The Apprentice's Carolyn Kepcher describes how to become the ideal job candidate, from her book, Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from The Apprentice's Straight Shooter.
Put yourself in the place of the contestants on The Apprentice. I can't tell you how many letters and e-mails I get asking, "How can I get hired by The Trump Organization?" It isn't easy, but I will be happy to give you some tips on what I think makes a good potential hiree. Let's begin our seminar on the hiring process from the beginning.
Every new hire is a stab in the dark based on a remarkably slim body of evidence: an application, a résumé, a reference, an interview, most of which take only minutes, if not seconds, of our time. Unlike in the world of The Apprentice, in my office I don't have thirteen weeks in which to make up my mind about you. I will expend whole minutes -- as opposed to seconds -- only on candidates who, based on a good first impression and strong credentials, seem capable of making it through the first round.
How do you get me to spend more than five seconds on your application? It's so easy for me to reject you. You have to make it hard for me to reject you.
Getting a job is a job unto itself.
Like any other job, you have to attack this problem -- your lack of a job -- with verve, tenacity, and imagination. The most important thing is to think before sending out those cover letters and résumés to everyone under the sun who might hire you. You need to do your homework on the subject of yourself, then do your homework on the needs of a prospective employer. You need to make a strong, logical case not that you need us but that we need you. That is where the salesman part comes in. You need to sell me on you. Every product has a USP (unique selling proposition). What's yours?
Convince me that I need you.
What am I looking for in an employee? Someone to make my life simpler. As a manager operating under continual pressure to perform, I am burdened by people who make my life complicated, and this is one way you can make my job less complicated. I want someone with whom I feel comfortable delegating the decisions that I would make if I had the time. As my prospective employee, start thinking as if you are already my employee.
To get the job, act as if you already work here.
Once again, put yourself in my shoes. I'd like to get this process over as quickly as possible and get back to work. What would be easier for me than if you give me a great cover letter, a great résumé, a great interview, and I hire you, you do a great job, and you get promoted? Help me make this difficult decision about hiring you. Make yourself into a slam dunk.
The best way to do that is to walk into my office for the interview with self-confidence and pride, as if there is not a doubt in your mind that you can do this job. This is not about being arrogant or cocky. That sort of thing doesn't work here after you're hired, much less before. I mean you need to convey a sense of quiet competence. Show me that you are utterly prepared, if I do hire you, to walk in here and, from day one, start delivering the goods.
Résumé, Cover Letter, and Pre-interview Don'ts
- Try to interview my secretary if you want the job. This prohibition includes:
- Calling my secretary and asking, "Could you describe the job to me?"
- Asking her on the phone, before coming in, "What's the pay?" (If we didn't put it in the ad, there was a reason.)
- Saying to my secretary, "Well, I want to see if it's worth my time making the trip down." My response always will be: "Don't waste my time."
- Spell my name or get my title wrong on your cover letter. Take the time to get all the details correct. If I note a misspelling on your cover letter or résumé, it goes in the garbage. If you get my title wrong, it's in the garbage. I made that mistake once myself, early on, and you know what? The only reason my résumé and cover letter didn't end up in the garbage was that they were miraculously intercepted by a friend who happened to work at the company and I was able to resend my package without anyone being the wiser. Don't count on miracles. Use the spell-checker. And confirm your facts.
- Apply for a position for which you have zero experience. The impression I'm going to get is that you sent your résumé out indiscriminately, and that you've got a scattershot approach to life, which I don't need in an employee.
- Apply for a position with me when you've had five jobs in six years. If you come in with two jobs in five or six years, and one is a promotion to the other, that's more like it. If you've got a great résumé that says you recently started a new job, I don't want you either.
- Call me repeatedly if you've sent in your résumé and cover letter and I don't call you. I committed this mistake once, and I still cringe at the thought. Just after graduating from college, before I knew better, I repeatedly called a club in Tarrytown that didn't respond to my résumé or my calls. Take my word for it: If they don't call you, calling them won't help. It's just like dating. The rules never change.
- Start out your cover letter "I'm the person for you." Or, my personal favorite, "I know what you're looking for." Also on my blacklist are the following: "I know what Donald Trump is looking for, and I'm that person." Remember, you're interviewing with me, not Mr. Trump.
- Send a cover letter that looks as if you've just filled in the blanks on a word-processing template. Show a little more imagination.
- State in your cover letter, "I want this job because -- " A better way to put the same thing is to stress "What I can do for you."
Now a few résumé and cover letter dos.
Résumé, Cover Letter, and Pre-interview Dos
- Write a short cover letter, even for a major position. Don't give me a four-page essay on who you are and why you want the job. Put yourself in my shoes. I'm looking for someone who knows how to be succinct, how to take a complex idea and render it into a few well-thought-out bullet points. I'm looking for someone to take some of the work off my back. So why not start now?
- Tell me, in a few short sentences, what you've done, where you've done it, why you think that what you've done is relevant to the present position. I need you to give me the material to make a case for you. "I've been in the sales force doing marketing research for Company ABC, and I can utilize my skills to -- " is a fine way to begin.
- Show me you know my company and the job you're applying for. I want you to say specifically, "I understand you're hiring for the director of sales and marketing. I think that my experience makes me the right person for the job."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carolyn Kepcher, author of (Copyright © 2004 by Carolyn Kepcher), is an Executive Vice President with The Trump Organization and the COO of Trump National Golf Clubs in New York and New Jersey. She has worked for The Trump Organization for nearly ten years and costars with her boss, Donald Trump, on the hit reality television series Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from The Apprentice's Straight ShooterThe Apprentice. She lives with her husband and two children in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
- Buy the Book Carolyn 101: Business Lessons from The Apprentice's Straight Shooter
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