Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Whoever Called Us Homo Sapiens Was Wrong

Almost nothing to do with people is about thinking. It's all about connecting. So it is with jobs.

Most people assume that connections between job applicants and employers are usually established using résumés. Although this isn't really true let's pretend that it is for the time being. The most important reader of your résumé—assuming it gets past human resources—will be a hiring manager that has never met you. You will need to connect to that person as a human being. What are you going to tell them about yourself? And wouldn't it help if you knew what they wanted to know so that you could present it in the best possible light?

That's what this is about.

Suppose you're a quality control technician with an eye on the jobs that keep popping up on the Service Canada Job Bank at Orlick Industries in Hamilton. You've applied there once or twice and have not had any response; you suspect that this is because you do not meet their stated requirements but do not know this for sure. The Job Bank ad provides no information other than a fax number and an email address in the HR department. Argh!

This is not nearly as bad as it might sound because you do know one attractive employer and you can now obtain quite a bit of information that will help you.

Go to strategis.gc.ca and search for "Orlick Industries" in the "Company Capabilities" section (currently http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/app/ccc/search/cccBasicSearch.do?language=eng&portal=1). Have a look at both the "Complete Profile" and the web site for the company, and bookmark the pages if possible. We are looking particularly for the "Primary Industry(NAICS)" because we can use this to query for companies engaged in enterprises that are similar to that of Orlick Industries.

It is possible that one could track down the hiring manager for the advertised position given the information already obtained in the form of telephone numbers and email addresses. However, I wouldn't advise doing that. That's the target company. Let's gather some general information about what people in this industry look for in job candidates to be able to present well to this ultimate target.

Go back to the strategis search page and, this time, use the detailed search (currently the same web page as above but available under the button labelled "Go to detailed search"). Enter the NAICS number for Orlick Industries (I think it's 331317) to obtain a list of companies. You might choose to select just the companies in your own province at this point (or not). Now compile a list of contact names using the information on company websites and the strategis company profile entries. You want hiring managers, not human resources people, because they understand what they want from you as an employee and why they want it.

What you do now is to make another list of questions about what you don't know or understand about why people are hired for the job that you want. If you find yourself talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror and saying, "Why do they insist on 3-5 years experience?" then that is a question that you should somehow get an answer to from a hiring manager. Book fifteen minutes when you can have a conversation with each hiring manager. Listen carefully and don't argue, just the way your mother told you. Ask follow-up questions. In some cases at least you will enjoy yourself and when you leave your résumé with the hiring manager they will remember you. Indeed sometimes jobs magically materialise this way.

Come to think of it, don't rely on my three or four sentences on the topic of networking above, borrow a book from the public library about it.

The more conversations you have the easier they will become. Once you've gathered sufficient information and familiarity with it make appointments to speak with your most favoured employers.

Remember how I mentioned that people assume the importance of résumés. Well, that's all it is, an assumption. The fact is that, if you start contacting employers systematically and conscientiously you will dig up a job in your area of choice, assuming of course that such jobs exist. You will use the résumé as a formal document that will be stuffed into an HR file simply as a record. Mind you, you will be unable to resist adjusting your résumé to reflect your improved knowledge of the jobs marketplace.

Whoever called us homo sapiens was wrong. Think about it.

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