Monthly Archives: February 2012

Forget Good to Great. Here’s What Makes a Great employee Remarkable.

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities.

A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

Here are eight qualities of remarkable employees:

1. They ignore job descriptions. The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.

When a key customer’s project is in jeopardy, remarkable employees know without being told there’s a problem and jump in without being asked—even if it’s not their job.

2. They’re eccentric… The best employees are often a little different: quirky, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor.

People who aren’t afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas.

3. But they know when to dial it back. An unusual personality is a lot of fun… until it isn’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team.

Remarkable employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off. It’s a tough balance to strike, but a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

4. They publicly praise… Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person.

Remarkable employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater.

5. And they privately complain. We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom.

Remarkable employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.

6. They speak when others won’t. Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately.

An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, “Why did you ask about that? You already know what’s going on.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don’t, and they’re afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.”

Remarkable employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.

7. They like to prove others wrong. Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The kid without a college degree or the woman who was told she didn’t have leadership potential often possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong.

Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job.

8. They’re always fiddling. Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: Reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.

Great employees follow processes. Remarkable employees find ways to make those processes even better, not only because they are expected to… but because they just can’t help it.
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

 

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Filed under Attitude, Self-Improvement

Glassdoor Mines Your Facebook Connections to Help You Find a Job

When you’re looking for a job, who are the first people you turn to? Glassdoor, the careers site that regularly serves up lists of odd interview questions, is betting that it’s the friends and family in your personal network rather than your professional network. That’s why it’s introducing a deep integration with Facebook, called Inside Connections.

Now when you connect Glassdoor to Facebook and click on a company, you’ll be able to see which of your Facebook friends are connected to that company — either by being an employee or having worked there in the past. You’ll also see friends of friends who are connected, too.

“Inside Connections is Glassdoor plus Facebook,” says company founder Tim Besse. “It’s about finding the ‘in’ you have at a company through the friends you already have on Facebook and combining it with all the information Glassdoor already has — all of our job listings, reviews, salaries and interview details.”

Why connect with Facebook and not the possibly more obvious professional network of LinkedIn? Apart from the fact that Glassdoor competes with LinkedIn, Besse maintains that a person’s network of personal friends is actually where people turn when they’re looking for a job. He also says that Glassdoor’s customers tend to be younger, and many are more active on Facebook than LinkedIn.

“We’ve been taught to think that Facebook is just our personal or social lives and Linkedin is our professional lives, but the reality is that when you’re boots-on-the-street looking for a job, some of the very first people that you turn to are your closest friends. And what Glassdoor does is make it really easy to tap into these connections.”

Besides offering up potential contacts at companies you’re targeting, Glassdoor’s Facebook integration further personalizes your experience with the site. The software taps into your Facebook history and network to present you with jobs and companies you actually may be interested in as you browse the site.

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Filed under Network, Social Media, Tool Box, Unexpected

How to Write a Cover Letter That Employers Will Actually Read

When you’re applying for a new job, you often have to write a cover letter to accompany your resume and serve as an introduction to who you are. These letters must be brief yet compelling so you don’t require much of the reader but still appear unique. This can be pretty tough, but if you utilize the principles of good storytelling and concise writing you can put together a letter that won’t get lost in the pile. Here’s how.

Most cover letters tend to be fairly formulaic and look something like this:

Dear [EMPLOYER],

I would like to express my interest in [SOME POSITION] at [COMPANY]. Although I’ve explored many options in my job search, I’ve come to respect the quality and integrity of the work that you do. For example, I was very impressed by the latest television campaign for Kellogs. I love creating great advertisements for television, radio, and print, and believe I would be a good asset to your company. I’m a hard worker who thinks outside of the box while producing creative work in an efficient manner. I believe you’ll find that my four years of experience at [SOME OTHER COMPANY I CLEARLY WANT TO LEAVE OR WAS FIRED FROM], and my resulting portfolio, mirror these qualities. I look forward to hearing from you and exchanging ideas about what I can offer [COMPANY].

Thank you for your consideration.

[APPLICANT]

If you read a letter like this, you wouldn’t cry blood or toss it in the garbage in favor of getting a root canal. It’s a perfectly acceptable letter by letter-writing standards, but it’s also pretty generic and ineffective. It doesn’t tell you anything about who the author is, any compelling reason why they’re interested in their work or the company they’re hoping will employ them, and really does nothing at all to stand out from the crowd. In this post, we’re going to look at how to avoid letters like these and write interesting, unique cover letters that target the reader.

Know Your Audience

Your audience is your prospective employer, and while you can never know exactly who will be reading your letter you can know the company. You don’t want to craft a letter in which you try to be everything you think your target company might want, but you do want to take who the company is into account. Chances are there were a few things you liked about the company before deciding to apply. For example, if you were looking for a job at the industrial design firmIDEO, you may have gotten excited when you heard about the giant airplane wing protruding from one of their offices or perhaps you just liked what you saw when they redesigned the shopping cart for an ABC news special. Whatever made you like the company, or got you excited about the job, likely tells you a thing or two about the corporate culture. This information is very valuable when writing your cover letter.

First of all, knowing the way a company operates will hint at the level of formality they’ll expect from a letter. If you were applying for a job at Lifehacker, for example, you’d want to write something more casual. At a bank, formality would likely be more appreciated. Design firms and other creative companies generally fall somewhere in the middle. If you know the company, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s fitting. Going back to the IDEO example, you could get away with a statement like this:

Ever since I saw the giant airplane wing crashing through the wall of your offices I knew IDEO was a place I wanted to work.

Something like that probably wouldn’t get you very far at a bank, but this could:

The first time I scanned a check with my smartphone I was delighted by how simple deposits suddenly became. Now that I am in the market for a job, I immediately though of Chase because I want to help to create the tools that make banking a pleasure.

These statements compliment the company. They show that you know detail about the company, so you’re not just applying abitrarily. They show that you appreciate the work the company does and they provide insight into who you are and what you carea bout. When you’re writing your cover letter, knowing your audience can help you do this. You may be applying for a job because you want any job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a little research and find something you like and respect about your prospective employer. Doing so will give you the opportunity to connect with them in a very brief moment and help you avoid getting stacked in a pile of generic applicants.

Know Yourself
You can’t be someone else, so don’t try. This is good advice for life, and is especially relevant when applying for a new job. If you try to present yourself as the worker you think the company wants, you’re going to end up with boring statements that don’t really say much about you. Your resume can sell your skills and experience. Your cover letter needs to sell you as a person, and give the company a reason to want you. It’s an opportunity to put your best (and most relevant) foot forward, and you should take it. I think Joel Spolsky, founder of Fog Creek Softwareexplains this idea best:

The number one best way to get someone to look at your resume closely: come across as a human being, not a list of jobs and programming languages. Tell me a little story. “I’ve spent the last three weeks looking for a job at a real software company, but all I can find are cheezy web design shops looking for slave labor.” Or, “We yanked our son out of high school and brought him to Virginia. I am not going to move again until he is out of high school, even if I have to go work at Radio Shack or become a Wal*Mart greeter.” (These are slightly modified quotes from two real people.)

Who you are matters. It’s true that some companies are mostly interested in hiring people who will simply get the work done, accept a low salary, and never complain, if you’re applying for a job you’re actually going to like then chances are you matter. Put a little of yourself into the cover letter. You’re not sharing your disease history. You’re sharing your personality in a way that’s relevant to the job you want. It’s fun. It’s an excuse to be honest, and you increase your chances of getting a job, too.

Show, Don’t Tell
One of the most common mistakes people make in any kind of writing is that they tell their audience what they want them to know. Just as you’ll generally find explanations to be dull in a film, your prospective employer will find them to be dull in a cover letter. There’s no sense in telling anyone that you’re a hard worker or a team player because you’ll be 1) expecting that they’ll trust such a generic statement and 2) among many other undesirable candidates who write the same thing. If you’re going to provide reasons why you’re great, provide an undeniable example instead.

The best way to do this is look back on your work history—or even something relevant that you created outside of your professional life—that made you feel proud of what you can do. Tell a story about that in a few short sentences:

For her 9th birthday, my daughter wanted brownies just like the ones they make at her favorite restaurant. I accidentally spilled a little pudding mix into the batter, only to discover a trick that made one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. I can replicate a recipe like the best of them, but it’s the mistakes I’ve made while baking that remind me of how much I love it.

You can tell anyone anything, but you have to provide an example to demonstrate why they should believe your claims.

Demonstrate What Every Employer Wants to Know

Most employers care about the following three things above all else:

  1. You’re smart.
  2. You’ll get things done.
  3. You’ll fit in well with their corporate culture.

Before you sign and send your cover letter, do your best to ensure those three things are implied. Again, you don’t ever want to actually say them, but you want your reader to think them when they’ve finished reading your letter.

Never Write the Same Letter Twice
Every time you apply for a job your audience changes. The job changes. Chances are you’ve changed a bit, too. While you can certainly re-use elements from previous cover letters when they are applicable, it’s very important to remember that the exact same cover letter is going to have a different impact on different people. As you go ahead and apply for different jobs, remember that they are different. You’ll want to craft your cover letters to express that.

Courtesy of Adam Dachis

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Filed under Resume, Skill, Tool Box