Marketing Yourself Into A Job

June 24, 2010

Editor’s note: We welcome today’s guest post from career and communication coach Monica Moses. Full info on Monica below.

The people I know who’ve gotten jobs in today’s brutal employment market are using classic marketing strategies. Their resumes aren’t plodding job histories, described in vanilla verbiage, aimed at a careful, rational reader. Instead they are essentially marketing brochures, with boldface key words describing accomplishments, not duties; benefits, not features. They are crafted to captivate a weary HR person with an attention span of 10 seconds.

So, for these marketing-minded candidates, you see this kind of resume translation:

Old: Managed internal communication staff of 20

New: Increased employee engagement by 163%, harnessing the talents of 20 direct reports in dynamic, multi-channel internal communication campaign

Today, as new Fast Horse intern Andrew Miller knows, getting a job is a marketing campaign. But, listen up: That’s true even if you’re not in the marketing biz. Kevin Donlin is a direct marketing guru-turned-career coach who has taught job search-as-marketing to thousands seeking jobs in health care, IT, sales, even law. His “guerrilla resume” template borrows heavily from the world of sales and marketing. He urges candidates to include pithy testimonials in their resumes, use LinkedIn connections to locate the hiring manager and send resumes to that decision-maker by FedEx Ground to get attention.

I’ve used Donlin’s approach in coaching executives looking for new roles, either because they fear being laid off or are tired of laying off others. Frankly, I’ve been amazed that a marketing approach – some would say hype – works in today’s job market.

Logically, it shouldn’t. There has been such a glut of candidates that employers are more resistant than ever. Many resumes are tossed without a candidate ever knowing he’s been rejected. And if he makes it through the first round of scrutiny, a candidate may face a gauntlet of psychological testing, work simulations, background checks and complex behavioral questions. (“Can you describe a time when a co-worker said something that made you mad but you were able to defuse the situation?” Can you recall a time when you talked and chewed gum simultaneously while hopping on one foot?)

In a marketing sense, employers today are like the most hard-bitten, unforgiving customers ever. You’d think a charming P.S. at the end of a cover letter wouldn’t work. And, yet, I’ve seen a number of candidates get interviews with carefully crafted, marketing-savvy resumes. The gatekeepers are tougher now. As a result, gate crashers win by being ever more cunning.

Marketing recognizes that, even when the stakes are high, decision making is largely emotional. Even jaundiced HR people can be moved. When you’re trying to bust through the candidate clutter, marketing works.

Monica Moses, a career and communication coach, recently experienced her own hiring breakthrough. She starts as the editor in chief of American Craft magazine next week. She didn’t have to answer any bizarre behavioral questions to get the job.