Interview questions made easy

There are only three real job interview questions:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?
     That’s it. Just learn to answer these, and you’re good.
     In a recent Forbes article, George Bradt shows that all other interview questions are just a derivative of one of these three key questions.
     Another way to look at the three questions is to think about it this way:
1. Do you have the right strengths?
2. Are you motivated for this job?
3. Will you fit in here?
     Learn how to answer these three questions (either set), and you will do well in any interview.  Make sure your resume and cover letter addresses these three questions, and you’ll be invited to more interviews.  Good luck!

Should You Write A Resume?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that said more firms are bypassing the requirement of a resume for new applicants.

Some outtakes from the article:  
     A résumé doesn’t provide much depth about a candidate, says Christina Cacioppo, an associate at Union Square Ventures who blogs about the hiring process on the company’s website and was herself hired after she compiled a profile comprising her personal blog, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, and links to social-media sites Delicious and Dopplr, which showed places where she had traveled.
     “We are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think,” she says.
     John Fischer, founder and owner of StickerGiant.com, a Hygiene, Colo., company that makes bumper and marketing stickers, says a résumé isn’t the best way to determine whether a potential employee will be a good social fit for the company. Instead, his firm uses an online survey to help screen applicants.
     At most companies, résumés are still the first step of the recruiting process, even at supposedly nontraditional places like Google Inc., which hired about 7,000 people in 2011, after receiving some two million résumés. Google has an army of “hundreds” of recruiters who actually read every one, says Todd Carlisle, the technology firm’s director of staffing. But Dr. Carlisle says he reads résumés in an unusual way: from the bottom up.
     Candidates’ early work experience, hobbies, extracurricular activities or nonprofit involvement—such as painting houses to pay for college or touring with a punk rock band through Europe—often provide insight into how well an applicant would fit into the company culture, Dr. Carlisle says.
     Plus, “It’s the first sample of work we have of yours,” he says.
That’s OK, but resumes are still important
Call me traditional, but writing a great resume is still a smart idea. The writing process will refine the job candidate’s thinking and his/her presentation of the material:  focus on the highlights and accomplishments, keep it concise, use action verbs, etc. To see more of my thoughts on resumes, see this article.

The Power of an Artful Pitch

On day as we both pushed our young daughters on the swings in a neighborhook park, Raymond McKinney (a CD at The Martin Agency) told me “Good work that is presented like shit… is shit.” Luckily our daughters were both too young to pick up on the colorful language that gave flavor to that GREAT advice. I often recall those wise words, and I usually flip the quote around 180 degrees. It then takes on a little different meaning:  “Any work that is presented real well… is better work.”

Learn how to present work from the master, Peter Coughter.

Getting people to buy an idea takes two important things:  1) a good idea, and 2) a good presentation. Too often we focus so much on the idea an how the idea looks, that we forget to make sure the work is presented well.

One of the best presenters in the ad business is Peter Coughter, a colleague of mine at VCU. For years he has been inspiring young minds on the art of the presentation in his class called “Persuasion” (MASC-664) at the VCU Brandcenter.

I have never sat in on his classes, but it’s been a wish of mine for years. His work is that good. In January we’re all going to get the opportunity to learn from this master. Buy his book now, and it will make all of your work a lot better.

“The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business”

by Peter Coughter

Release date:  January 3, 2012

VCU Basketball Will Do Remarkable Things Off The Court.

The success of the VCU basketball team has inspired the university.

The success of the VCU basketball team is growing the VCU brand in all areas. This phenomenon is exactly what Seth Godin talks about in his book “Purple Cow.”  Godin says to be successful, a brand must be remarkable. How does “Purple Cow” connect with VCU and the basketball team?

Joey Rodriguez celebrates victory over Kansas. Photo of Richmond Times-Dispatch on 03/28/2011

For those not familiar with VCU, it’s a big university with big university accomplishments and with a community college brand. The alumni are minimally active. The students wear t-shirts and hoodies from other colleges more often than VCU t-shirts and hoodies. But, this week VCU students are wearing yellow and black like never before. And I bet the VCU development directors (fundraisers) are having crazy success.

Shaka Smart (VCU head coach) and the basketball team finally has captured the imagination of the nation. The black-and-yellow VCU Rams are a purple cow. The basketball team is remarkable – something to talk about.

The basketball team is giving VCU a national reputation. In turn… The team is finding jobs for alumni who are out of work. The team is increasing the number of admission applications next year. The team is hiring more faculty. The team is providing more scholarships. The team is funding more research. Purple cows inspire amazing things.

Can the VCU basketball team create a VCU football team?

The success of the VCU basketball team has added more fuel to the argument in favor of a VCU football team. A remarkable basketball team does not mean a remarkable football team. The buzz created by the basketball team comes from their success in the NCAA Tournament. If the university was going to invest in a football team to the extent that the team would be remarkable — competitive at the national level (like Virginia Tech, Florida State, Texas, and Michigan) — then it makes sense to talk about VCU football in the same conversation with VCU basketball (this year).

Unfortunately, VCU will not invest the $50 million – $100 million needed to have a nationally ranked football program. And so the VCU football team will not be remarkable (like VCU basketball this year). While there are many good reasons why VCU should have a football team, using the success of the VCU basketball team to argue for a football team is not a rational argument. However, rational thinking is not why people do things. People (including university officials) do things for emotional reasons. The basketball team has inspired everyone associated with VCU. And so those in favor of bringing football to VCU should capitalize on the moment. Now’s the time to make an all-out blitz to push for Rams football.

Football isn’t the best investment for VCU right now. A smarter investment is put more money into getting the basketball team back into the Final Four. Invest in coaching, facilities, and recruiting for the basketball team. It’s a lot less than starting a football program, and it will be more purple (as in the cow).

Learn more about purple cows in this wonderful TED Talk.

Go Rams.

The Best and Most-Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

The Chrysler spot with Eminem was my favorite. The long-format spot does a fantastic job of making Chrysler relevant again — something that hasn’t happened in years (or even decades). I also like how the ad is focused on something bigger than Chrysler. The ad makes Detroit look cool. The spot is beautiful, it’s forward thinking, and it’s cool. The music inspires thinking of what’s next (rather than what was). Eminem’s only line wasn’t as strong as it should have been:  “This is the motor city. And this is what we do.” Since this line appears at the end of the spot, it feels like Eminem is saying that “what we do is… fade to black.”

The music builds to what feels like the next movement will be bigger and stronger. Maybe that’s the feeling that Eminem’s line is supposed to do, too. The spot is emotional, the spot is fresh and current, and the spot transform Chrysler (and Detroit) into something to be proud of.

The ad had me wanting to see more. Bravo, Chrysler!

Super Bowl Commercials: Analyzed

This will be an analysis of the commercials as they air during Super Bowl XLV…

The first ad I saw this year was the Doritos spot when the people like to eat the crumbs. This tries to be funny, but doesn’t really do it. And it kinda creeped me out a little.

Great ads happen during the Super Bowl. This year I'm going to watch them as they're shown during the game. These are my initial reactions. Share your reactions!

The Chevy Cruz spot with the old folks was trying to be funny, but wasn’t. It reminded me of those old-time ads when the writers tried to repeat the name of the brand 12 times in 30 seconds.

Bud Light came in with a great spot with the product-placement movie scene. Not the greatest Bud ad ever, but a good story that connected nicely with the brand.

It’s always good to connect with culture. Chevy Truck created a great spot with a spot that connects with Lassie. The truck is the hero that helps in many different situations like when a little boy falls down a well. Bravo, Chevy!

So far there have been two Pepsi Max spots. Both try to be funny, but the aren’t really nailing it.

Doritos is running a lot of spots so far in the game. They did a great job with the commercial in which a guy uses Doritos to bring things back to life. It ends with a grandfather coming back to life – really funny. I’m not sure what it strategically says about Doritos (they add life to anything?), but it’s a funny spot.

Kia produced a great epic commercial for Optima. It was a big production in a 60 second spot to make a big splash. It’s a great way to position Optima as a car to be proud of. Nice job, Kia.

Brisk ran an animated spot with Eminem. the animation was cool, but the story and the message were weak.

Everyone fears sending an email as “reply all” when you’re intending to send the note to only one person. Bridgestone creates a great ad that connects with this phenomenon. the brand fits nicely into the story. Bravo!

Chevy Volt ran a spot around the theme of “great moments in history,” and they presented the introduction of the Volt as a great moment. They presented the story very well. Great spot.

Go Daddy’s commercials have always been focused on sex. They have been predictable, and they have been getting old. This year Go Daddy made fun of themselves by casting Joan Rivers as the newest Go Daddy girl. Unexpected, and it shows that Go Daddy has a personality (other than that of a sex-craved 16-year-old boy). Bravo Go Daddy.

Bud nailed it with the Tiny Dancer spot. It was a huge production, it was funny, and it had talk value. I’d already like to see that one again.

Teleflora had the recipe for a good Super Bowl commercial. They cast Faith Hill. They made it unexpected. They went for funny. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well written, it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t good.

The Transformers (the movie) spot was a wonderful huge production. I’d like to see that movie just for the production values.

BMW presented an epic-type story around their plant in Spartansburg, SC. BMW needs to watch the earlier spots from Kia Optima and Chevy Volt. It’s not often that BMW is schooled by the likes of Chevy and Kia, but tonight it happened.

Motorola did a great job of positioning Xoom against the iPad (from Apple). This spot was similar to the great 1984 Apple spot which positioned little Apple against the huge IBM. Great job, Xoom.

The diesel BMW spot redeemed the brand from the weak ad earlier in the game. The diesel commercial reminded me of the award-winning “Hate Something” ad from Honda (aired only in Europe).

Coke is expected to do great things during the Super Bowl, and they lived up to their reputation. The huge epic animated spot was fantastic. Right on target strategically (it really hit on the essence of the brand). Bravo, Coke!

A little boy dressed up like Darth Vader is a funny idea by itself. VW used this set up as the baseline for a cute story for their Passat. I can se moms all over the country wanting to drive a Passat based on this nice spot.

Snicker dusted off their successful concept from years past:  “You not yourself when you’re hungry.”  I still love watching those old spots with Betty White, Liza Manelli, and Aretha Franklin, et al. And this year’s story was equally as funny. Selfishly, I’d like to see a new concept or a more-fresh spin on the old idea. But, this was good.

CareerBuilder.com has made some smart (and funny) spots in previous years. This year they used the monkeys again, but gave it a totally fresh spin. Not as funny, but it carried a strong message.

Chevy Cruze makes it easy to update your Facebook status from your car. This spot starts off as an interesting story. Unfortunately when the writers forced the brand into the story, they screwed it up. Lame-o.

For the last few years, Carmax has had very weak TV spots. I think most of them (if not all of them) have been made inhouse. Carmax has a relationship with a new agency (I think it’s Gotham), and the fresh thinking is really good. Carmax finally has a commercial worth running on TV… and this one is worth running no the Super Bowl. Good job.

The second half began with a rarity:  a commercial from Mini Cooper. And it was real nice. Mini was showing the storage space of the trunk (or boot) of the Mini Wagon. The fake TV game show called “Cram It In The Boot” is real funny. An dit does a great job of showing the audience that the Mini Wagon has a big boot (or trunk).

During the first half of the game, CarMax presented a fresh, smart spot. Something happened in the locker room for CarMax. This spot, focused on customer service, is lame, not funny, and lame (repetition intended).

Eminem appeared in the first half in an animated spot for Brisk Tea. He appears in this year’s Super Bowl again – this time for Chrysler. In this long-format spot, Chrysler does a fantastic job of making the brand relevant again. The spot does something that hasn’t happened in years (or even decades). It makes Detroit look cool. Bravo, Chrysler!

Pepsi Max began the fourth quarter with another fairly weak spot. It used sex to try to make the commercial funny, but it was just an indifferent ad. In the Super Bowl, I expect more from Pepsi.

Bridgestone presented a cute story with a beaver. The commercial didn’t seem to really highlight the brand as much as the cool beaver.

In the first half, CarMax presented a good commercial, and they presented a dud in the second half of the game. Go Daddy did the same thing. The second-half spot reverted to the silly sexual titillation of previous years. Weak.

VW used the adventure of an insect to captivate and to maintain the audience’s attention during this new spot where a bug is running around everywhere. The commercial is a teaser to introduce a new model of the VW Beetle. I don’t agree with the strategy of not showing the new car in the spot. Since the Super Bowl is the biggest stage, it seems like the Super Bowl is the best place to debut the car. Maybe they have something bigger planned. I hope so.

A fun and interesting story is used to present Chevy Camero. The often-used idea of an ad inside an ad is a bad idea, but this time it was fresh. There were great images of the car. The story had many fresh turns throughout the spot. And the ending was unexpected and good. Bravo!

The Fox TV show called House had a couple of great spots during the Super Bowl. They recreated the famous Mean Joe Green Coke commercial from the 1979 Super Bowl. It was funny, smart, and right on the House brand.

Whew!  The packers just won. I can finally visit the rest room!

Because of Super Bowl parties, I have not been able to watch the commercials during the Super Bowl for the last few years. There were no parties for me this year, so I planned to watch the commercials and to comment on them as they were run. To ensure fresh eyes on the spots, I made an effort to not see the spots before the game. This year there seemed to be a lot of Super Bowl ads released (either online or on TV) before the big game.

Side note:  This evening was also my father-in-law’s birthday dinner. We planned to eat and get home before the game, but it didn’t work out that well. I missed the first few minutes of the game. Maybe next year I can see all of the ads.

What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?  To see all of the great spots, visit AdAge.com.

Resume for an entry-level ad job

Q:  I don’t have any relevant work experience. On my resume could I list some of the courses I took at VCU if they are relevant to the job?

A:  Relevant work experience is a valuable thing to have.  However, think about it deeper.  Think about the people you know who do their job well.  Did your best teachers have the most teaching experience? Do the best mothers and fathers have several kids before they become good parents?  Are the best 7-11 cashiers the ones that have been cashiers for many years?  In my experience, the people who do their job well have the passion to be good, the creativity to solve problems, and the ability to think on their own.
Change your definition of “relevant work experience.”  An employer wants to see that you are relevant to them.  There are many ways to show that you are relevant: from school projects, from work experiences, from pastimes you’ve enjoyed, from your philosophies, from your passions, and from any stuff you’ve done.  Many jobs (including all types of communications and marketing) need people who are passionate, creative, connected, problem solvers, smart, and willing to work hard. When you demonstrate that you have these qualities, you will have the attention of any employer.
Another important point is that ALL experience is relevant experience.  How you approach your school work is probably similar to how you’ll approach all types of work.
One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'” 

The Passion of Beethoven

When you write your resume, show the passion that Beethoven showed when he wrote his music.

If I was looking to hire someone (for any job), I would seriously consider hiring a street sweeper who approached his/her job like Michelangelo approached his work. This is especially true for any entry-level position.
Sure it’s nice to have relevant work experience (in the traditional sense). Fortunately, you can have a strong job application (and/or resume and cover letter) without any relevant work experience.  You have the ability to apply for many, many jobs with which you have no direct work experience (in the sense of doing that job before).