By Arnie Fertig
What better time than Valentine's Day to acknowledge how work and romance are often associated with each other. The whole intricate dance of employers searching for talented individuals and people searching for meaningful work is often compared to a courtship. And once employed, how often to we observe that someone is married to his or her job?
The staff at the matchmaking site eHarmony published a list of pickup lines (listed below in bold) that work in the dating world. But when you stop and think about it, they can be re-interpreted to spur some creative ways to get noticed by a potential employer:
1. "Hey, nice shoes!" Who doesn't like a legitimate, sincere compliment from time to time? When your cover letter leads with an acknowledgement about something specific you admire about the company to which you are applying, you begin to answer any employer's question: Why is this person applying to this particular job?
That simple, specific compliment demonstrates that the employer isn't on the receiving end of a résumé distribution to hundreds of potential employers and that real thought has been given on the part of the job seeker. Personal and specific trumps mass distribution every time!
You can acknowledge a company's reputation as a leader in its field, its corporate philanthropy, the well-known quality or performance of its marquee products, or anything else that is distinctive about the employer.
2. "Don't I know you from spinning class?" Whenever you can summon up something you have in common with a person, you are building up the frame of a relationship. You might find out through LinkedIn research, for example, that you and the person you are interviewing with attended the same college, grew up in the same city or region or even both worked for the same former employer.
3. "What kind of dog is that?" You might be expected to recognize a popular breed like a Labrador Retriever, but you can be forgiven if you can't tell a Tibetan Terrier from a Lhasa Apso in a park. A simple but reasonable question about a less-than-obvious fact demonstrates both admiration and a desire to learn.
When you approach an employer with natural curiosity and intelligent questions, you put yourself in good stead. "Do you make your product by doing X or Y?" shows you understand there are multiple methods that can be employed and builds your credibility. A key to successful interview preparation is compiling a list of great questions to ask.
4. "Let me buy you a drink." When you are networking and engaging people for informational (as opposed to actual job) interviews, you are asking for the favor of someone's time and knowledge. Often times these conversations take place outside the workplace. Holding these conversations in a bar can be dicey, but it's only appropriate that you invite someone for a cup of coffee. And be certain to pick up the tab!
5. "I just got out of a Mexican jail." In the job search context, "jail" can be anything that has prevented a normal career path, or an extended period away from the workforce. It is particularly apt for someone who has taken family leave time to deal with a sick relative, for example, or a woman returning to the workforce after taking time off to be with a growing family.
It's safe to assume that you will need to address any gaps in your dates of employment, so you may be ahead of the game if you explain the situation and spin it to your advantage. Something like, "Now that I've finished meeting a family member's medical needs, I'm better prepared to focus on meeting the needs of my next employer" can explain your absence, demonstrate your value of dedication to the mission and turn a potential negative into a positive.
When you write and speak with flair, you demonstrate the excellent communications skills every employer seeks in making a sweetheart of a hire!
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
By Arnie Fertig