If you're looking for a job, don't blow it with your application letter.

If you are looking for a job, please remember that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. And in a highly competitive field, a negative first impression may eliminate you from further consideration.

As the CEO of a public relations and design company, I receive several job applications and requests for “information interviews” every day from prospective or recent graduates.

You want to get to the interview...From the first word I read, I am assessing the writer as a potential employee. And I am amazed at how poorly most people present themselves in these requests.

No, I’m not talking about the spelling errors (please spell my name correctly), thinking that my first name is Thornley and my last name is Fallis (if you don’t know you are writing to, don’t bother) or just plain bad writing.

I’m talking about the fact that easily half of the information requests and job applications I receive are clearly generic form letters.

Here’s an example of an “information interview “request that I received today:

Dear Mr. Thornley,

Please allow me the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is XX XX and I am currently looking to break into the communications industry in an entry level position and was wondering if I could possibly set up an informational interview with you to learn more about Thornley Fallis and the great work your firm does. I’m a recent graduate of the University of YYYY with a Master’s Degree in Modern Middle Eastern Civilization and International Relations. After graduate school I went on to complete an internship at the ZZZZ Institute. I have previously held roles as a journalist, public relations and media relations representative as well. My resume has been enclosed with this message for you to review my qualifications and I look forward to your correspondence. Have a great day!

Best Regards,


Take out my name and my company’s name and that letter could have been addressed to any potential employer.

Please, if you are going to approach me as a prospective employer, show that you actually took the time to learn something about me and personalize your letter. And no, putting my name in the salutation is not sufficient.

Don’t ask me to meet with you to tell you about my firm. If you simply Googled my name and the company name, you’d get a great profile of me and the people I work with. Show me why you fit with my company by telling me why we interest you and how you think you would fit in. Not generically. With specifics.

Remember, I may review five applications in one day. I probably only have time to interview at most one of those people. If you write a generic letter, you can be sure that someone else will have written a killer letter that talks directly to me. And that person will get the interview.

If you are in Toronto today … read this

Shel HoltzThird Tuesday with Yahoo! Canada’s Hunter Madsen is being held this evening.

And here’s a neat extra treat: blogger and podcaster Shel Holtz is in Toronto today and he will be attending Third Tuesday.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to meet Shel, hop over to the Third Tuesday Social Media Meetup site and register to attend (it’s free.)

Third TuesdayHunter Madsen. Shel Holtz. Meeting with Toronto’s social media community. What better way could there be to spend a Tuesday evening?

WOMBAT 07 – Josh Hallett's got it covered

WOMBAT07I couldn’t make it to this year’s Word of Mouth Basic Training (WOMBAT) conference in New Orleans. But Josh Hallett did and he’s filed a superb series of posts covering the two day long conference.

I’ve been following along during the conference. But there’s so much there, I plan to go back to Josh Hallettthem this weekend and re-read them all the way through. Taken together, they constitute a great overview of current thinking about Word of Mouth and social media.

If you missed Josh’s posts, you can read the entire series which he’s tagged as WOMBAT 07. It will be time well spent.

Thanks for sharing, Josh.

Reality Check: For some things, you've still got to be there

One of the great benefits of social media for me is the way that it has allowed me to extend my networks. I have developed working relationships with people several time zones and thousands of miles away. We rountinely exchange information and collaborate. All without the need to travel or be in the same physical space.

And I spend a lot of time exploring the potential for social media to extend my capabilities even further.

However, Jack and Suzy Welch’s column in the April 16 issue of Business Week (registration required) provided me with a reminder that remote work has a very real limitation in companies and organizations. The Welch’s argue:

“…what you can’t do very well from home is lead. To lead, it’s no good blowing into town for important meetings and showing up at retreats. You have to muddle in the muck in between.”

Out of the officeAs the CEO of a PR and design firm with offices in two cities, I am regularly confronted with a fundamental challenge. How do I manage to stay connected enough with my employees that I can understand them and their state of mind and also convey a sense of the organization’s overall vision, direction and purpose?

At one time, I used to try to make efficient use of my time by scheduling back to back meetings during my visit to the office in the other city. I’d arrive in the morning and have meetings scheduled right until the end of my trip. Lots of material covered. Lots of decisions.

And how did that work out? Some people came to dread my visits to the office. They knew that they’d be dragged away from the things that they wanted to get done in order to participate in one or more meetings with me. They also knew that these meetings would yield even more work as we decided on new initiatives and assigned responsibilities.

Eventually, I realized that while I was physically in the office, I was missing out on what was really going on with the people in the office. The water cooler chatter. The easy going banter about things that people cared about outside of the office. The things that would give me insight into the people I work with and what’s really important to them in their lives. (Remember, most of us work to live. Only a few really live to work.)

So, I changed my routine. I started to spend two days in the office on every trip. I scheduled fewer and shorter meetings. The rest of the time, I set myself up in a spare office and just spent my time working there – just like I would work in my own office in my home city.

Leading by being thereThen I watched my relationship with people begin to change. They saw that I was sitting there with an open door and they started to drop by to chat. Sometimes, it is just small talk or gossip. Other times, they raise work issues that are important to them. They pick the times that are best for them to raise issues with me. Things that I used to schedule in formal meetings began to move off my agenda and instead are raised in one to one meetings on the initiative of the people involved.

On top of this, I had the chance to join the brown bag boardroom lunches. To be part of the general discussion. And to just participate as one of many. A great leveller. A great way to learn more about people.

And that leaves me free to pick and choose the times when it is appropriate to convey information about the vision, direction and priorities that I see for the business. In the context of discussions. When they will make a contribution to moving things forward. With a greater likelihood that people who are already talking about something of importance to them will give me honest feedback. Honest feedback. The oxygen of intelligent decision-making.

So, yes, I try to get a great deal done via social software. But Jack and Suzy Welch are right when they say, “… for anyone who has dreams of leadership in any meaningful way, telecommuting can get you only so far. The road to the top is paved with being there.”

My iRiver died…

Up the iRiverMy iRiver T30 gave up the ghost today. It’s done. Kaput. Not working.

I’d welcome advice on a good replacement for it.

I use it primarily to record voice clips at conferences either through the built in mic or via a feed from a sound system. Size is important. I’m looking for the smallest size I can get so that I can slip it into my pocket. So, I think a 1GB flash drive is what I want. Finally, I want to be able to transfer the files easily via USB to my PC.

Do you know of or use a digital audio recorder that sounds like it will fit my needs? If so, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a comment with any info and recommendation you could offer to me.

Thanks for you help with this.

Stephen Taylor – Political blogging in Canada

Stephen Taylor the co-founder of Canada’s Blogging Tories, gave the Third Monday group an insider’s perspective on political blogging.

Taylor began blogging in January 2004 when the Conservative leadership contest was just getting underway. “I’ve always had my opinions and I needed a better forum. … I thought that blogging might be a good way for a kid to get his views out there.”

In December 2004, he registered the Blogging Tories domain name. He found a few other like-minded Conservative bloggers and they all agreed to aggregate their feeds on bloggingtories.

The other parties – the Liberals and New Democrats – have followed blogging Tories. But Taylor and his friends try to stay ahead. At this point, Taylor believes that the Blogging Tories have a six month lead on the other parties in the way that they use social media.

Have the blogging Tories had a tangible impact on the debate? Taylor offered that “many people see us as all sharing a small c conservative libertarian point of view.” You can be accused of being in an echo chamber if you fall behind the party line all the time. “However, there is both the development of new ideas and debate.”

What’s next? We’re thinking of starting a policy Wiki. However, it would have to be limited to only approved people. It couldn’t be open to hijacking.

Taylor recently clashed with the Parliamentary Press Gallery about his right to conduct an interview in the Rotunda of Parliament. After this episode, Taylor went to the Parliamentary Press Gallery to obtain an application for Gallery membership. He found that the application requires that a member of the Gallery not have any outside partisan or other interests. He notes that several members of the Gallery have taken contracts with other organizations – including the government they are supposed to be covering. He believes that there is a debate that needs to be had about membership in the Gallery. Taylor added that the Liberal Party had offered him full credentials as a blogger to cover the Liberal Leadership convention last December.

Stephen also spoke of his calling out of the CBC’s Christina Lawand’s coverage of a press conference by the Prime Minister. Taylor pointed out that editing of the CBC’s report was misleading and biased against the Prime Minister. After much heated debate, the CBC was forced to “express regret” for the coverage. He believes that this is a positive example of the power of articulate and clear-minded political bloggers to exercise some oversight over the Mainstream Media.

How about anonymous comments in response to blog posts? “Anonymity plus audience may creat the most horrible coniditions for a discussion.” Some political bloggers have shut down comments. Taylor has turned on moderation on his comments. “How do you regulate free speech? It is private property after all? I’ve turned on moderation and tried to find balance. If I see a comment that you’d be uncomfortable seeing the person about whom a comment has been written, I filter it out.” Taylor estimates that he needs to refuse about one in fifty comments on this grounds.

This was a great session with a very smart and genuinely nice person. If Stephen’s objective in doing this event was to put a more moderate and reasonable face on conservatism … Mission Accomplished.

UPDATE: Stephen Taylor has posted his thoughts on the Third Monday discussion about blogging and journalism.

Yahoo's Hunter Madsen will speak at Third Tuesday

Hunter MadsenYahoo!‘s services are close to the heart of every blogger. Flickr, del.icio.us, Upcoming. They provide us with means of finding, publishing and sharing information as we connect to and build our online communities.

And we wonder about their future. What plan does Yahoo! have for their social media services? Will they improve and offer new features that we can use to better connect with our communities? And for some of us, how can Yahoo! help us to generate revenue from our blogging efforts?

On April 24th., we’ll have a chance at Third Tuesday to talk about these and other issues with Hunter Madsen, Yahoo! Canada’s Head of Marketing.

Third TuesdayThis promises to be a good event. So, if you want the latest scoop on what’s happening at Yahoo! and their plans for social media, jump over to the Third Tuesday Meetup site and register to attend the event with Hunter Madsen.

Blogging Tory Stephen Taylor is speaking at Third Monday on April 16

The two StephensWill Prime Minister Stephen Harper call a spring election? Everybody in Ottawa wants the answer to this question. And I’m hoping that the other Stephen – Stephen Taylor – will provide us with the answer when he speaks at Third Monday on April 16.

Stephen is appearing at Third Monday thanks to an invitation from Brendan Hodgson. In his post about this, Brendan said:

through their diligence, dedication, spirited writing, willingness to question, and no-holds-barred discourse, a few bloggers have risen to the fore as powerful players in their own right. In Canada, Stephen Taylor is one of those.

As co-founder of the Blogging Tories, Stephen is arguably one of the more influential voices in Canadian politics, and a welcome guest for our next Third Monday, on April 16, 2007.

Third MondayWe’ve been having great conversations at Third Monday this year. So if you are planning to be in the National Capital Region on Monday, come join us on April 16 to hear from leading political blogger Stephen Taylor and to discuss the impact of social media on politics in Canada.

Get the full details and register to attend at the Third Monday meetup site.