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How are you asking for help?

I received the following via email a few Fridays ago:

“Good Afternoon,

I am currently unemployed and for the past few months I have been trying to present better ways to get my resume points of view across to recruiters. I have been trying to co-mingle value based information and actual job duties that I have done. When I do that it seems to create sort of a “laundry list” of my duties and I am trying to stay away from that, but I want to at least show some type of duties that i have. Could you please send me some pointers and advice. Thank You.”

It was from an email address I did not recognize. There was no signature; just that paragraph. To find out who was trying to engage me, I had to open the resume, sent along as an attachment.

This looked like a “spam” email. I could tell it probably had been copied, pasted and sent to many, many others.* I hovered over the delete button, but the customer service in my soul kicked in and I responded back to him. I’d venture to guess I was in a minority.

Let’s pretend for a moment I didn’t respond. What could have been done to improve his response rate and build his network the right way?

  • Address the email to me.

Nothing is as melodious to someone as the sound of their own name. This individual went to all the trouble to find me. Four more typed letters would have made a big difference in getting my attention. If he’d just added “Dawn” after his “Good Afternoon” salutation, I’d of been less skeptical and more willing to respond.

  • Tell me how he found me.

To this day I have no idea how this person found his way to my inbox. Sure. I’ll pop up in a Google search, but was that it? Does he follow me on Twitter? Did he find me on LinkedIn? Had he been to my website? Is there a mutual connection somewhere? A quick, “Here’s how I know/found you.” goes a long way in forming a connection early.

  • Tell me why he came to me.

Flattery only works on two types of people: men and women. Had he taken a moment to mention how he enjoyed my tweets, learned from blog, had respect for my credentials, anything “nice”, it would have upped my desire to help a complete stranger.

  • Tell me his name and phone number.

He didn’t sign his email. Granted, it was on the attached resume, BUT I was very hesitant to open the attachment. To this day, I’m not sure why I trusted it. He was asking for assistance and “made” me go through extra steps to find: his name, contact information, career history. Don’t ask for help and make it a chore for me to help you.

  • Tell me what he wants to do next in his career.

He’s given me no clue as to what he wants to do next. His work history was scattered with diverse jobs from widely varying industries. He did nothing to help me help him. It’s not up to me to figure out what he (a complete stranger) wants to do next with his life. It’s “his job” to tell me. Make helping easy for the giver.

As you can read in his email, his approach is very I-centric. I am, I have, I want, I do – in fact, “I” appears seven times in those four sentences. What have I said about a bajillion times time now? In this job market it’s “all about them – the hiring authority.” (I made the five bullet points “all about me” to illustrate that point.)

If he uses this tact and tone to engage potential employers, it’s no wonder his search is foundering. His message is not what he brings; the focus is on what he needs. That might work with mom, but asking complete strangers for help (or employment) without giving them a reason to want to engage will encourage them to ignore the request completely or move on to someone to else quickly.

Tomorrow, I’ll post my full response to him.

*At least he did one thing right. He sent the email to me and me alone. I’ve gotten request of this nature with a LONG string of other email address included in the “to” box. Didn’t I feel special? I’ve also received BCC emails – to and from the same person. Those individuals had the savvy to protect recipients contact info, but the approach still begs the “Didn’t I feel special?” question. If you’re asking for help, you want the person you’re asking to feel special. We’re human. We like the occasional warm-fuzzy. 🙂

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  1. You might want to know that for one reason or another your blog fails in the Opera browser. When I loaded the page, I couldn’t see any pictures whatsoever, just those blank boxes. I tried reloading it in Ie then everything was there, but other folks who use Opera might just suppose it’s your website and not learn it’s Opera. I realize only a few people surf with Opera, but if it were my weblog I think I would have to examine it.

  2. […] written about asking for assistance during a search, here and here. (Read those too.) Following is a portion of what I responded to John, adding to my […]

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