Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Expectations of a Perfect Employer

I’ve spent the past six months applying for dozens of employment opportunities. I treat every application as a new and unique project--reviewing my résumé and cover letter as if I were using them for the very first time. There can be no mistakes.

These days, hiring managers can receive hundreds of applications for one job advertisement. Filling an open position is a lot of work and can take weeks, if not months. The process can involve several staff members, if not several groups of staff members. This is why hiring managers look for anything they can to cull the herd - things like typos or grammar and spelling errors in applications, résumés or cover letters.

I agree with the expectation of perfection that employers hold over job applicants. If you want the job, you need to invest enough time into your application materials to ensure their perfection. But consider this: After six months of job searching, I have found that 25 percent of the openings I have applied for have typos or grammar and spelling errors in their advertised job descriptions. I estimate that the percentage is higher for the hundreds of job advertisements I have read over the same time period. (I do not record job advertisements for which I do not apply.)

I have mentioned in formal interviews that I found errors in an organization’s job description; and I don’t do so lightly or without taking into account the feelings of the interviewer. I am a marketing and branding professional, and I try to use these errors as an example of why all organizational materials need to go through a centralized proofing system to ensure that a company does not look bad by publishing mistakes. (There is a fine line between demonstrating how to operate a communications function and looking like an ass for pointing out another’s mistake.) The responses I get range from blaming HRIS software, to admissions of guilt. I always sympathize with the guilty. If you publish enough in your career, then you will publish errors - big and small.

But the hypocrisy is clear. If I, the job applicant, am expected to be error-free, else risk having my application ignored, what is the expectation of the hiring organization? And what about my sample of the job market? Are there so many job applicants out there that organizations don’t even have to provide an error-free job advertisement? Do they just have to throw up a quick and dirty paragraph in order to get a dozen solid applicants? How should I weigh error-filled job advertisements when evaluating prospective employers?

My experience leads me to believe that the condition of the advertisement can tell me a few things about the organization and its culture. Some questions job seekers should ask themselves when reviewing a job advertisement are:

  • Does the job advertisement ask job seekers to submit an application via an HRIS or email? 
  • Is the job description a few paragraphs, or is it long and over worded, with numerous sections and bullet points? 
  • Does the description cover legal, operations and administrative bases and include EEOC language? 
  • Are there grammar, spelling or typographical errors? 
  • Where is it posted? On Craig’s List or LinkedIn? 

Questions like these will help job seekers identify the condition of a job advertisement and the type of application process in order to reveal a few things about the internal workings of an organization. Here are a few examples.

When applying for a job, does the advertisement lead job seekers to submit a formal application through a standardized electronic form? If so, there is most likely an HRIS in place at the organization. The presence of an HRIS application typically means an organization has a robust human resources function. An HRIS, which is also known as a human resource information system or human resource management system (HRMS), is basically an intersection of human resources and information technology through HR software. This allows HR activities and processes to occur electronically. It is supposed to make the HR process more efficient, but like all technology, it needs efficient end users. The presence of an HRIS and HR department can mean a long and formal recruitment process, involving phone screens and multiple interviews with individuals or teams. Not only will you have to navigate possible interrogations from talent management professionals, but also hiring managers that may have different strategies or abilities in relation to their HR co-workers. 

HRIS systems, like all IT solutions, are expensive for the organizations that use them and are typically utilized by larger organizations. Size means the possibility for layers of administration. The bureaucratic layers of large administrative networks can have their own benefits and/or pains for job seekers.

Job advertisements of organizations with robust HR functions, in my experience, have fewer errors in them. They also traditionally contain several sections with bullet-pointed lists of job functions, most likely lifted directly from the official job description on file. Traditional job advertisements also contain copied and pasted EEOC language that gives lip service to worker rights and employer ethics.

However, if you are asked to submit your résumé and cover letter to an email address, you are most likely dealing with a smaller or truncated HR function--if one at all. There will be no software algorithm that scrubs your application for the appropriate keywords. A submission to an email most likely means your résumé is going to be read by a living human being. Job seekers need to adjust their strategies accordingly.

One strategy change that is available when submitting to an email is good old-fashioned networking. The absence of an HRIS means a smaller administrative function and a better chance of determining the actual hiring manager, and possibly finding a connection to that person in places like LinkedIn. Anytime job seekers can leverage their networks in the application process, the better chances they have at getting an interview and a job.

Short job advertisements, in my experience, often are the product of smaller or progressive organizations. By progressive, I mean organizations that focus more on hiring the right personality over skill-set - someone that matches an already established culture. Progressive organizations will have clean, error-free job advertisements that ask job seekers to “tell them why” they want to be part of the organization. Small organizations, such as startups, have their own unique issues and personalities.

As you can see, job seekers have excellent INTEL at their fingertips, just from the job advertisement. One strong indicator about an organization still remains the presence of errors in the job advertisement. Job seekers should tread carefully when dealing with organizations that publish errors, especially for management-level positions. Obviously, if you need a job you can’t be as picky as those who are looking for new opportunities and are secure in a current position. It’s not a perfect world and, of course, more is expected from the employee than the company; but a job description is a window into a prospective employer. Comb it for clues that can help you obtain an interview or signal you to avoid the organization altogether.

Friday, April 18, 2014

personal uav coming to a soccer field near you

I've been fascinated by the new UAV toys, and yes I call them toys, being developed for the public. How long will it be before a soccer mom brings her Nikon mounted UAV to a parks and recreation game near you?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

did apple try too hard?

Is it me or did Apple try too hard with its latest iPad Air ad?


Don't get me wrong. I love the Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams, but this is nothing new. Pretty pictures and humble remarks just don't do it for me anymore.

This genre of advertising was cool when it was Paul Harvey.

Heck, even Nike got it right one time.

But I'm over being inspired to greatness by corporate America. Let's move on guys.

Give me something new.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

photo of the day - hercules

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center uploaded the above picture to Flickr and shared it on one of the agency's Twitter accounts Friday morning. The image shows a winter storm that has dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the East Coast.

So far the storm, named Hercules, has killed 15 people.

pageview 101

New Republic explains to us how The Weather Channel is taking a cue from sites like Upworthy, using click-baiting techniques to drive traffic to its website:

The traffic monitor Alexa ranks the 28th-most visited website in the United States, above Yelp,, and the highest-ranking pornography site. Roughly four in five of the site’s visits come from people interested in the forecast. But for the past year or so, the website has worked to keep the forecast-checkers there for original, vaguely weather-related media. … And so, over the past year, the non-forecasting part of underwent a drastic overhaul. That section of the site is now comprised primarily of original, “shareable” content advertised with Upworthy-style headlines, which maximize traffic by attracting clicks and jibing with Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm. In 2012, according to [ editor-in-chief Neil] Katz, the copy in this part of the site was roughly 80 percent wire and 20 percent original; over the past year, that ratio has been reversed, with an endless stream of wire photographs replaced by original images taken by more than 100 photographers around the world. The site’s newsroom exceeds 40 journalists, most of them hired since December 2012, from outlets including The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and Everyday Health.
The change has been successful. The non-forecasting content on more than doubled its page views in 2013, from about 1.2 billion to about 2.5 billion, according to internal numbers. (The site still receives the vast majority of its overall page views—about 13 billion total in 2013, according to comScore, averaging 54 million unique visitors per month—from people checking the forecasts.)
(Hat tip: The Dish)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

selling airline tickets via the FAA

If you have never flown Virgin America, you may have never really flown. They produce a pretty good customer experience. I've always loved their pre-flight safety video.

Now, according to Todd Wasserman, Virgin has updated their animation with another creative production.

I think I prefer the original, but Virgin reminds us that we should never miss an opportunity to reinforce our brand. Their safety videos show a brand that loves to have fun by entertaining their customers.

Advertising at its core is about happiness. Virgin always appears to be happy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

mobile versus advertising

According to a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, revenue from mobile ads and searches more than doubled in the first half of 2013. The increase was 145% over the $1.2 billion recorded for the first half of 2012. Analysts and the IAB attributed the surge in mobile to several factors, including an ability to better measure the success of mobile ads.

Matt Hamblen has more details. 

Companies are generally reluctant to talk about how much they spend on mobile advertisements,or how much revenue the ads generate in improved sales. But in one example, Nilla Wafers cookies were advertised on a Facebook mobile campaign over the summer, helping improve retail sales by 13% in July, according to the cookie maker's parent company, Mondelez International.

The IAB report also tracked overall Internet ad and search-related revenues, which reached $20.1 billion for the first half of 2013, an increase of 18% over the $17 billion for the first half of 2012.

While mobile revenues soared over the prior year, they still accounted for just 15% of all Internet ad-related revenues, at $3 billion. IAB separates mobile from search-related revenue on desktops, which totaled $8.7 billion in the first half of 2013, the largest category in the overall Internet ad market. IAB also includes mobile search revenues in its overall mobile ad revenue category, but doesn't provide a separate dollar figure for mobile search.

But before you go crazy with mobile ads, Joe Pulizzi wants us to remember that content is still king. 

Instead of interrupting consumers around the content they want to engage in, why not BE the content? Today, all the barriers to become the "go-to" resources for our customers and prospects are gone.
  • There are no technology barriers to producing and distributing world-class content.
  • Talent is readily available. Journalists and editors are more willing than ever to go to the "dark side" and help your brand tell an engaging story.
  • You don't have to be the Wall Street Journal anymore for your content to be accepted and engaged in.
  • Social media won't work for most brands without valuable, consistent, and compelling information creation and distribution.
  • Google's most recent algorithm update makes it more imperative than ever that we need to be great storytellers, not great advertisers, to get and keep attention.
I tend to agree with Joe. Products and companies need to present a consistent point of view that demonstrates their expertise. Mobile ads are seldom done well and that leads to a perception of incompetence.

Now content advertising...that's a different beast.

(Image credit to

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

when social media goes bad [INFOGRAPHIC]

Steve Olenski has expanded on a previous post about ill-timed tweets with new thoughts on how the natural negativity of people affects social media. It's important for brands to remember that once they reach a certain watermark a great percentage of mentions they receive socially on the Internet will be negative - it's something they limited control over.

He expands on that thought with statistics and pictures.

Led by Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations, the study revealed, among other things: nearly 4 in 5 people are seeing increased incivility on social media, and 2 in 5 have unfriended or blocked family, friends or coworkers as a result.

Additional findings include:

  • 76 percent of respondents have witnessed an argument on social media
  •  88 percent believe people are less polite on social media than in person
  • 1 in 5 reduced in-person contact with someone over a cyber fight
Social media allows people to engage in a virtual world that has limited repercussions. Brands need to figure these human-factors into their strategies.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

how not to launch a website via washington

AP has a great piece on what went wrong with the creation of Most of the problem lies with the two contractors hired (maybe at the lowest bid) to create the digital portal to our new health insurance marketplace. It appears these two companies never spoke to each other while working on the application.

The Obama administration says government technical experts are on their way to solving the accounts creation problem. Independent experts say other glitches may be lurking as the more complicated functions of the website come into play, including real-time verification of identity, legal residence, family composition and income. 

"My suspicion is once they get these problems resolved, then we are going to the next layer, and that will expose new problems," said Curtis, the software quality expert. 

"Since this system was developed in a rush they did not have time to thoroughly test it," he added. "The American people are now doing that for them."

Friday, October 4, 2013

tesla's pr blaze

Tesla has been riding high on press like its excellent NHTSA safety rating.

"Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board. NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars."

But after the below fire was caught on video, Tesla has seemed to have trouble pushing the point that cars crash and catch on fire - even Teslas.

Hannah Elliott wants Tesla to get its PR-act together.

The sole person in the car escaped without harm, and emergency responders eventually extinguished the fire. But it’s not good for any company when consumers see an incriminating photo. All those millions of potential Tesla drivers tend to see is fire + Tesla = something bad happened.

The kicker came when an R.W. Baird analyst downgraded the stock from “Outperform” to “Neutral,” telling investors that the company has “significant milestones” to overcome in the next year and a half. Share price yesterday for Tesla fell 6.2%.

This could be a case-study in public relations – how to handle something bad that may or not have been caused by oversight or error.

Tesla has been mostly quiet on this front, releasing only this official response to the press:

“The fire was caused by the direct impact of a large metallic object to one of the 16 modules within the Model S battery pack. Because each module within the battery pack is, by design, isolated by fire barriers to limit any potential damage, the fire in the battery pack was contained to a small section in the front of the vehicle.”

Executives there are understandably hesitant to say anything definitive before their researchers and lawyers determine just what happened, and when. But they should be doing more in the meantime.

The best PR is honest PR. Investors and consumers are not crazy stupid. I think they've seen a car on fire before. The overly technical response probably was not necessary.

How is a car equipped with a big battery any more safe or unsafe than a car carrying 20 gallons of gasoline?

A: It's not. 

nerds are now cool

Remember when being a nerd carried a stigma? Remember when being an introvert was something to overcome?

Not any more!

These two personalities are now being invested in by organizations and products. The current conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the rise of the Internet and technology has given these personalities more or greater power in today's workplace and marketplace.

It may be time to adjust your product/campaign or, at the very least, pivot. (When is it not?)

cool ad watch - astor place cube has the details on the above viral video that has easily fooled a public used to reality television.

"A documentary called Man in a Cube features a writer named “Dave” who claims to live inside the Astor Place Cube, an iconic New York City sculpture by artist Tony Rosenthal. … The video ends with a blatant plug for Whil, a self-proclaimed “brand about nothing.” The idea behind it is a 60-second technique during which one should meditate and power down from the chaos of the connected world."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

is the solar revolution here?

My home's roof has full sun all day long. I fight tooth and nail all summer long to keep my front lawn alive. It also gets full sun. So the rumblings of a possible solar revolution are exciting.

Solar panel companies like Sunnova seem to be leading the way. They offer a leasing option that can save you 30% on electricity.

"Here’s how it works. With no money down, one of Sunnova’s installation contractors will install panels on your roof. Then you will enter into a long-term leasing agreement with Sunnova under which you agree to pay a certain amount for each kWh that the panels generate (usually the same or less than what you can get from other retail electricity providers). The electricity created on your roof displaces much of the electricity that you would otherwise buy from the utility (about 70%). So you save money and have the added reliability of solar on those rare times when the power goes out."

Friday, September 27, 2013

after tiller

A great reminder that life should not be debated via bumper sticker.


The film-makers were recently interviewed by The Dish.