When you’re looking for work, you should always play it safe. Dress conservatively. Speak professionally. Behave within the norms. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so don’t take risks.
Wrong wrong wrong.
After Corey and I had our lunch where it was pretty much decided that, although he didn’t want to leave, his burgeoning real estate business was making it so, I set out to find a new business manager. But this time, instead of placing your run-of-the-mill ad like this:
“Wanted: Administrative Assistant. Must be able to work independently. Work includes filing, dealing with client inquiries…etc etc etc”
I decided to FORTE it up and write an ad that sounded, well, like “us.” It included stuff they had to do, but it also included things like:
Why you’ll get hired:
• You write, speak and sound intelligent.
• You can handle 3 million emails a day from me, because that’s how my brain works.
• You’ve got your crap together and you can manage all the things we throw at you.
• You look and act like a professional.
• You can work on your own but obey my commands when needed.
• You aren’t a psychopath.
• You’re funny, and can handle us throwing around some “F” bombs.
• You own a computer and can use it.
• You think what we do is interesting.
• We like you.
I ended the ad with:
“I will call the people I find interesting/qualified, and then you’ll have to come in and face the three of us. I can’t respond to all applicants, but I sometimes want to when you misspell my name, put “dear Hiring Manager” in the letter or don’t follow instructions. (But even then it would only be because I wanted to yell at you for wasting my time.)
And that’s when things got interesting. I received over 75 applications, and over HALF of them didn’t follow the directions in the ad. Of the remaining half only 12 were interesting enough to call, and out of the 12 calls only 4 people were invited to an interview.
Now, perhaps you think I called the 4 most qualified candidates, but you’d be wrong. Look, being an admin assistant/business manager doesn’t take rocket science. We were looking for someone with personality, who was funny, and could hold their own. And so if you “played it safe” when applying for this job, I didn’t even give you a second glance.
It started with the subject line of the email. Most said, “in response to your Craigslist ad.” BO-ring.
“To whom the ‘F’ it May Concern,”
“Is it me your looking for?”
And, “Dear Hiring Manager ”
The last one was Lex, who we ended up hiring. And the first line of her cover letter?
“Haha just kidding (risky, you already want to either punch me or read on…)”
Guess what I wanted to do? Read on.
Risky? Yes. But it got her the job.
Here’s the thing: life is too short to play it safe. You’ve got to put it out there and let the chips fall where they may. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take risks. I hired my first admin before I knew I could actually afford her, I got my office before I could afford one, and hello, I named my newsletter “The ‘F’ Word.” (Corey almost had a heart attack when I first suggested that one.) But you know what? I’d rather have 100 dedicated fans (you know who you are) than 1000 people who could care less. And so, when I was looking for a new business manager, I was looking for someone who was also willing to take a risk.
Might you not get the job if you communicate who you really are? Perhaps. But maybe it isn’t the job for you. Authenticity is never wrong. Lex wore Doc Martens to her interview and she still got hired.
We’re taking her shoe shopping ASAP, but you get the jist.