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This is the fourth and final post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first postexplained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager. The second post explains in detail how to develop you talking points – by brainstorming strengths and then developing proof points to back them up. The third post explains how to customize your pitch for a specific job opening.

How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

If you have followed the advice in the first three parts of this series you will have developed a specific pitch to use for each company or job interview. But how do you use your pitch? At what moment does it make sense? How do I avoid sound like I am over-selling?

The following spells out how to use your pitch in specific situations.

Using the pitch in interviews or casual discussions

Using your pitch in 1:1 conversations, with recruiters, influencers or even just contacts in your network, is tough but also the most important use of this vital tool. It would would sound corny, inappropriate and plain weird if you would use your pitch at the wrong moment, yet at the same time no one will ever say: “let me hear your pitch”. So when do you use it? Well, you need to weave it in opportunistically when you are presented an opening. You will typically be presented multiple openings, and they key is to recognize and them use them.

For example, a typical question asked in interviews is: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a perfect launch point for your pitch. Assuming you have 5 talking points in your pitch, your answer would start something like this: “I think I have 5 key strengths ..” then quickly high-light each talking point including the corresponding proof-point as discussed in Part 2. Of course, you should then also have a good answer to satisfy the weakness portion of the question, but that is the topic of a future post.

In some cases you will be only be able to weave in part of your pitch to satisfy a specific question, but be patient, there will be other opening to give your entire pitch.

Questions that give you an opening to deliver your pitch:

  • What are your strengths?
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you a good fit for this job?

Using your pitch in a cover letter

Your pitch should be the central theme in your cover letter. We will discuss this in detail in yet another future post, but a cover letter should typically have 3 parts:

  1. Introductions - who your are and how you became aware of this job opening
  2. Your pitch – why your are a good candidate
  3. Closing -ask for an interview

As you can see, you pitch is the “meaty” part of your cover letter and should be at least 80% of the words on the page. Here you can carefully craft a written version of your pitch. Again, this should be designed to meet the job “specs”. Often, the best way to list your talking points is in the form 4-5 bullet points, each of which claims a key strength and is then backed-up by a proof point (see Parts 2 & 3).

Using your pitch in your resume

Your resume also needs to mirror your pitch, although much more subtly than your cover letter. Essentially, you should make sure that all proof points for your pitch listed in your cover letter is backed up by your resume.

This usually does not require major open heart surgery redesign of your resume, but rather dedicated much space to your proof-points, and deemphasizing stuff that is not relevant to this specific position.

This concludes our short series on developing your pitch – we hope it helps!

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This is the third post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first post explained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager. The second post explains in detail how to develop you talking points – by brainstorming strengths and then developing proof points to back them up.

How to customize your pitch for a specific job or interview

As we discussed in the earlier posts of this series, it is critical that you fine tune your story for each company, job and interview. Recruiters have a specific “specification” in mind, and if you do not meet that spec your candidacy will not be met with success.

How to figure out the “design specs”

So how do you know what the hiring manager is looking for? Well, often they actually spell it out for you:

  • In the job posting or job description, they will often list specific requirements
  • Company websites often also talk about what they look for in new employees in general

If you the job description or website don’t tell you what you need, there are a couple other sources you can use:

  • Talk to current or former employees at the target company – they often have an inside view
  • Use a common sense approach and imagine you are the recruiter – what would you be looking for?
  • Talk to the recruiters prior to your application or interview, e.g. at a job fair, marketing event, or even just call them up – asking is free, and often recruiters appreciate the effort you show

How to customize your pitch to meet the specs

Now that you know what the specific company or job opening requires, it is time to develop your customized pitch. Take the long list of strengths that we developed in Part 2 and pick and chose the most relevant strengths. Make sure to address each job requirement – if you long list has gaps, use the methodology outlined in Part 2 to fill the gaps. Do not use any talking points from your long list that are not required by the specific job 0 you have a limited attention span of the recruiter to work with, so you should focus on the most critical elements.

The final post in this series will explain how to use the pitch in interviews and elsewhere.

Good luck!

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Contacts in your personal network may be your most valuable asset in your job search. These are people who either are hiring, know people who are or who can give you valuable information about a career or specific job you are interested in.

So ideally you actually have people in your network - acquaintances such as former colleagues, customers, friends, golf buddies etc that you think would remember you if you call them up or email them. IF you don’t have such a network, don’t despair – I will write a post another day covering how to build a network.

Now how do you leverage that network in your job search?

You want to plan how to use the network – you cannot go back to the well endlessly so you need to get your approach right and then tap into them quickly.

Spell our your objectives

So what do you want to get out of the network? Spell out what your goals are, examples include

  • Learn more about a specific company, job, career etc.
  • Get specific data points you need in your decision making process, e.g. typical salaries etc.
  • Get specific leads for job openings, companies that might be hiring etc
  • Extend your network by asking for introductions to other relevant people

By having a firm understanding of what you want to get out of the exercise you will improve efficiency and avoid burning too much good faith in the process.

Map out who can best help you fill each objective

So now that you know what you want, you should map out your network – I suggest actually making a list on a piece of paper – and determine who can help you with which objective. If someone can’t help you, they should fall off the list for the time being.

Determine what format is appropriate to interact with a specific individual

Depending on what you are going to ask of them, how well you know them, where they are located and when you last spoke to them you will want to interact with each individual differently. Touchy, sensitive discussions are best done in person, or at least by phone, whereas quick cursory requests can be done by email etc. Also, if you haven’t talked to them in a long time, going in person is often better than just firing off a quick email. If it is really important it might be worthwhile to travel to see the person if they are further away. So if you want to see them in person, you need to chose the right format – invite them for lunch, dinner, coffee, drinks or just ask for a meeting? I usually found inviting people for a quick lunch the most effective – everyone needs to eat so they have time reserved for that anyway and people rarely turn down free lunch. Drinks might be more appropriate if you are friends with person or you know them socially.

Pre-groom the network

Next, you may need to prime the charge. If you are like me, and don’t take the time to keep up with everyone in your network and want to talk to someone you have neglected in the past, you may need to prepare them. In those cases, I might find an innocent reason to say hi a couple of weeks or months before I need to reach to them, e.g., by sending an email, forwarding an article, giving them a call to say hi, etc just to remind them that I am still alive and still remember them. It is important that this seems natural and not odd or hokey. If you can avoid that, then don’t do this step. But I personally feel sheepish asking for a favor (which is what you are essentially doing by leveraging the network) without having talked to the person in eons, so this technique allows me to break the ice before hitting them with the real request.

Reach out and work the network

Now when you know who to reach out to, what you want from them and how you want to engage them, you go on the offensive. Call, email or drop by the people you want to leverage and ask them outright want you want of them or ask them to schedule time for a brief call / lunch / dinner whatever you decided the best format is.

If you are scheduling time with them, you will need to tell them what this is for, for example “just catching up” or “I wanted to pick your brain about topic XYZ”.

When you actually talk to them, use the sandwich approach – spend some time on pleasantries, social gossip etc, then ask the meaty questions you have on your mind, and then after you have gotten what you needed from the conversation, switch back to small talk.

How to ask difficult questions

Sometimes you will want to ask your contact a difficult questions, for example whether they are hiring (or want to hire you), or something similarly awkward. In those situations, I find it easier to ask them indirectly.  E.g., instead of “I am looking for a job, do you want to hire me?”, I would say “I am looking for a job, would you know someone who might be interested in hiring me?”. By asking them for advice rather than a job, I still leave the window open for them to say “Hey, we are actually looking for someone now” while also allowing them to refer to someone else if they are not interested themselves.

Ask for other people talk to

Finally, at the end of the converstation you should always be asking something along the lines of:

“Thanks, this was very helpful – is there anyone else I should talk to about this? Anyone else who might be able to help me with my job search / need for information / etc?”

You should do this especially if you did not get what you wanted. Its an old sales technique – “OK, if you don’t want to buy from me, can you please give the names of a couple of people who would?”

Keep grooming the network

As you should at all times, but especially if your job search is still ongoing or recently concluded, you should keep your network well groomed: update them of your progress, have friendly conversations over time – not necessarily related to your job search – and most importantly, offer them help. In the end, you get much out of your network if you invest into it – show that you are thoughtful and helpful – and don’t chicken out even it requires effort.

Good luck!

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This is the second post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first post explained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager.

How to develop the talking points in your pitch

So what should you talk about in your pitch? We think there are two things you should do here. First, you should make a long list of talking points, together with hard-hitting proof-points. Then, as we will explain in part 3you should assemble a specific pitch from the long list of talking points. This post will discuss how to develop and flesh out the long list of talking points.

Figure out what topics are most typically asked

Your pitch needs to cater to the needs of the hiring managers you want to convince, so you should start by laying out what you think they are looking for in a candidate.

Hiring managers will likely have expectations around the following topics:

  • Education & training
  • Skills & talent
  • Experience & knowledge
  • Relationships & networks

Try to establish what the hiring managers you want to cater to will specifically be looking for. Be as specific as possible and as comprehensive as possible. Some expectations can easily be gleaned from looking at job descriptions and postings, but others require common sense (if you were the hiring manager, what would you look for), and others you may only learn by talking to people currently in the field or at a specific company. Worst-case you will have to ask someone at HR or the hiring manager prior to the interview – “So what are you looking for in candidates?” Next, you should spell out all these requirements in a list. Mark those that you think that are must-haves clearly

Here is an example of a hiring manager’s needs for a tech sales opening:

  • College degree from a Top 50 school, ideally in business
  • At least 4 years of sales experience, ideally in the technology space
  • Strong sales tool-kit: winning personality, ability to handle pressure, strong interpersonal skills, excellent communication skills etc
  • Strong team skills: ability to work seamlessly in a large team, proven ability to deal with conflict, good leadership skills
  • Technical knowledge: knowledge of computer system xyz

Brainstorm your strengths

Next, for each of the hiring manager’s needs, develop your list of strengths. This is a brainstorming process that may take a while. Involve your family and friends in figuring out how you match against the needs – rack your brains to come up with examples from work, personal life, college years etc. Start a list on a piece of paper and keep adding to it until you have enough to work with. Remember to stay honest with yourself – it is OK to emphasize and call out skills, experiences and other assets that you truly have, it is not OK to invent, or grossly embellish and exaggerate. Use this test – if you would feel comfortable sharing this point with your current boss, best friend, teacher etc without being embarrassed, it is good. If you would feel embarrassed, it is not.

Try to make the list specific, e.g. not just say you have strong interpersonal skills, but that you are very easy to get along with, work well with abrasive people, are able to smooth over weird and aggressive situations with your humor and charm etc.

In the end you should have a long list of strengths that address all of the key needs / requirements of the hiring manager. Now clean it up – merge points that are too similar or repetitive, delete points that are contradictory, sort by importance and write on a clean sheet of paper.

What if you have a gap?

What if at the end of the day you come up short on one of the important hiring needs? For example, the job requires a college degree, but you left college without a degree. Then what? Well if you think this makes the whole thing a non-starter, move on. Don’t waste your time; look for a career or job that fits better with what you have to offer. However, if you think that you candidacy is so strong on many other points that you could overcome that gap, go for it. Articulate why this gap should not diminish your application and why your strengths on other points more than make up for it. Make sure to include this issue in your pitch. It is better to address such a point early on in your job application or interview rather than for the hiring manager to overlook something and then ding you when the issue is noticed – without you being able to speak to it.

Develop proof points

Next, for each of your strengths that you have brainstormed, develop one or two hard hitting proof points: little stories and anecdotes that prove out your strengths. Ideally these should be from within the last few years and if possible from a professional context, but it is fine to weave in experience from college, personal life or the more distant path, as long as the other proof points you use are more recent and applicable. Think of a very simple way of conveying the story or anecdote that quickly emphasizes your strength while offering enough detail to make it seem real and substantial enough to act as proof. Typically, I find that you should be able to tell such anecdotes in less than a minute. If the interviewer asks you for more details you should be able to talk up to 5 minutes on the story, but for your 1st pass 1 minute should be sufficient. Often building in a little humor or using more active body language is very effective.

Hone & polish

Finally, you should spell out your talking points including proof points. Write them out just the way you would speak about them, and then practice them out loud – alone or in front of your family. See what works, what needs to be refined and in particular work to make each point as short and sweet as possible – cut out as much words as you can without changing the message. In the end you should be able to talk about each strength in about 30 seconds, and have a 60 second anecdote or two to support each strength. Remember, you will not use all of these points in every interview or conversation – you will need to customize your pitch for every discussion.

This is the second post in a short series of posts on the topic of developing your hiring pitch. The next posts will cover the following topics:

  • How to customize your pitch for a specific job
  • How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

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One of the most critical weapons in your arsenal during your job search is a well-crafted and well-executed hiring pitch: a clear, passionate and logically convincing argument why you should be the candidate to hire.

It is like when you gaze at stars. All the stars in the sky seem random until somebody points out a clear constellation – like the big dipper – that clicks in your mind and you immediately get it. The random stars were transformed into a vivid picture by just a few words, a short explanation.

Your pitch is exactly that type of explanation that allows a recruiter or influencer to put together random points from your education, experience, personality and talents. You point out how the points fit together until they are able to paint the picture in their own mind.

However, given the very little time you have to capture the attention of a recruiter, the pitch also needs to be very concise and to the point. It needs to paint to picture with only few words and in very little time.

Inherently, many hiring managers have a check-list that they want to fulfill. That list will have must-have points and nice-to-have points. Your job in developing your pitch will be to hit all the must-have points and as many of the nice-to-have points as possible while not wasting any precious time on issues irrelevant to the hiring manager. E.g., don’t waste time bragging about your French or German language skills when the job only requires you to deal with English speakers.

Further, you will need to tailor a slightly different picture for each different job you are shooting for. Your pitches will have a lot in common, but you may need to emphasize, add or adapt specific elements. For example, lets say you are interested in a career in sales. However one job opening requires a lot of travel and another sales job requires a lot of strategic deal making. While the overall profile you will try to convey in your pitch will be quite similar you should emphasize willingness to travel for the one job and experience in negotiating complex deals in the other.

Finally, your pitch should always contain “proof points”. It is easy to claim something, but much harder to convince a listener that your claim is valid. The best way to substantiate your claim is to offer proof points. For example, “I am very strong at managing complex projects” (the claim), “for example, in my last job a managed a budget of $1M and a team of 8 people  on a project that spanned three departments, and I was able to complete the project with my team in-time and under budget” (the proof).

This is the first in a short series of posts on the topic of developing your hiring pitch. The next posts will cover the following topics:

  • How to develop the points in your pitch
  • How to customize your pitch for a specific job
  • How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

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manageSo you got lucky and got multiple job offers and now need to choose? Or you got admitted to multiple grad schools and don’t know which one to pick?

Here is what you do.

Pick criteria

First, you decide which the most important decision criteria are, e.g. location, pay, health benefits, retirement, commute, career prospects, your confidence in succeeding etc. Don’t overdo it, just pick the 4 or 5 that matter most to you. Actually, if you have a family, a significant other, that you want to involve in the process you should discuss the criteria and their relative importance with them.

Weight the criteria

Assign an importance weight ranging from 1-10 to each criteria (1 for lowest, 10 for highest). For example if commute is not a big issue, give it a 2, whereas if you are very concerned about salary give it a 10.

Score each job

Then score each job option on a range from 1-10 along each criteria, depending how well they perform. For example if one job has a horrible commute give it a 1 but give the job with a reasonable commute a 5, and the one with a real short commute a 10.

Put it all toghether

Then put everything in a table, multiply each score with its criteria weight  and then add up the score for each job option. The highest score should be the best pick.

goals

If the highest score feels wrong, rethink your weighting and scores.

When discussing this with families, significant others, this approach is very helpful as it is based in numbers and easily understood. If you still disagree it will quickly lead you to discuss and agree on what is important to everyone involved.

Good luck!

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prepWe think the setting your goals is the critical 1st step in your job search. You need to define success before you suit up and enter the battle.

At the end of the job search process you need to have ended up in a career that suits your true needs. The process below you help you figure out which career to pursue

For all of what we talk about below, please understand that the answer will be different for each individual. What is right for your best friend will not necessarily be right for you.

In finding the right career there are many different issues you need to consider, but we think it boils down to two key issues: will you enjoy the career and will it move you forward on your journey.

Enjoying your career

This is quite simple in theory but often difficult to get right. We think that you can only really succeed at what you do if you derive at least some enjoyment from it. The more you enjoy it, the better. But you don’t have to absolutely love it. You have to enjoy it well enough to get you out of bed, push you through a tough spot and make you feel content when you have a quiet moment and reflect upon your life.

So how do I find a career that I might enjoy?

  1. Write a list of activities you enjoy (dealing with people, helping people, tinkering with complex machines, etc). High-light the ones you enjoy the most.
  2. Next do the same for activities you really hate (dealing with rude people, not being your own boss). Again, high-light the ones you enjoy the least.
  3. Next, work with these two lists to brain storm careers that maximize the activities you like, and minimize the stuff you hate. Don’t do all of this by yourself, ask you best friends, family members – especially those you think are open minded and have a broad horizon. Also look up career lists (we will post links to these elsewhere on this site) or talk to career advisors.
  4. At the end of this process you should have a long list of potential careers – maybe 20-30- that you think you might enjoy.

Moving you forward

Next, you need to narrow down your career list to those that make sense. You might really want to be a fighter pilot, but if you are too tall to sit in the tiny cockpit it doesn’t make sense to throw too much effort into entering that specific career. You also want to make sure that the specific career moves you forward, helps you achieve your underlying ambitions.

How do I find a career that moves me forward?

  1. First, take the long list of career options that you might enjoy. Quickly identify those that you believe you do and likely never will qualify for. You might not be sure about this, but in your gut you should have a pretty good sense. Please consider the following:
    1. Education and training: do you have or can you reasonably get the training you need?
    2. Physical fit: are you healthy or fit enough for this career
    3. Basic talent: if this is a career that requires talent – is your talent sufficient. You might really want to be an NFL quarterback, but do you realistically have the talent to succeed?
  2. Weed out the careers for which you don’t qualify. If there are careers that you could qualify for if you invested some more effort (e.g. by getting a grad school degree), keep them on the list
  3. If you are unsure about a career, find someone who can talk about it. That person’s knowledge will be critical later down the road when you launch your application process in earnest, so invest the effort and find someone in your circle of friends that can help.
  4. Next, spell out your ambitions, your life goals, e.g. being able to live in comfort while still living in Manhattan, being able to raise a family, being able to retire at 50, etc.
  5. Work out what it would require for you to meet that ambition along the following dimensions (and any others that might be unique to your situation) and for the following time periods:
    goals
  6. Fill in the chart, and then compare it against the remaining options on your list. Kill options that clearly don’t get you to your goals. When in doubt talk to people who know the career and can help you fill in the gaps, e.g. salary expectations etc. If you end up killing all ideas you need to a.) look for more ideas and b.) revisit your goals and see if they are reasonable.
  7. If you are left with more than 10 careers, you should amp up your goals – call them aspirational – and redo the filter step to narrow the list down to 2-3 careers.

Now you should be ready to begin your job search in earnest. You have identified 2-3 careers to focus on in your search that best fit your goals and aspirations while still being grounded in reason as you qualify or with some effort could qualify for these careers.

Also, you have now spelt out the criteria that a specific job in a given career needs to satisfy – it is the “Year 1” column from the work sheet above.

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