As CMOs develop increasingly sophisticated views about the value of marketing content, it seems the media—which forward-thinking marketers started out trying to emulate—are rapidly dumbing down their own content.
I no longer doubt that marketers can take over the world of legitimate publishing if they continue to focus on substance over fluff. But you’ll never pull this off if you fall for the drivel that passes for career content when you’re trying to move up—because wordy, worthless career content could cost you your next job.
The career advice trade has so little to offer any more that it resorts to longer and longer lists of any silly tips it can muster. (We used to call these sales letters, and the longer the better.)
Please consider the standards you have established for your company’s marketing content, then judge the career advice you read accordingly. The best I can make out is that this stuff is intended to distract you from the serious business of bringing profitable ideas to job interviews—because career columnists know nothing about that.
Exhibit 1: Liz Ryan’s 1,900-word dissertation on LinkedIn (she’s an “Influencer”) about why it’s OK, after all, to use the word “I” in your “human-voiced resume.” I won’t bother critiquing Ryan’s “10 Resume Mojo Boosters Most People Miss” because there is no need for her article.
Managers spend an average of about 30 seconds looking at your resume. (I can explain this in just 141 words: “Tear Your Resume In Half,” net savings of over 1,700 words.)
You should spend as little time as possible on your resume because resumes are no way to get a job interview. In the time it takes you to read 10 tips, you could make a phone call and meet the manager you want to work for—because that’s still the primary way jobs get filled.
Exhibit 2: Henry Blodget’s Business Insider cranked out another 1,900 words about “18 Surprising Things That Affect Whether You Get Hired.” (Note that BI has upped the ante on the length of lists, if not on the length of career columns.) I have no problem with lists because readers like to click on articles that promise useful information. But reading lists of career tips like this one is akin to studying “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” to advance your career.
What are the “surprising things” in the BI column? I couldn’t make this stuff up if CMO.com paid me a premium:
• Schedule job interviews for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. That’s the best time to interview. Don’t be the last interview, or interview just before or after lunch, or before the interviewer has had a cup of coffee. Good luck.
• Check the weather on your interview day. “Overall, those interviewed on rainy days received about a 1% lower score than those who interviewed on sunny days.” One percent is not a typo. Good luck.
• Arrive early. But not too early. ‘Nuff said. 110 words for this one.
• Don’t interview for a job the same day your rival interviews. But the article doesn’t explain how to find out the name of the manager you’ll interview with, much less who your rival is. But this tip logs another 120 words.
• Feel powerful on the day of your interview by “holding yourself in a power pose for two minutes ... in an elevator or even a bathroom stall.” If the columnist could bottle the benefits of this tip, she could give up writing: “This will increase your abstract thinking abilities, pain threshold, risk-tolerance, and levels of testosterone, the dominant hormone that makes you feel more confident and powerful. Feeling powerful will make you more assertive, accept criticism more gracefully, present more captivating and enthusiastic speeches, and, overall, turn you into a high performer.”
If only blogs were required to disclose side effects like drug commercials are.
The Business Insider column goes on to suggest what to do while you wait in the lobby, how to treat the receptionist, how to shake hands, and why you should reject an offer of coffee. Then the advice gets to the important stuff: The color of your clothing, whether you glance at your cell phone, when you sit down, what to do with your hands, and more.
Are you getting the picture? More words, more lists, more tips, are not better than information and advice that serves your reader’s objective. (Disclosure: CMO.com does not pay me by the word to write this column.) Ten resume tips don’t get you a job because resumes don’t generate meetings with hiring managers. Eighteen tips about job interviews don’t teach how to be the profitable candidate in the short time you get to spend with a CEO.
If you think I’m a bit over the top with this critique, consider what either of those advice columns says about how to be a great CMO. Yet that’s your next employer’s objective. (See “Forget About The Job Interview: Bring A Business Plan.”)
When you’re positioning your company with content, drivel doesn’t work. But here’s the problem: That Business Insider column has more than 183,000 views. Liz Ryan’s column has over 290,000 views. Still, more is not better. There are more resumes and profiles readily available to employers than ever before; still, employers complain of a talent shortage. Job seekers have better access to more job listings than ever in history; still, millions of jobs are vacant while millions of talented people are unemployed.
Do you waste your customers’ time on loads of content based on faulty premises just because your competition does? Do you model your content after big content providers like LinkedIn and Business Insider? Do you consume content without a critical eye?
More is not better in my world, or in the CMO’s, unless we’re measuring discernment and value.
Then more is always better.