It's Come to Billboards

posted Jun 1, 2012, 11:00 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jun 1, 2012, 11:00 AM ]
So it’s come to this.

In April, an unemployed Minnesota-based 22-year-old took arisky step toward finding work. Like many of us on the other side of a steady paycheck, the standard job seeking procedures of sending out a resume, getting a call, coming in for an interview and either getting hired or moving on to the next lead are failing.

So Bennett Olson bought an ad on a digital billboard with his picture to the left, the URL to his website to the lower right and the words “HIRE ME” featured prominently.

These are tenuous times for people looking for work. Just about every industry is shrinking. Companies are doing more with less in order to protect their bottom lines, maximize their profits and continue to pay astronomical salaries to their top-level executives.

We’re in an impossible vortex where the workforce is only qualified for a certain type of work, which unfortunately isn’t in the growth industries. Meanwhile, those growth industries are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill a growing number of available positions.

So an already competitive job market is made even more competitive – and the employers are taking full advantage of it.

An employer’s market is dangerous. Not only can they undercut salary offers of prospective employees, but they can ask (translation: require) their current employees to take salary cuts, take on more work or do both in order to keep their jobs. More often than not, they’re successful at this because they prey on the fear of those who are out of work or can’t afford to be out of work.

“You should be happy to have a job”, they say.

And if that’s not enough for those people, they can easily be replaced because there are hundreds of understandably desperate people ready, willing and available to do that job -- on the employer’s terms.

But if an employer has such disregard for their employees and if it’s so simple for an employer to just bring in the next person, then why do they make the selection process more difficult than choosing a Pope?

Because they can. And because they’re also trying to figure out how long they can go without re-filling the position. Perhaps they’ll find they won’t need to. That saves the company even more money on salary and benefits – which will go to a high-ranking executive who’ll be bonused for it.

Fortunately for those employers, the standards of service continue to deteriorate so it doesn’t matter if things fall through the cracks or if customers are dissatisfied – they’ve increased their profits for the fifth consecutive quarter.  

Olson’s $300 risk/investment for a digital ad playing intermittently over a 24-hour period worked out well for him. In May, he landeda job with a 3D scanning company as a sales and marketing associate.

I’m very glad for Bennett but I have to wonder if this isn’t indicative of a new methodology for landing work? I’m not suggesting we all buy a billboard but it does tell me that “marketing oneself” stretches beyond the interviews and the resume. We as prospective employees are now a brand. We’re a product. With “Terrence Moss Presents” as the title of my blog and “A Terrence Moss Enterprise” as the name of my website, I clearly see myself as one.

Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. Websites. It’s not just about a resume on Monster and Career Builder (I have friends who work for both.) But while I believe I got my last job through a recruiter who found my resume on one of those sites, I rarely get a call from either and those that do come in are for sales positions that I am 1000% not a match for my skill set or my interest level.

I hate resumes. Those random calls for sales positions are based on the ONE actual sales position I had for two years that ended SIX years ago. Since then, it’s been the dreaded client service and the new love of my life, writing. Save for reflecting work history, my resume is pointless. It’s a poor representation of me as a candidate and an even poorer indication of my ability to fit in with an organization in the first place to do the applied for job in the second place. My resume is no way to show a prospective employer whatever it is they are looking for, which is why I’m getting calls for sales positions. Either way, no one is reading it with a desire to simply fill a position rather than any level of actual interest in what I have to offer.

In this day and age, a resume is just for show because anti-discrimination hiring laws all but require them. I no longer wish to send any out. I’d much rather send out inquiries with samples of my work and a link to my website. That will tell any prospective employer more about my abilities than a resume with typical action words like “compiled” or “reviewed” or “represented” or “handled” or “managed” and formats that change with every graduating class.

I’d like to start using the resume as my litmus test for determining whether or not a company is going to be a great fit for ME or not. As a writer, what the hell does a prospective employer need my resume for? That’s why I have a WEBSITE. The work is right there! Now if they need a work history, we can talk about that in the interview but do they REALLY need to know what I did at each of the last three ad agencies I worked for? What I did for them won’t have a thing to do with my work as a writer.

What they need to do is log onto to see what I do and what I’m about. If you like it, great. If not, then God be with you.

Perhaps this is the new way to go. Billboard, print ads, business cards and postcards that direct you to websites, Facebook accounts and Linked In accounts. Here’s where they will find all the pertinent information for determining whether a candidate is worth bringing in for an interview. Why still use a resume when a) they aren’t going to read them and b) they don’t want to read them?

The old way of finding a job no longer works. You can’t go in to drop off a resume and be taken seriously. You’ll just be directed to the website for the application procedures. You can’t call because hey don’t want to hear from you. Emails get ignored. And it doesn’t matter if you have an “in”. The “in” is just trying to stay “in” themselves. Even if you have an “in”, the same factors are still at play over which there is no control because they have little or nothing to do with experience or abilities.

It’s becoming akin to being an actor. It’s a crapshoot. It’s all a crapshoot. I don’t know if Bennett actually thought his billboard idea would work. While I found it to be a great idea and am happy that it worked out for him, it indicates to me that there is something terribly wrong with a system where the unemployed have to buy a billboard ad to get the attention of prospective employers.

Be persistent, is what the conventional wisdom says. But the prevailing wisdom is that persistence is annoying. My wisdom is that if I need to be persistent, then they weren’t all the interested in me in the first place. Or they didn’t see my resume in the second place. Or it didn’t stand out to them in the third place. Either way, they don’t want me to come in, they don’t want me to call and they don’t want me to send them an email.

It may not take a billboard to stand out and be noticed, but it does take marketing. It’s always taken some form of marketing, but now it takes ACTUAL marketing. When I am out and about discussing my latest article, that’s marketing. When I hand out a business card (and I still believe in business cards – it’s not just about Linked In and Facebook), that’s marketing. When I post articles to my website and link it to Facebook, Linked In, Google Plus, Twitter, Stage 32, The Whole 9 and to my blog (the precursor to this site), that’s marketing.

Each article I write for my website or for other websites counts as part of the job search as far as I’m concerned. Of course, I send out the occasional resume because that’s what most people are still looking for. I don’t like it, but if a job is of interest to me, I’ll do it. But I’m of the mindset that EVERYTHING I do and EVERYWHERE I go is potential for a job.

And when I say JOB, I mean CAREER.

So while Bennett found his way via a billboard, mine right now is a website. And a blog. And business cards.

At some point, one of them has to work because I hate being wrong about things.