A few weeks back I referred to a strategy that I used to teach my students at USC when they had their first big job interview in the media business.
It's a little different than conventional wisdom but the approach has an almost 100% track record for getting people hired when used as outlined below.
When I first mentioned it, many of you asked me to explain more.
So let's take time out from the 1,850 Clear Channel firings just last week and the never-ending Citadel dismissals and think about your future.
As many of you know I believe the radio and record industries have seen its better days. The future is new media and related
fields. I know from my email that many of you who were sacrificed by consolidators are now thinking of getting out of the media business. Some are interested in retiring. Others want to hang in there -- or look for radio jobs with good radio companies, the few that remain on the national level.
Eclipsed last week by the massive Clear Channel firings was the major firings by Universal Music, the nation's largest record label. These firings won't be the last for the record industry where strategic thinking has been nonexistent since the days when Napster knocked the music industry for a loop.
What I recommended to my students was for them to assemble a list of three to five jobs they would like to have. This doesn't mean that they are qualified for that position, but it gives them a needed insight into what they'd like to do with their careers. Unfortunately when you're fired from a radio or records job you liked, you don't have a lot of time to think about what you really want to do. But you must.
Failing to consider all options leaves you bouncing around like bumper cars at the amusement park hitting obstacle after obstacle before you get tired of being pushed around.
Once you have the list -- prioritize it. There may be two things that you want to do real badly so it would be impossible to name one. This at least allows you to focus on where to spend your time and effort looking for employment.
On a personal note, I faced the same thing when Clear Channel bought my company, Inside Radio. I was used to being my own boss. Taking responsibility for sales and profits. Suddenly I had my money off the table wondering what I wanted to do next.
I was prohibited from working in lots of radio-related fields as part of the four-year non-compete and ultimately I decided to try teaching as part of a sabbatical from radio and the media. It was enjoyable and valuable in helping me understand why media companies fail -- inability to understand the various generations of consumers.
Now, I am continuing to work that same list I am asking you to make up. Part of me wants to grow this website into a larger venture encompassing generational media. You'll see the results of my planning in the near future. Another part of me likes to speak and write so I am writing a book about success, happiness and dealing with difficult people and doing seminars.
But for those of you who want to work for another company -- and have decided the effort is worth it -- consider this approach that my students used to beat other candidates out of getting the position they wanted.
1. Once you get the interview, learn about the company, its leaders and, if possible, the person who is interviewing you. Google search is your friend here. It may surprise you how many job candidates don't even do basic research into the opening.
2. Ascertain a detailed description of the position if possible. Understand what the employer is asking for when you are called for an interview.
3. Prepare a one-sheet (no longer) on which you will list seven (not more) ways you can specifically be an asset to the company that is interviewing you. Keep in mind that most hirings are based on a combination of the right price, the right resume, the right looks (sorry to say) or the right time and place. Not comforting. But to stack the deck in your favor, you'll be putting together a list of Seven Ways you can help the company.
4. If you're planning to just replicate your resume and generalize seven of your best assets, all bets are off. That's not what I'm talking about here. Some of my students would call me before their interviews and say, "I can't come up with seven ways to help the prospective employer". That either means you shouldn't be interviewing for that position or you have short-changed your skills and abilities. Sometimes asking others helps. (By the way, I insist on seven ways because seven is a lucky number and it reminds me of Rick Sklar, the WABC Music Radio 77 legend who had 7's all over his life -- successfully, I might add).
5. As the list of seven develops rearrange them in order of importance. Say, you're applying for a general sales manager's job in a medium market. Number one on your list might look like this: a) Have 25 advertiser contacts who have purchased $950,000 worth of ads through my personal efforts. Maybe another one would be b) I have a proven system for helping existing salespeople increase their productivity by 27% in one year after taking leadership. Yet another might be c) Skilled at effective human relations.
6. Once you have seven in order of importance, go back and add one line to each skill to provide evidence. So, using the examples above from a to c, you might add: a) My employer WXXX broke even when other stations had major declines. For b) It was implemented last on March 23, 2006 at KXXX and started showing results within 90 days. And for c) Took the Dale Carnegie course in 2001 and had very little turnover in my department. This is pure dynamite because you're backing up the specifics with concise evidence.
7. Print it on a piece of nice paper -- make two copies. Also print a one-page basic resume. Now you're ready.
8. On the day of the interview, walk up to the interviewer and firmly shake hands, then sit down.
9. Hand them your resume but not you're Seven Ways list.
10. You ask the first question -- but not about the specifics of the job. Make it a person centered question about the person or company. One question. Then, no talk. The interview is on.
11. As the interviewer conducts the interview, answer any questions honestly always looking into his or her eyes. At some point where it makes sense, say "I have taken the liberty of preparing a few specific ways that I might be able to help the company (or station) as I understand this position. May I share some of them with you?"
12. If the interviewer says yes, make sure you pull out only one copy of the Seven Ways and resist giving it to your interviewer. You don't want them reading while you're talking. You want to put in your own words the advantages. Do not spend more than three minutes communicating the basis of your ideas. Do not read them. Do not memorize. If the interviewer asks if they can have a copy of your Seven Ways, you are off and running. Say, "I will make sure I leave this for you before I go". If they don't, offer it anyway before you leave. (Oh, if they don't grant you permission to share your specific ideas, find another interview. This is not the employer for you).
13. Be prepared for specific questions about the Seven Ways and answer in short sentences. Long answers are not necessary.
14. At the end of the interview, hand the copy of your Seven Ways that you were using as a prompt to the interviewer.
15. Shake his or her hand and say "thank you for your time". Avoid, "I'd really like to work for you" type comments or other groveling that basically doesn't work. Keep it real.
16. Walk to the door. Don't look back.
17. Write a "snail mail" thank you which says -- I know you are very busy. Thanks for considering me for the available position. That note should be in your hands when you leave the interview and dropped into the nearest mailbox. A thank you note only works if it is received pronto.
18. Never call to inquire about whether you're still in the running -- if you're not, you'll know it soon enough. That call won't get you into the running.
The reason my students were so successful in using this approach is because they were always the only candidate to show up with the magical tool to separate them from the other applicants -- a sheet of seven compelling, specific-to-the-job ways they would be the right hire.
Others will rely on being a good interview, but they're not always the best person for the job.
Or wearing the right clothes.
Or having the best looking resume.
Or simply being interviewed at the right time.
So, try it if you think you'd like to join the ranks of my students who trounced the others for their first big jobs. Starting out, they have less experience than you likely have but they were smart enough to learn that everything in life is about perceived benefits.
In fact, it is usually the candidate that can specifically show what benefit they can bring to the job that has the inside track.
Tomorrow, the music and media industry will no doubt be back to amputating its most important parts again. Back to firing people. The process will continue for at least the rest of this year.
But I wanted to take time and pass this along to you.
If you've been fired, are threatened in your present position or simply want to take your many talents elsewhere, I hope these strategies will help you succeed.
If you think these approaches can help a friend, please pass them along with my best wishes.
Fagreed Suleman is coming off an $11 million salary year at Citadel. Mark and Randall Mays just got a raise disguised as a salary cut at Clear Channel. Lew Dickey was paid $8 million just to sign a Cumulus contract extension.
Lucky they have a lot of money.
Using the system I just described, I'll bet they couldn't come up with Seven Ways to help a prospective employer.
But you can.