Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Find a Genius

Business has been great this year. So great, indeed, that I discovered I was in desperate need of a little help.

About a month ago I ran an advertisement seeking an Administrative Genius. I was immediately impressed by both the quantity and quality of the applicants. In less than 48 hours I heard from 40 people. One person wrote such a compelling cover letter that I had to call her right away. Six others also delivered exceptional cover letters and targeted resumes. I identified an additional four as "maybe's" for a possible second round of interviews. Five others I offered to refer to people in my network who were also seeking assistance. And twenty-four did not present well enough to merit further action.

There may have been some gems in those 24, but they never made it past the first cut. In case anyone is interested, here's how I narrowed the field:

  • Anyone who responded in less than 7 seconds (I'm exaggerating only slightly) did not hear from me. How could they possibly have diligently researched me, my company, and the position offered in such a short period of time?
  • Grammar, spelling, and formatting errors don't cut it - especially when the specific purpose of the position is to make an employer look good! One person told me they were "consciencious". (If you think about it a bit, it may have been a good idea to spell-check that word!)
  • I included a simple test in the offering: "Apply to with subject line: "Administrative Genius"". Missing this seemingly minor point is a good way to have your resume end up in the wrong file and demonstrates a lack of attention to detail or inability to follow simple instructions. (And, in my mind at least, a "Genuis" is significantly different than a "Genius".)
  • Templated Cover letters and non-specific resumes don't get far either. They sort of imply a lack of self-esteem.
  • Applicants get no extra points for cover letters or resumes that open with "What I want is... blah, blah, blah". No employer on earth cares about what you want until they have at least a faint idea that you might be suitable for what they want. If the employer is paying for the ad and your salary, try starting with helping them solve their problem. If you're successful, they will be more than delighted to give you what you want.
  • Finally, and somewhat curiously, not one applicant used any tool beyond a cover letter and resume to attract attention. For example, part of the posted job description listed management of Social Media. Doesn't anyone have a Facebook or Twitter account they'd want me to see?
I did have the pleasure of interviewing half a dozen very impressive individuals. For the most part, these people made flawless presentations, and were secure enough to take some chances by revealing a personality, rather than false professionalism.

Generally, I learned that one of the main attractors about my ad was that I described the position as one that would allow work from home and in the field, as well as flexible hours. In some cases, the candidate discovered through the interview process that there are trade-offs to this kind of freedom, and that perhaps they really were more suited to a little more structure.

Admittedly, I wasn't entirely certain of what I hoped to find. It is very difficult to describe an ideal position, and then seek to find the perfect person to fit that ideal. It is far more reasonable to find a good person and craft a position around them.

To all forty people who honoured me by responding to my advertisement: Thank-you! It takes great courage to put yourself out there. I know that there are many amongst you I would love to have met. I hope the comments above may in some small way help in your search. To those I met: a special thank-you. My inability to offer you a position at this time reflects more on my needs than your qualifications.

For my part, there is a happy ending. For the past eight months, I've had breakfast almost every Thursday morning with a group of people I've come to know and respect. A chance conversation with one of these people revealed an astonishingly good fit. On Monday, I met with my friend Blaine to begin planning how we could work together. I may introduce him more fully in a future post.

And that is how you find a Genius - look long and hard, but don't forget to look right in front of your nose!


  1. Very exciting! Glad to hear that you found someone right under your nose to help you out

  2. Some helpful tips in there! Thank you.