5 Pointers for Out-of-Work Direct Marketers (or ones who just want to hedge their bets)

Note from Jim: Originally published in All About ROI Magazine (formerly Catalog Success) Filling my virtual shoes this week while I’m on vacation is Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, and author of the Direct Marketing Employment Outlook Survey.

For those of you actively looking for employment, let me offer a few things you can do to help you get that extra edge. This may not all be new to you, but these key points are worth repeating.

1. Make sure your resume screams, “I can add value!” I still see way too many resumes that are long on titles and descriptions, but short on specific accomplishments and achievements. That always amazes me. Metrics are an integral part of the direct marketing process, yet many marketers’ resumes often neglect to include what really matters most — quantifiable results. If you don’t brag on your resume, no one else is going to do it for you.

Be very specific, quantify where possible and use some choice action verbs to describe what you achieved. Companies have already taken steps to slash costs, so think more about what you’ve done to contribute to revenue growth, such as acquiring and keeping new customers; new products; new market segments; how you’ve helped improve recency, frequency and monetary value; and so on. Don’t forget to make your resume keyword-friendly. Use terms that are specific to your job or career objectives, and use them often.

2. Network more, visit job sites less. In the Spring ’09 Bernhart Associates Employment Survey, we asked employers to identify their biggest source of new hires. Surprisingly, it wasn’t internet job boards or career sections on company websites. It was referrals from employees, former employees, vendors and partners. In fact, referrals beat out job-posting websites two-to-one. If you’re spending most of your time on job sites, you need to start shifting that to your network.

If you’ve already exhausted your network, add to it. Think of all the vendors your past employers have had relationships with. Reach out to them. Even vendors have vendors. Many of my best clients are companies I first contacted out of the blue. I didn’t wait for a job posting to appear. Of course, you have to do your homework, and company websites have never made that job easier.

3. For individual contributor positions, play up your strength in project management. Companies that are hiring right now have a much greater need for Indians than chiefs. They still have campaigns to get out the door, with sometimes very limited resources. It seems all employers I talk to tell me how they want people who can “roll up their sleeves” and be “hands on.” So be prepared to talk about the successful projects you’ve managed, and how you delivered them on time and within budget.

4. Get references and put them on LinkedIn. I really like it when a candidate I don’t know says he has references I can check right now, and they’re on his LinkedIn profile. Sure, you won’t find any bad references up there, but I look for common characteristics. If everyone talks about someone’s keen team-building skills, then you can pretty much bank on the fact that this person is a good team builder. That’s good stuff to know if you’re an employer with a job to fill that requires strong team-building skills.

5. Get better at interviewing. Sometimes it’s not the best candidate who gets the job, but rather the one who has the best interviewing skills. Many have the mistaken notion that interviews, by their nature, are very one-sided: The employer asks questions, you provide answers. That’s part of it, but there are certain things you need to get across about yourself — your skills and accomplishments — and you have to be able to do it in a finite period of time. Check my company’s website under “Search Tips” for a few pointers.

Jerry Bernhart is president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, an Owatonna, Minn.-basedmultichannel direct marketing recruiting firm. He can be reached at jerry@bernhart.com.

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