferred network for nurturing existing relationships. On every dimension, In the Wings respondents gave higher marks to Facebook than they did to LinkedIn. 

In conclusion

Social media has huge potential to change the way professionals communicate with their clients and build a positive reputation. Although regulatory compliance and brand reputation remain issues, the most successful social media business users have already overcome these concerns. Their next challenge will be to further develop businesses social media skill and expertise. And critically, this research demonstrates that social media investment and expertise does find its way to the bottom line.

The time to act is now. Social media isn't a fad and it isn't going away. It is reshaping the very essence of how the world communicates and it is the most powerful development in human communications since the invention of the printing press. And whilst the social platforms allow almost instant communications, the results are far from instant - social media success is a marathon not a sprint.

You can try to survive with 20th century approaches if you like. Personally, I prefer to seize the limitless opportunities of this new world.

About the Research

The FTI Consulting research was based on a survey of 408 U.S.- based financial advisors, conducted in July 2013, in conjunction with Putnam Investments. The sample was drawn from a proprietary research panel of financial advisors maintained by FTI Consulting Strategic Communications and from panelists provided by Harris Interactive.

This post is adapted from an article that originally appeared here:

How professional services firms can become social media superheroes

By Neil Patrick

I’m in the business of delivering professional services to my clients. And social media is a key tool in helping me grow my network and business opportunities.

But in professional services generally, it is clear that many are much less convinced than I am about its benefits.

Professional services folk trail behind other business-to-business industries in social business. In this two-part post, I’ll be looking at what the hard evidence reveals about this and what the professional services superheroes are doing with social media today.

From conversations with my network, it’s clear that part of the resistance lies in the difficulties of tying their social media efforts to quantified business results.

Slow adoption of social media in these professions is sometimes attributed to regulatory and brand constraints. It’s also often hindered by a lack of senior management support, doubts about the appropriateness of social media and concerns about the return on the time and money invested.

Let’s take a look at the data

FTI Consulting identified in this recent study the practical problems that professional services firms need to overcome in order to generate better results with social media. These are:

· remedying lack of knowledge
· understanding best practices
· creating suitable content for social business

FTI looked at the issues of social business in professional services by carrying out a survey of financial advisors. These professionals are a useful proxy to discover what all professional services firms can do to boost their effective use of social business. Just like financial advisors, lawyers, architects and consultants also build their businesses by cultivating individual relationships. On social media platforms, the success of that cultivation relies on providing authoritative and engaging insights on the issues clients and prospects care about.

Most professional services firms must navigate a challenging landscape of regulatory demands and company compliance measures. Despite these regulatory constraints, the survey found that the use of social media is on the rise. Although 25% of respondents are not using social media at work, only 30% say social media will not be significant in their marketing efforts in the next year.

Of respondents who now are using social media for business, their use has been rising steadily. For example, more than 60% of those respondents, have been increasing their use of LinkedIn over time. Nearly the same number of respondents have boosted their use of Facebook. In addition, financial advisors have become more frequent tweeters – 57% of respondents presently using social media have been expanding their use of Twitter.

Approximately 60% of respondents who now use social media expect that usage to climb in the coming year. A prime driver of this growth is the buiness results that users are achieving. For example, of the 60% who expect to increase their social media use, the majority will do so because they report that the people they are trying to reach are on LinkedIn or Facebook. 40% attribute their expected increase to the role social media has played in achieving their results to date.

The emergence of Power Users

The report found that social media power users (individuals with both the skills and enthusiasm to optimize social media tools and channels) add much more to their company’s revenues and profits. Financial advisors that are classed as power users are more than twice as likely than the less savvy to have won new clients through social media: 73% vs. 30%. Similarly, the value generated by those clients is double: a median of $1 million in investible assets vs. $500,000.

These results demonstrate how social media helps financial advisors achieve greater levels of new business. Power users also are the most likely to say social media has helped them achieve their desired results and agree that the people they want to reach are active on social media.

So what do Power Users do?

A key finding of the research is how power users are achieving these results. The research proved the positive impact of social media upon seven key business objectives and its contribution to the key goal of winning valuable new clients by:

  • Building brand identity
  • Improving effectiveness of referral networks
  • Cultivating specific prospects
  • Enhancing current client relationships
  • Connecting with other financial professionals
  • Cascading thought leadership
  • Expanding professional knowledge

Which type are you presently?

The research identified four distinct groups of financial advisors on a scale from passive to active users of social media. Passive users focus primarily on building brand identity and on improving their referral networks. Active users, on the other hand, create a virtuous circle by compiling and disseminating knowledge and using that information to cultivate prospects and enhance business relationships.

The four groups (and their characteristics) are:

In the Wings (25%) Respondents who don’t use social media in business at all. However, they are active users of social media in their personal lives. For example, 62% of this group use Facebook, 33% use LinkedIn, 58% view or share videos on YouTube, 27% use Twitter and 24% use Google+.

Network Novices (38%) Respondents who use social media passively. They use it to build their personal brands, enlarge referral networks and connect with other professionals.

Connectors (17%) Respondents who use social media more actively to cultivate relationships with prospects and current clients.

Power Professionals (20%) Respondents who use social media to deepen business relationships by gathering information and disseminating thought leadership. Power Professionals are more than twice as likely as Network Novices and more than 60 percent more likely than Connectors to use social media for business on a daily basis.

The path turns an old adage on its head: It’s not who you know, it’s what you know. Advanced social media users are doing more than connecting with others; they are adding value by creating, obtaining and sharing information. For Power Professionals, social business success is a matter of what they know and can share with the market. Network Novices and Connectors still are focused on the “who.”

So it’s clear that social media use by professional services firms is on the rise. And that those who do it most effectively win more business AND more valuable business.

In part two of this post, I’ll reveal how you can overcome the obstacles to becoming a power user and achieve better results with your social media. Follow this link to go straight to part 2.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared here:

Job fit - the key to understanding who gets hired

Recruiters talk a lot about finding a good fit. Do you know what this really means? The answer may surprise you as Marcia La Reau explains here.

After an interview, jobseekers often say, “I hope I get that job…it’s a good fit.” 

When I read Human Resource and Recruiter blogs about hiring, they are constantly asking about job fit. And yesterday, a potential client spent about 90 minutes telling me about her current job, which could be summarized by, “It’s just not a good fit.”

What amazes me is that everyone is talking about something different. Job security is greatly dependent on fit, so attending to this single factor is critical. 

* * *

Sam was escorted to a room for his interview. There was a table with a chair and a few other chairs were pushed against the wall. A small side table sported a few magazines.

He checked the papers in his portfolio and felt his tie to make sure it was straight. He was early. He picked up a magazine and found an interesting article.

A young man entered the room and sat down at the table. He was wearing shorts, a wrinkled tee shirt and tennis shoes—no socks. He sat down at the table and placed a tablet and some papers on the table. Sam nodded and returned to his magazine.

After several minutes, the young man said, “Hi. I’m Cam…Cameron.” Sam smiled and said, “I’m Sam.” …and returned to his magazine as he checked his watch.

After a few more minutes, Cam said. “Well, how about if we get started with the interview.” Sam couldn’t believe it. THIS was the person who was going to interview HIM?

The interview continued for about 10 minutes and finally Cam said, “If you are having a problem with me, and that’s obviously the case, then this place is not going to be a good fit for you.” The interview was over. 
* * *
Recently a client was telling me about a lesson learned earlier in his career. He reported to the CEO of a large multi-national firm. They were interviewing for a Senior Vice President of Sales for North America.

After a finalist left the CEO’s office, my client said, “ He seems to be a perfect fit.” The CEO replied, “We will not be hiring him. His suit was slightly wrinkled, and it didn’t quite fit.” The decision was final. 
* * *

Job fit—by whose definition?
When I have a spare moment, I spend my time reading and listening to hiring professionals from recruiters, HR professionals to hiring managers—anyone involved with the hiring process.

What do recruiters look for?
This topic is central. Jorg Stegemann is a leading international recruiter with Kennedy Executive. In a recent post, How To Hire Someone: Checklist (7 Tips), Jorg asks if the candidate has 70% of the technical requirements and 100% of the personal requirements.

Other questions on Jorg’s list included:
  1. Do I trust the candidate?
  2. Do I want him to represent the company when I’m not around?
  3. Can I imagine the candidate with my team? Does it look good to me?
Only one of his seven points address skill sets. The other six are about fit! Now do you see why I blog about this topic a lot? Most jobseekers think it’s all about their skills! It isn’t.

Candidates tend to focus their idea of job fit on skills and experience. Managers concentrate on the ramp-up time and the energy it will take to get a candidate to the point of adding value.

How about HR? Same as recruiters…or different?
A recent survey of online HR chat can be summarized in this article on the top 10 HR issues.

The top three issues cited here are retention, recruitment, and productivity. 

Here are a few quick excerpts that reinforce the point:
  • Employees are the lifeblood of the company.
  • Your business will also have invested significant time and money into ensuring maximum productivity wherever possible.
  • The second major challenge facing the Human Resources’ department is recruitment of talent. Finding staff with the correct blend of skills, personality and motivation is difficult.
  • The HR department needs to provide each employee with the right combination of culture, remuneration, and incentives.
My point is this: Human Resource professionals define job fit in terms of productivity. Also consider that when a company doesn’t make its profit margins, HR gets blamed for not hiring the right people…no pressure huh?

Please consider reading this article on The Science of Hiring. It focuses on job fit from the HR perspective.

What is important to the hiring manager?
The criterion of Hiring managers may not be essentially different than HR, however, the manner in which it is expressed will be.

Hiring managers look for the candidate that will be able to quickly become a member of the team and bring tangible value. It’s a combination of the time it will take to integrate into the team, embrace the tools to do the job, and produce the product that meets the need at hand.

This article sites three essentials and all of them assume that the skill sets, education, and experience are in place.

What are the essentials?

  1. Credibility and reliability. The real issue was dependability.
  2. Teamplayerism. This was about social skills.
  3. 110-percentism. This addresses “self-directed enough, without a lot of hand-holding…”
Note that none of these are tangibles like an MBA or 7 years experience in a lab, or the ability to use specific software. The success factors deal with personal attributes and character traits.

And what about the jobseeker?
Jobseekers rarely think in terms of the concerns outlined here. Their idea of “fit” focuses on how comfortable they are with their colleagues, whether they get along well. Jobseekers concern themselves with the energy level of the environment, whether they can work at home, and if there will be work-life balance.

There is nothing wrong with those concerns and they are prime considerations. However they should not be the focus during an interview. The consequence of taking this mind-set into an interview is to send the message, “This is all about my comfort in the office.” That won’t win an interview.

Do business ALWAYS look for job fit?
The answer is YES and NO.

A careful read of a job posting should reveal whether the position is part of a change initiative. When a company is going through change, then they may look to hire people who have a different approach to problem-solving than the current staff. AND…yes, most companies are going through continuous change.

However, a prime candidate will be someone who can bring change with the least amount of angst—someone who can smoothly work through change without undo interruption to productivity as work-flow processes adjust to meet new business directives.

Understanding the differences in the needs of each player in the hiring process is critical and I hope this article helped. The next step is to clearly and succinctly demonstrate your attributes on your cover letter and résumé so each audience understands your value.

Need help?
That’s what we do in the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop. This workshop is offered all over the U.S.

Called a Creative Thinker, Career Futurist, and a person of unusual solution, Marcia LaReau founded Forward Motion, LLC in 2007. Since that time, she has become a recognized leader in the employment industry, and Forward Motion has spread across the United States and abroad to help jobseekers find jobs that fit.

Discover the rockstars' career secrets

By Neil Patrick

Here's a glimpse into the career secrets of today's real life rockstars...and they have value to every one of us.

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting up with Alex Hutchings, an astonishingly talented pro guitarist. Alex is an up and coming star, he writes and records music for the BBC, is a popular presenter of guitar instructional videos and performs regularly with some of the most famous and respected musicians in the world. We’d agreed to meet up to discuss the problems of the music industry and how pro musicians are responding to these challenges.

The term ‘rockstar’ has come to be used to describe people whose status almost effortlessly transcends that of their peers. The reality though is quite different. Real life rockstars have extraordinarily tough careers today and they have just as many if not more hurdles to overcome than the rest of us.

Just think about this:

Music is now expected to be available for free

The old music industry has almost disappeared as digital media has replaced the old physical media. Free or cheap file sharing mean that no-one expects to have to pay for music anymore. And consequently, the giant record labels of old have shriveled to emaciated versions of their previous selves. What’s the value of a product that almost no-one is willing to pay money for?

Sales of recorded music have dwindled, regardless of your talent

These days, having real talent, writing and recording music is simply not enough to secure you a guaranteed career. Bill Haley’s 1954 hit, Rock Around the Clock sold 25 million copies. In 2011, just thirteen titles sold more than one million copies. Ten years previously, in 2001, there were more than one hundred such titles.

You cannot expect to make much revenue, let alone profit, selling your music via the internet

Songs on iTunes sell for 99 cents. But the artist only gets around 10 cents, so to earn just $1000, you need to achieve 10,000 downloads. Even if you can shift a massive 100,000 downloads on iTunes, your cut is just $10,000. But that’s your gross revenue before you deduct all the expenses you incurred in making and promoting the music in the first place.

Pro musicians these days are more or less on their own

Along with the labels, the resources that pro musicians’ could draw upon to support the development of their careers have dried up too. Managers, A&R people, agents, publicists, promoters – they've mostly gone save for a handful who truly serve only a tiny global super elite of artists. Other ‘signed’ artists get minimal support by comparison.

But tours and gigs still make money don’t they?

For most pro musicians, the only way they can make any serious money directly from their music is to have big sold out shows. But without the old industry to help you get there, for new artists, it’s a long hard slog to achieve enough popularity for this to become even a possibility.

So to return to our discussion. Several interesting points emerged.

He follows his passion 

Alex is in love with music. He doesn’t play to become rich or famous. I suspect he’d still do it even if it cost him everything he has. His commitment is total. And to excel at anything, that’s what’s needed.

He realises the value of diversification

Alex earns money in many ways. He tours all over the world. He writes and records music for clients. He acts as an endorser, consultant and developer for equipment manufacturers, and he presents instructional videos. He even appears in ads for an insurance company! This diversified approach ensures that he has more than one source of income. If one part of it dries up for any reason, he’s not dead in the water.

He understands the importance of social media

Building a relationship with your fans is critical for performers, who may not always have new material to offer their fans. Alex uses Facebook to give his fans the opportunity to follow what he is doing and see and hear his latest work and other updates.

He’s modest, approachable and a great networker

In the new music industry, there’s not much room for prima donnas. Despite his talent, Alex is a very down to earth, open and all round nice guy. He also understands that relationships with other people in his business are vital. So he’s always finding new contacts and other top musicians he can he can collaborate with.

He retains a positive outlook whatever happens

He refuses to worry about things, despite the risks of any number of things going wrong on a day to day basis. He always believes things will turn out well. Some call it good Karma. I call it the power of positive thinking.

Whilst you might have a steady job and regular pay check, I think all of us need to take a lesson from Alex’s book. You might not work in the music industry, but I am convinced that the trends unfolding in today’s careers mean that we all need to learn from what real rockstars do to survive in such hostile conditions.

So next time you use the term ‘rockstar’, you might want to remind yourself, what it really means. And remember that these guys are working much harder and smarter than you probably ever give them credit for.

I’d like to thank Alex for his time and the insights he shared. And as a small thank you, here’s a clip from one of his performances, that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Forget work-life balance - we're all crazybusy

By David Hunt, PE

It is perfectly understandable in hard economic times that companies ask for more effort from fewer people. But there are numerous, unquantifiable costs to this time-austerity.

I recently had lunch with someone I’ve been trying to meet for months; a C-level executive, he also had an extended period of unemployment and thus was sympathetic to my situation. Not only that but we shared two deep outside-of-work commonalities. The issue was getting onto his schedule.

During that conversation he mentioned this was the third time he had managed to get away from his office for a lunch outside the company… in almost three years of having been there. He said that he routinely is putting in 10-12 hour days, that his employer is running incredibly lean, and that most of the time lunch is eaten while working at his desk.

This months-long pursuit is similar to the dismal results of my other attempts to even have “cups of coffee” with people to create the beginnings of a face-to-face relationship which is so essential in networking. I finally had lunch with the CTO of a local company after half a year of trying. Too busy. I’ve stayed in touch with two people at a local company where I’d actually gone in for a face-to-face interview, only to learn later the position I wanted –and still want! – had been closed without hiring anyone for budget reasons. These two people know of my standing invitation to take them to lunch… and have recently put me off, yet again, until the end of the quarter. Why? Too busy. (Please note that I don’t blame them; work has priority over networking, and when things need doing, they need to be done – I just hope that things settle down enough for them to have time to take me up on my offer even if there is no open position.)

speed lines: night shot with speed lines

To be fair, I understand that if people indulged all the requests for their time, they’d never get their own jobs done… but my success rate, even with a warm referral from a person known to them, or knowing them already from prior face-to-face conversations, is staggeringly and depressingly low.

The hidden costs of crazybusy

So if you’ll indulge me… it is perfectly understandable in hard economic times that companies ask for more effort from fewer people. But there are several costs associated with this hyper-lean way of doing business that should, in the view of senior managers with perspective, be considered. Here are some of these unquantifiable costs to this time-austerity:

First, health

People need “down time”; between the commute, 10-12 hour days, chores, other obligations (e.g., family), and the need for sleep, working people this hard takes a physical toll. Add to this always being “connected” and the stress 24/7 access can create. Wringing people for more and more hours at work is a short-term payoff only.

Second, work-life balance

Many people, especially as they get older, have families, friends, and outside interests. It’s one thing to have a crisis at work, and need to put in extra hours – no white collar employee I know objects to this. Families understand. But when overtime becomes SOP children wonder why daddy or mommy can’t be there. And I guarantee you that there is not a person who, on their death bed, will think back and wish they’d spent more time at work rather than with their family.

Third, loyalty and retention

The internet is abuzz these days with increasing numbers of articles discussing employee loyalty and retention. One of the fears voiced by many such articles is that as the economy improves, people will seek to jump. Why would they want to jump? Among reasons given, like challenge and career growth, is a better balance between work and a life outside work.

Fourth, hiring

Yes, I said hiring. One of the things I and others have noticed is that job descriptions are getting ever-more-specific. Why? Because running lean means that roles overlap. In order to get things done, people take up responsibilities caused by things needing doing that are not done because of running so lean. This creates aggregate positions for which nobody can prepare, because each position is unique to the company. Along that line, when a person is in a position over time the role becomes customized to their responsibilities and preferences. When they leave, a hiring manager often views this as a need to find a replacement, not a successor. Not a mere semantic different, it means writing a job description based on the person who just left, a person who had grown into and customized that job.

Most peoples’ careers have grown at least semi-organically; the majority of my own changes have been involuntary, not planned. There is no “candidate factory” out there, yet job descriptions are written razor-sharp as though there were. Thus the Goldilocks syndrome is born. No wonder employers can’t find perfect fit employees, and leave jobs open for month after quarter after year – further creating the need for even more overtime. Which causes more stress. Which drives people to want to find a new job. Whose openings after people jump create more openings with Goldilocks job descriptions. And so it goes.

Fifth, most companies expect to grow sooner or later

While there are concessions necessary in hard times, when employees – and especially managers – have time to cultivate relationships with people outside, this reduces the risk factor in hiring by establishing relationships with potential candidates. Managers can thus, over the development of a relationship, vet possible employees over time. By working people so hard they have no time to do this, senior management actually increases the risk of making a bad hire when an opening is created and nobody internally has relationships with suitable people on the outside… because they’ve been too busy.

“What can’t go on forever, won’t.” – Glenn Reynolds

When things improve, company leaders need to make it up to those who sacrificed for the company’s sake – the “employment continuation award” is not sufficient. And one of the things those leaders need to do is to lighten the work load when economics allow it, and to make it clear they intend to do this as soon as feasible.

The harder companies squeeze to wring more productivity out of their people, the more resentment that squeezing will breed. Is this really the emotional state employers want their people in?

Update 3-3-2014: Thanks to Al Quadros, who commented on my essay when I posted it to a group; his post got me to realize there is another cost to crazybusy. Specifically, when one is judged by the hours one spends at the office, there is every incentive to be inefficient, thus generating the need to be at the office more. Aside from the obvious concern ofactivity vs. progress, this creates the habit of being inefficient… and if/when things return to a more normal pace, that habit will remain.

© 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 real secrets of a killer resume

By Neil Patrick

There’s a simple formula that will improve your resume beyond recognition and get you interviews. It’s not magic, it requires no cheating or lying. It just works. Here it is.

Last week I was asked by a Twitter friend to provide him with a review and recommendations on how to improve his resume. I was happy to do so. As it turned out, he’d been in the same job for the last 18 years. So it’s fair to say, he’d not had much practice at writing a resume. Worse, the last time he had, the world of job applications worked in a completely different way.

And his resume was like so many others I have seen before. I was certain that it wouldn’t get short-listed by any recruiter or HR person.

But the good news is that it was so easy to fix, that I thought I’d share the method we adopted here.

How recruiters look at resumes

The role of your resume isn’t to get you the job, it’s to get you the interview. And it’s got to do that in just a few seconds.

Recruiters and HR folk are very busy people. It’s not at all unusual for them to receive over 200 resumes to sort through when they advertise a position. If you had 400+ pages of resumes in front of you, could you honestly read every word of every resume, let alone make any sort of scientific assessment of the detailed merits of each?

So they do what any sensible person would do faced with this dilemma. Each resume gets a quick scan and is either selected for the short list or rejected there and then. Typical time for this is shown by research to be just 5-10 seconds. Therefore we must give them what they want with just a few seconds scan.

Make it easy for them to choose you

Play them at their own game, scrutinise the job description and extract all the keywords from it. Now figure out how to include all of these in your resume.

Recruiters read the first few lines. Right now, they don’t care about your address or your email address. So don’t put these at the top of the page. Move them to the end.

Next you must have a compelling summary. This should be able to be scan read in around 5 seconds. This should be at the top of the first page. Here’s the first trick. Write a unique summary which is based not just on you, but the job description of the job you are applying for. Show them that you match it. Do not tell lies, but look hard at the job description and then find everything in your past career which shows how you have done these things already.

It may be that some things that are in the job description, you haven’t actually done before. But don’t give up. Think about things which might be similar or require similar skills and capabilities. Use these instead, pointing out how they are similar. Don’t expect a recruiter to understand this automatically – you must spell it out for them.

The language you use here is vital. Use short sentences. Include relevant keywords. Take as many of these as you can from the job description. This also helps if they are using resume scanning software which is increasingly common.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that matters

Producing the best resume is a sales job, not an administrative one.

Most people write their resume as a compilation of their previous job descriptions. This approach condemns you to failure before you even start.

Think about the job you want to get interviewed for. Next think about the type of person they'd want to hire for these jobs. Now give them this in your resume in a really clear way. Do not worry about omitting things which were on your past job descriptions. Think about every single line...does this point make me sound like a fit, or not? If not leave it out.

Do not just think about your hard skills like your knowledge of software or products, work out also what type of personality they ideally want. Most job descriptions include lots of supposed ideals like ‘team player’, ‘goal-focussed’ and ‘good communication skills’. Get smart, decide what is really important to the role. If it’s a collaborative team role, emphasise these parts of your approach and personality. If it’s a results driven role like sales, you’ll do better to talk about things like your success at hitting targets and deadlines.

Don’t just say it, prove it

This next step will transform the reader's perception of you. Present your accomplishments for each job you have held, emphasizing those which correlate with the job description. Bullet point these.

Start every sentence with a strong action verb. eg achieved, transformed, won, beat, excelled, increased, improved etc.

The next trick is to quantify or qualify each statement you are making with evidence to back it up. By doing this you turn what may sound like an idle boast into a powerful description of your ability to make a valuable contribution.

Most people have had targets and assessments of their performance - so select where you did well and talk about these and include the numbers as evidence. Think about your performance appraisals and take the best points from those. Use these as the proof of your accomplishments.

Reorder these bullet points after you have quantified your accomplishments. For example, let's say we were saying something like 'Increased client satisfaction by 20% each year leading to a halving of customer complaints.' That's a big and valuable impact. And therefore it could be the first statement you put at the top of the section.

Even if you worked in a non-target driven environment, you can still use this approach. For example, you probably got a lot better at what you did over time in your current or past job. So you can describe how for example, you managed to double the number of client accounts you worked on, or projects you contributed to.

Show how you made a difference

Recruiters want people that will make a positive difference. It might be that you do this by being a super helpful person and that's great - in fact it's a bonus, but sadly it won't get you an interview. So focus your resume on what you’ve achieved first. How you do it is secondary - if you get an interview, then you can talk about how you achieve things.

Now go back and streamline the whole document

Finally review the whole document again. At this stage:

  • Remove every single unnecessary word. If it’s not adding value, take it out.
  • Replace any weak verbs with strong ones. For example, instead of saying ‘Became project team member for x’, say, ‘Put myself forward for appointment to project team for x’
  • Check that every claim you make is verified with evidence to prove it.
  • Spell check as if your life depended on it! Do not rely on Word to do this for you. One particular case that I recall involved a resume which stated, 'I have extensive experience in pubic financing'
  • Finally revisit the job description and check that every keyword in it is included in your resume.

And that’s it. It may seem like a fiddly procedure at first, but once you adopt it as your normal process, it gets much easier and quicker. But best of all, you can be confident that your resume will be better than your competition…unless they read this blog too!