This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Jerry Bernhart of Bernhart Associates Executive Search joins Erik and Tim to discuss understanding the digital marketing recruiting equation, both from the client position and the candidate perspective.
Culture and fit are very important factors for companies looking to hire, but also for candidates wanting to be hired. Jerry says, “One of the questions I always ask a client is give me five adjectives that describe how you work, and I ask the candidate that same question.”
Jerry explains that he has a whole list of culture and fit related questions that he asks “because at the end of the day, when I get a call from a candidate who's unhappy in the current role, most of the time it's not because they don't know a particular piece of software, it's not because maybe their hours were changed or some other more innocuous reason. It's mostly because they don't fit in with the way they do things, and that could be, they don't, work well with their boss or maybe they're not in alignment with the mission of the CEO or the president or that's changed. Typically, it's a cultural or a fit issue when candidates call me to begin a confidential search.”
It is essential to understand each side’s position. For that reason, Jerry explains, “I focus very heavily on both sides of the equation. With the client, asking about their culture and how they operate, how maybe it's changed. I also coach them on what questions to ask the candidate to make sure that you're focusing as much on fit and culture as you are on skills.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the digital marketing equation from both sides.
About the Guest:
Jerry Bernhart is a highly recognized, award-winning recruiting leader in the field of marketing with specialties including digital commerce, CRM, analytics, database marketing and direct response. For more than 34 years, Jerry has worked with employers ranging from Fortune 100 to start ups, B2C, B2B, agencies and technology providers. He has served on numerous industry advisory panels and spoken at dozens of marketing-related conferences over the years, and his insights into employment and hiring trends have been featured in AdAge, Bloomberg, DigitalCommerce360, Target Marketing, Multichannel Merchant, DM News, Seeking Alpha, CBS, and dozens of other marketing-related publications, podcasts, webinars and marketing research organizations.
Jerry created and managed directmarketingcareers.com, which was among the first marketing-specific job posting sites on the internet, and published the Direct Marketing Employment Survey, which for more than 12 years was the industry-wide benchmark report for hiring in direct marketing. In 2002, he was inducted into the Pinnacle Society, representing the top 75 highest achieving executive recruiters in the nation. He is also the author of “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing”.
Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne,
Erik Martinez: and I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.
Tim Curtis: And on this episode, we get to welcome Jerry Bernhart, a longtime friend and principal of Bernhardt Associates Executive Search.
Jerry's been a mainstay in the recruiting industry for more than 30 years, and he's specialized in marketing, more than 20 of that as a leading Ecommerce recruiter and digital marketing recruiter. Jerry is very active on the speaking circuit, having presented at more than 40 different types of conferences, webinars, learning events, et cetera, and he's [00:01:00] quoted quite often by many in the industry. He's published. He has his own book "Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing" as well as getting published in a number of publications, including AdAge, Bloomberg, Forrester, Gartner, the AMA, CMO Council NAPCO, and many more. So, Jerry, thanks for coming on the show. We're certainly glad to have you.
Jerry Bernhart: Thanks for having me. I sure appreciate it.
Tim Curtis: I think both Erik and I have, over the years, have talked to you numerous times. We are a little bit more familiar with your story, but why don't you give the audience a little bit of a background in terms of, you know, your story and your roots?
Jerry Bernhart: You bet. Well, I started recruiting back in the late eighties with a company called Management Recruiters International. At the time, they were I believe the largest contingency executive search firm in the country. When I started there they assigned me to the desk overseeing call center directors and VPs. There was a lot of growth in that space during those years. I also had a phenomenal manager supervisor mentor. His name is [00:02:00] Bob Hammer. I really learned the importance of the relationship that you have with your supervisor during those first couple of years because to have a guy like that teaching you, it just made all the difference.
I did real well. I decided after a couple of years, this is something I could do on my own. I decided, because of all the activity in direct marketing that I was seeing at the time, particularly direct mail, I decided to move into the letter shop and graphic design and print space as those businesses were booming, and during this period of time got familiar with some of the top recruiters in the space. One of the things I did is I called a woman in Chicago named Judy Carpenter. She was one of the matriarchs of recruiting in the direct marketing business. She really represented the top-tier retainer recruiters in the industry at the time.
I don't remember what advice she gave me, but I said, if you ever find yourself and in need of some help, give me a call, would love to help you if I can. About a year later, she did call me. So, I ended up going to Chicago every couple of months to help her out. Her business was [00:03:00] exploding and she needed some immediate help with some of the searches she was conducting, but she was a fully retained recruiter, as I mentioned.
After about a year, she fired me. It wasn't because I wasn't doing a good job. It's just because she said, you know what? You have a contingent mentality and you'd be a whole lot better off doing that on your own, and that is what really changed my career because that's what I decided to do, and that's what I've been ever since.
So, went contingent and one of the first things I did was learn everything I could about database marketing and that emerged in the 1980s, as we all know, as this new improved form of direct marketing. Got to know the key players cause I saw a lot of opportunity there. I found myself working with a lot of the service companies that were housing those databases and doing the analytics and modeling and then I did a lot of work in financial services, hospitality, industries that had large databases. So, that was a great run, and that went for many years. That's what helped get me into the Pinnacle Society, [00:04:00] which is this group of like high-achieving recruiters. I was very honored to be a part of that.
One of my absolute favorite recruiting stories of all time. There was a conference, which you probably remember the National Center for Database Marketing. I'd become so well known in this space that I could barely show my face. If you were seen with me at this conference, people would start talking, Hey, you know, Joe Blow is talking to Jerry. I wonder what they're talking about. So, I couldn't meet people in the open. It got that bad. I actually set up a spot behind a big bush near the entranceway to the exhibit hall. It was around the side so nobody could see it, and I got a table, I got a chair from one of the lobbies and I set this thing up behind this shrub and people would come in and we'd talk and then they'd leave and no one would see them coming and going. I call those the bush leads. That's the downside when you get so well known in a particular niche.
From there, I started looking at this thing called CRM. So, before you knew it, I was becoming something of a CRM recruiting expert and rode that wave for a few [00:05:00] years. During all of this, I launched a website called directmarketingcareers.com. I launched it in 97. I just knew that the internet was going to be a big thing. Back then, there were a lot of specialty job boards, particularly in areas like nursing, healthcare, technology, things of that nature. There were only like one or two job boards in the marketing space and nothing quite like this directmarketingcareers.com.
At its peak, I had something like, I think it was 600 job postings on this thing. I remember going to my mailbox, putting in a lot of invoices, saying, that's it. I am on my way to becoming a dot com billionaire, right? This is going to do it. Everybody was signing up. So, anyway long story short, this probably went for about five or six years, and then essentially the Hot Jobs and Monsters of the world handed me my lunch. I mean, these guys had massive marketing budgets, right?
Those boards accommodated every kind of job and function you can imagine, including marketing. It became very difficult, very [00:06:00] expensive to keep the site going. I was also recruiting at the same time and finding that I was making more money recruiting than I was doing this. Even though I was certainly heading in the right direction, but decided that I should stick with recruiting. I thought, all right, this was a fun run. I can't compete against these big guys anyway. So, that's when I started to make the transition more into the Ecomm space.
I wrote my book which I think was published in 2004. I did that for two reasons, just for self-learning. It's amazing how much you can learn when you write a book. It took me a year to do it, and the other reason, of course, was it was a great PR vehicle.
Erik Martinez: You have an extensive background, lots of history. You've now brought yourself into the digital marketing age. Back then it was internet marketing, then it was Ecomm marketing. Now, it's digital marketing, which encompasses a lot of different things. What are the main types of searches that you focus on today?
Jerry Bernhart: These days it comes from everywhere. I get most excited when I get a VP of marketing position, you know, a kind of an omnichannel role that's both online, offline. I used to do a lot of CMO [00:07:00] roles. Not as many these days. I take it as it comes. Most of the demand right now is for directors, VPs, managers. Those are really my sweet spots and I do more B2B now. I'm starting to move more towards B2B in recent years, for sure than B2C. It just happened by accident. I started getting a lot of calls from business to business companies that are looking for talent, and that's a smaller subset, of course, of the talent universe.
Those candidates are a little harder to come by. I mean, they're out there, but they're not as numerous as B2C, right? So, clients need my help more than they might on the B2C side, and I began to really enjoy that space. Largely because these candidates are so transformational. They come in and they're really helping these companies do, you know, 180 pivots. My biggest search last year was for a cement company. You can imagine how entrenched they are in certain ways of doing things, right?
Erik Martinez: So, if you're doing a search for a cement company, or any of your clients today, and you're talking about transformational, what are the main characteristics that your [00:08:00] clients are looking for? What is it about these particular roles or candidates that they're searching for? What's important today?
Jerry Bernhart: Well, half the time they don't really know. That's why they're coming to me. If they knew they'd go out and hire them themselves. They're asking me, who do we really need here to make this happen? What you really need is an evangelist. In addition to everything else, you have to know as a marketer, which is amazing these days. You need an evangelist, somebody who can educate and work with internal stakeholders who've been breathing the same air for 20, 30, 40 years.
Those are the kinds of people who tend to succeed in those positions. They're not the bowl in the China shop. They have a way of being able to come in and showing these stakeholders how digital can help the business. The owners already know that they need to make this pivot, and so to stay competitive, they know that this is the direction they have to go in. So, the owners know, but sometimes, many of the middle and upper management leaders aren't entirely convinced. That would include sales, right? You don't want to end up stepping on the toes of a sales organization. So, their job is [00:09:00] to come in and show how this can help them and the good ones are really good at that.
Erik Martinez: You're saying, hey, you need somebody who can champion this, champion it in a way that brings everybody along for the ride. What are the characteristics you're looking for in their backgrounds? What are the hard skills and the soft skills, or a combination of those things that you're looking for in order to find these people? I can tell you from my perspective, as an agency owner, that I see my clients struggle to hire these roles for a couple of different reasons.
One, they may not know what they want. I would actually argue that they know what they want, but the jobs are really huge. I think the jobs are big today, and there's a lot of skills that go into play. So, it's my position that the type of candidates that they're looking for, you used the word transformational, I think that's right, but I also think that there are people who know how to build teams.
Jerry Bernhart: Yeah. They know how to build [00:10:00] teams. They can serve as sort of a trusted advisor and subject matter expert to management teams and team members. They focus on corporate goals. They can look at business situations objectively, I guess, dispassionately. They can drive organizational growth. They defined business strategies.
Thinking off the top of my head, some of the things that I'd be looking for. They set strategic roadmaps. They set the strategic planning. They can direct merchandising, marketing, and creative teams, so that they're all kind of marching to the same tune. They can solidify relationships with suppliers, elevate the customer experience. Boy, a lot of things
Tim Curtis: When you start going down the list, you know, it almost seems like a unicorn hunt really, when you think about all of the characteristics that are required today for some of those roles.
Jerry Bernhart: Oh, yeah.
Tim Curtis: When you look back, Jerry, and you look back over your course of your career, you know, in the late nineties and really focusing around that strategic database marketing and how that was sort of driving the direction and of course, that would be the foundation for everything upon which digital would be built. The roles have [00:11:00] evolved so much that marketing is now a collection of vocational specialists. So, in order to really succeed in those top roles, you do need to be equipped with quite a bit of knowledge, but it's got to be diversified. You've got to understand how all those pieces you know, sort of work together.
That's kind of what you're describing in terms of the vetting out, but you know, I think one of the things that is so particularly outstanding for recruiters and especially, you know, those among the top, Jerry yourself, having been nominated to the Pinnacle Society, the top 75 recruiters in the country. It's an elite group, but what those people get is that they're also advocating for the candidate, and so it's also as much about really digging in and vetting the company that's trying to do the hiring.
That's where I think a lot of times things break down. You know, you have someone who's a head hunter. They may be just trying to fill a slot, but a recruiter is going to understand how the mix is going to go both ways. You've stepped into these horror situations before, too. How do you go about also [00:12:00] vetting that company to make sure that you're not sending a candidate into the lion's den?
Jerry Bernhart: I focus a lot on fit and culture if you want to know the truth. You know, if someone sends me a job description, I mean, I can read it in five minutes and know the role. I mean, I've written hundreds of job descriptions all across the marketing spectrum. So, I tend to focus less on the nuts and bolts, and I want to know more about how they work. How are decisions made? What do teams mean? How do they operate?
One of the questions I always ask a client is give me five adjectives that describe how you work, and I ask the candidate that same question. I have a whole list of culture and fit related questions that I ask the client because at the end of the day, when I get a call from a candidate who's unhappy in the current role, most of the time it's not because they don't know a particular piece of software, it's not because maybe their hours were changed or some other more innocuous reason. It's mostly because they don't fit in with the way they do things, and that could be, they don't, work well with their boss or [00:13:00] maybe they're not in alignment with the mission of the CEO or the president or that's changed. Typically, it's a cultural or a fit issue when candidates call me to begin a confidential search.
Now I'm not talking about those who've been laid off. Obviously, they're out actively looking, but I'm talking about the ones that are beginning to feel uncomfortable. So, for that reason, I focus very heavily on both sides of the equation. With the client, asking about their culture and how they operate, how maybe it's changed. I also coach them on what questions to ask the candidate to make sure that you're focusing as much on fit and culture as you are on skills.
A lot of hiring managers, no fault of theirs. They're just not really good interviewers. They just fell into it. That's how a lot of these things have happened over the years. They get promoted. Part of the job is hiring people, but nobody's really sat down and said, so let me teach you the art and science of interviewing. They just sort of go by the hip.
Tim Curtis: Well, that can't work, right? I mean, these candidates, they've got to be schooled, right?
Jerry Bernhart: [00:14:00] Well, they do, and some are. You know, I'm not saying that most aren't, but based on my experience when I debrief my candidates clearly, the employer wasn't asking the kinds of questions they should have been asking. Now, that doesn't happen all the time, but it happens a lot.
So, one of the things I tell my clients is you need to focus at least half the time on culture and fit, and they go, well, how do I do that? So, I'm going to share something here, which anyone listening who's a hiring manager or a business owner. I think this will help them. I used to talk about this many years ago, and when I was on panels and stuff, and to this day, I still use this. It's very effective.
When you're talking to a candidate, a typical question might be tell me about a success that you've had. Looking at your resume, you were at company XYZ. You did this, you did that. So, tell me more about what you accomplished and you know, how it help boost revenues or cut costs or whatever they're looking for, penetrate new markets. that's where they stop. They just say, tell me about your success.
The thing is with a lot of hiring managers, they just don't continue the line of questioning. They [00:15:00] may be good at asking questions in their day-to-day work, but they're not so good when it comes to asking questions in interview situations. That question needs to be followed up with, so what caused that success to happen? What caused that to happen? Boy does that ever open up a lot of interesting responses.
Well, it happened because I was given a lot of autonomy and I was allowed to do what I felt was right. It was a ready, fire, aim environment, and I loved it, or they may say I was given the budget I needed, or I had the right team. Great. What did that team look like? What do you mean the right team? Well, I got to hire them., I made the ultimate decision. These are all cultural factors. Think about it for a minute. All the things that I just discussed all speak to the culture of the company.
This is something that every hiring manager should probe and most do not. They go through the resume and they try to match it up [00:16:00] against the job description. That should be no more than half the discussion.
Erik Martinez: So, Jerry, is it your position that if you don't have the cultural fit, then the skills, regardless of how talented they are, it just doesn't matter.
Jerry Bernhart: You're going to be on the wrong foot right from the get-go. Based on my experience, I don't think employers spend quite as much time on that as they should. By the way, the question about successes, you should ask the same thing about failures. If someone says, well, we struggled here. We had trouble with this or this didn't quite work out. Great. What caused that to happen? I had no support from my superior or whatever the answer maybe, but I will guarantee you that most of the time it will be culture-related. Well, that's what you need to know. That's going to give you some great clues into the kind of culture that candidate needs to succeed.
Erik Martinez: So, what happens when you have a client that's says, I get that Jerry, you know, I get that we have to have a cultural fit, but we need to change our [00:17:00] culture, and I need somebody to be a change agent to help drive that. You were talking about transformational candidates. So, how did those two things juxtapose?
Jerry Bernhart: That's a little bit outside my job description. For that, you need a management consultant because no one candidate is going to come in and turn the culture upside down. It ain't going to happen. Unless you're placing a CEO or president or somebody who sets the vision and the mission of the company.
Erik Martinez: Doesn't that happen sometimes? Doesn't sometimes the owner, or the senior hiring manager in this particular case, sometimes sell that idea. Like, we want somebody to come in and transform, not necessarily the company, but even the department, and then breaking it down and say, I want to change the way we work as a group and they sell that cause that sounds exciting.
Jerry Bernhart: I'd say half the time it's going to work and half the time it's going to fail. You've got a lot of entrenched people there, in many cases, who've been around a long time. They've been doing what they've been doing and then they see this outsider come in and [00:18:00] they're going to push back. There's always going to be pushback and sometimes they carry more political than the person coming in. In fact, they will.
I will just tell you, if someone says to you, yeah, you're going to come in, you're gonna be able to change things. As a candidate, you really need to ask a lot of probing questions. So, what do you mean change things? You know, what will I be able to change? So, they give you some kind of response and you just need to keep asking questions to really understand, well, what kind of an influence are you really going to have because I get calls from candidates who are starting searches, and they're telling me I can't get things to change. They hired me to do this. I end up doing that. I get those calls frequently.
Erik Martinez: I've seen that plenty of times within just my set of clients over the years.
Jerry Bernhart: I just had one yesterday. Person called, they said, well, they hired me to come in and set a new strategy for their B2B company. So, instead of having them focus on Ecommerce or whatever, they ended up putting them in charge of marketplaces, where they are already doing a third of the business and wanted to continue to grow that and that's not why he [00:19:00] was hired. I hear those kinds of stories frequently. Particularly on the B2B side because that seems to be where that happens more than on the B2C side. B2B cultures tend to be a lot more entrenched.
Erik Martinez: Is it because the culture is entrenched or is it a combination of that and we just don't know enough about what we want yet?
Jerry Bernhart: Both. Great point. In many cases, they think they know, but they really don't. They haven't done it before. They just know that everybody else is doing it. We need to do it. We got to figure this out. Some people really do their homework and they've really thought it through and they know where they need to go. In fact, in many cases, they've brought in consultants to help them do that and I'm a huge proponent of that.
If you're going to make a big transition, get an expert in there first to help you figure out what you need to do to make that happen. Then I'll go get you the person you need to run it. So, when I hear that they've already gone outside to bring in an expert to help them think this through, understand [00:20:00] the technology, the strategy, the nature of the change that they're going to bring to the organization. I love it, and many do that, but some don't, and then I think they're kind of setting themselves up for a real challenge. It does take an outside person who has seen this over and over again, to help them understand this is what you need to do. Here's your roadmap, right? Now, I'll get you the person who can execute on that road map.
Erik Martinez: So, I think that's an excellent piece of advice, right? Come in with a game plan that you can put in writing. As a former client of yours, actually. You placed a person in one of my organizations many years ago. Jerry, is that one of the things that you advise your clients as they come to you for a particular search, what are you telling them? It sounds like this is one of those things. Like, you guys should have a game plan for what this role is in order for it to be successful. What other types of things are you asking them to provide before you engage in a search with them?[00:21:00]
Jerry Bernhart: I want to know how serious they are about hiring someone. I mean, I understand the roles. I understand them intimately well. Like I said, I've placed hundreds upon hundreds of them. I've written these job descriptions. I get the role. Of course, I want to know if everybody's on board with the hire and you know, the basic questions that qualify, you know, whether they know what they want.
What I really want to focus in on more than anything else is, are they really ready to use me? As a contingent recruiter, I need to spend time only on those searches where my client is serious about hiring someone. I'm gonna want to know how long we've been looking, who have they talked to, have they gotten close to anyone, why did that person fall through? I fully spend half my time qualifying the search before I'm going to get involved.
If someone fell through, why? What was lacking? What did you like about them? This will give me a lot of clues. Just that line of questioning will reveal a tremendous amount. If they've been looking for a year and they've talked to a lot of people. Oh, we just haven't found the person we want. [00:22:00] Big red flag. Huge red flag, but I'll ask them, well, why is this taking so long? What's the problem? It shouldn't take you that long. What are you not seeing? I'm going to probe and I'm going to probe and I'm going to probe. I am a killer question asker.
If I weren't doing this, I'd be a detective. I swear. One of my major strengths is I ask good questions. In fact, I had a client last week, I was asking him some questions about some aspect of the search. His comment was, boy, you really ask some questions that make me think. That's exactly what I'm trying to accomplish. I took that as a huge compliment.
You know, we all have our strengths, and areas that maybe we're not quite as strong at, and one of my strengths is asking questions. I'm a bulldog and I'm going to pull it all out, and then after I'm finished with that line of questioning, I'm going to determine whether or not it's worth my while. That's going to bring out a lot of facts and data.
Erik Martinez: So, once you say, yeah, I've fully vetted this search. I'm good to go. Now, I'm starting to talk to candidates. How are you vetting [00:23:00] the candidates for that role?
Jerry Bernhart: First of all, I don't like the word recruiter or head hunter. I consider myself to be a shoulder tapper. I call myself a shoulder tapper. I'm going to tap your shoulder and I'm going to say, got a minute? Love to talk to you, and I'm not going to talk to you about this particular opportunity I'm working on. I want to talk about you. Let's talk about your agenda for a moment. I want to know about how's your career developing. Is it developing the way you want? Are you happy in your job? Do you wish you could make changes?
So, I'm kinda using a reverse approach to really find out more about, what's their state of mind. Once I get a better sense for that, then I can go back and say, you know what? I may have something here, what you were describing. If they're telling me that there's a bunch of things missing in their current role and I think that this could be potentially attractive to them, one of the questions I ask, this is probably the biggest question, great question that every recruiter, whether you're internal or external, should ask every single time to really get into somebody's head and to determine whether they're really serious about moving or if they're just [00:24:00] kicking tires or whatever.
I say to them, you know if you could wave a magic wand and change anything about your current situation, and I mean, anything, the person you're reporting to, the benefits, whether you work at home or in office, the culture, the comp, if you could wave a magic wand and change anything about your job, what would you change? Then I shut up and what they tell me is very enlightening and I listen very carefully. I'm also a really good listener.
They'll say, I just don't think I'm being paid enough. Great. Go in tomorrow and ask for a raise. That is not what I call systemic. This is something that could change if they had the guts to do it. They're not going to do it on my nickel. They should go in there and ask for a raise before we have anymore further conversation.
They may say to me, the relationship I have with my boss has just really deteriorated. I don't like the way he's micromanaging me or whatever the case may be, and I'll continue to probe and I'll ask a million more questions to get a good feel for this.
Is this something that could change? If I get the sense that no, he stuck with this person and he's becoming really miserable because of it, then maybe it's time for him to start putting up [00:25:00] that antenna and considering other opportunities. I know, after doing this for as long as I have when I hear a response, whether I think it's something that is what I call systemic or something that they could potentially change and not necessarily have to go to another job to change.
Changing jobs is a big deal. It's a huge life event. I take it really seriously, and I will tell you, I have talked people out of switching jobs, quitting their job, and joining my client as I have placed people because I know that based on the responses they've given me, the motivation isn't there. They may think I really want to get out of here, but it has to be a lot more than just, I want out of here. There has to be something you're going to be going to, and that has to be lacking in the role you're in now. I pull all that out. So I don't know if I've answered your question, but that is the first way I approach everybody. I've always asked [00:26:00] that question.
Erik Martinez: I think that's great. Let's move on to just a few more questions cause I think that there's some really good things that you have brought to light here just in terms of businesses understanding what they want and being prepared for that, but also the candidates, understanding their motivations. That's what I just heard. Let's say, I've determined my motivation. I'm looking for some career growth and I don't think I can get it in my existing company. I've tried. I've talked to the owner, I've talked to my VPs. I've tried to craft a new path and it's not going anywhere. So, I'm now at that point where I want to move on.
Jerry Bernhart: All right, let me, let me stop you right there. Do you feel like you've stopped learning?
Erik Martinez: Yeah, possibly. I feel like I've hit a brick wall, right? I'm ready to move on. So, here's the question. Now I'm starting to prep for my job search. What are two or three pieces of advice that you would give to somebody in that situation? I'm now prepping for my job search [00:27:00] and these are the things I need to know before I step into that arena? What are the things I need to prep and be ready for in those types of searches?
Jerry Bernhart: First question, have you talked to your family about it?
Erik Martinez: And why is that important, Jerry?
Jerry Bernhart: How are they going to be impacted? Will they somehow be impacted by all of this? Your family comes first. You need to think about how will it impact them. I just want to remind candidates that sometimes they think about, I really want to get out of here and sometimes they don't think about other things that are more important. That being one of them.
They go, we've kind of had a preliminary discussion. Nope. I want you to go to your husband or wife and say, you know what? There's a chance I may leave my role and go to another one. Are you cool with it? They'll probably have some input, but I just think that's important only because I've had situations over the years where I recruit somebody, my client wants to hire them, and they go, all right, great. I'm going to talk to my spouse and make sure she's on board. Then they come back to me and say, you know what, they're having some reservations about all of this. Well, okay. That's something we should have [00:28:00] talked about right from the get-go. That's one of the things that does come back, not often, but when things come back, that is one of them, pushback from the family. Great. Have that discussion right upfront.
Erik Martinez: That makes a lot of sense. What's the second thing?
Jerry Bernhart: Do you know what you want? You have to really sit down and think about the culture of the business. What's going to make you happy? What kind of an environment is going to make you happy? Again, go to that question I asked earlier, think about your successes and your failures. What made those happen? What caused that to happen? Do some introspection. Think about environment and culture. You can find a director of digital marketing job. There's hundreds of them out there, thousands, right? Tons of jobs. If you're going to go somewhere, you need to make sure that you're going to be able to work within their culture.
One great way to think about that is where have you been when you were happiest? Where were you when you were happiest? What were you doing? What made it a happy time? I always ask candidates that question. They go, oh man, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, I was working at ABC Company. [00:29:00] I was really happy there. Why? I had a great boss or I learned a lot. What did you learn?
Again, probe, probe, probe, probe. You need to do that yourself. You need to look at yourself and figure out what kind of environment am I going to be happy in? Then you can sit down and you'll know what questions to ask when you're interviewing with those companies to make sure they're going to align with your cultural values. That would be the next step before you even begin responding to postings and interviewing people and most people don't really think about that. They just start sending out resumes to postings.
By the way, postings this is a whole other discussion. I've seen some statistics. The odds of you getting a job through a job posting, I think something like three or 4%, but your network's the name of the game, and you shouldn't be thinking about building it when you're thinking about leaving. You should be thinking of building it right now if you haven't already because your network is gold. It's something like 70% of all placements are through your network. So, you need to be developing. That is part of your career, your career growth is developing that network.[00:30:00]
Erik Martinez: That's fantastic advice. One more question about preparation before we wrap up our conversation today. You mentioned something about resume audits. I do a fair amount of hiring. Tim, I think you do a fair amount of hiring.
I see some great resumes. I see some trash resumes and I've seen everything in between. Even for one job, you can see this wide variety. I see some really creative ones that look pretty and tell you nothing, and I see some down and dirty ones that have everything you ever wanted to know about the candidate. When you do a resume audit, what are two or three key things that you're looking for? What are the top pieces of advice in resume preparation?
Jerry Bernhart: Yeah. So, couple of things. These days, everybody has sort of an executive summary at the top of your resume and that's mission-critical. Keep in mind that you're going to get about 20 seconds of attention for whoever is reading your resume. The hiring manager, you know, they're going to give it about 15, 20 [00:31:00] seconds is all you're going to get. So, whatever you put on your resume, better jump off the page. You want to grab them. That intro paragraph is really key.
I rework those all the time to make sure it speaks, not to what you've done, but to the role you are applying for. The thing is your resume needs to be, to some extent in future talk. You need to speak to the role you're applying for, and so you need to emphasize the things that you have done.
For example, if you're a director, and you want to become a VP, then your resume needs to speak like a VP. What does that mean? It means, show me how you've maximized revenues, where you've developed comprehensive marketing strategies, you've driven sales growth, you've focused on corporate goals, you represent the industry, you look at business situations objectively, you're a strong leader, you're a cultural leader, you have moral fortitude. You know, all these things that define a VP that you know you have. The qualities that you know you've got. That needs to be incorporated in that summary.
Next section is [00:32:00] the skills and competencies, which a lot of people do these days, the little bulleted things, maybe 12 bullet items. Those are good. The summary tells me who you are and what you're capable of and then the skills and competencies kind of back that up. Here's why I'm qualified for this role.
The biggest thing I ended up spending time on these resumes doing is a lot of them just read like job descriptions. Don't tell me what you did. Show me what you did. They tell me they did this. They tell me they did that. They tell me this. They tell me that. They're not showing me what they did, and it's amazing when I start probing and asking questions like, what was the result of this? You did this, what was the result of this? They go, oh, well, we improved this. We lifted this. We generated this. We created this. Whatever it may be, the light goes on. Like, oh wow.
A lot of people, it's hard for them to really think about what they've accomplished. It's not an exercise that most people do. That's why they need someone like me to really probe and ask questions. This is what a resume writer would do. I don't write the [00:33:00] resume. Most of the resumes I get are in pretty decent shape. They need to speak to that future voice and make sure that they're showing me what they've done and not just telling me.
Those are probably the big things and also length. I'm getting resumes that are like 1500 words. There's no hard and fast rule that says it's gotta be two pages or whatever, but if you've got a lot to tell me about, you better make it count. You better make it count because you're going to get 20 seconds of attention. Real simple, and it's okay to cut it off after maybe 15 years, whatever. Depends on the role. If it's not relevant to the job you're applying for, don't include it if it was 15, 20 years ago. A brief overview of how I approach these things. It's amazing.
Even people who think they have great resumes, I read every line, I just tear apart every line and I guarantee you, I always come up with at least two or three things. I mean, these are marketers, they're smart people. They're great at marketing products and services, but they're not always so great at marketing themselves. It takes an objective third party to be able to really rip it apart and go, all right, so what do you mean here? What are you not telling me? To ask [00:34:00] all the questions that need to be asked. Simple questions, like, have you ever published an article, given a presentation? Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.
How large of a budget did you manage? Who did you report to? Did you communicate with customers? How did you relate to the product or service? Did you communicate with suppliers or subcontractors? How? A hundred questions I could ask that bring things out that sometimes it's hard to do on your own.
Tim Curtis: As we wrap this up, give me one last piece of advice for the listeners.
Jerry Bernhart: Keep learning. Over and over and over again, when candidates call me and they're thinking about making a move and I ask them, what would you change? Quite often they say, I don't feel challenged. I'm not learning, and that is not a good reason to stay in a job for three or four years. I know that moving around has a negative connotation to it, but to be in one place for multiple years and not progressing is bad.
I'd rather see somebody moving and progressing than somebody staying in one place because they're comfortable. Don't get comfortable. You cannot get comfortable, not in digital marketing and [00:35:00] Ecommerce. Those do not work together at all. This is moving way too fast. So, if you don't feel like you're advancing your knowledge and adding to it and learning, then you need to think about where can I go to add to my skillset?
If it means, maybe moving around a little bit more than you'd like, that's okay. I'm not suggesting you move every year. You've got to be in one place long enough to be able to make things happen. You've got to have a track record, particularly for those just starting out. They're going to have 20 employers before they retire. Don't even think about staying in one place more than a few years, if you're not going to progress. I look for career progression. I want to see that on a resume.
Tim Curtis: I think that's, you know, one of those things that's probably not talked about as much. We talk about the serial job movers, but you know, you gotta be strategic about how you're going to expose yourself to the next level.
Some of that is movement between organizations to achieve that while simultaneously investing in yourself. You know, maybe picking up some certifications or picking up a degree or something here and there that's going to better yourself. [00:36:00] Timely advice certainly for the listeners today, especially in the job market. Well, Jerry, thank you for coming on and for sharing just a little bit of your wisdom and guidance over the years. Countless people, I know, have been impacted by your work over the years. If someone's going to get ahold of you, what's the best way to do that?
Jerry Bernhart: Probably my email which is my name, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erik Martinez: How do you spell that, Jerry?
Jerry Bernhart: Yeah, B E R N H A R T.
Erik Martinez: Jerry, thank you so much for your time and the stories. I'm sure we could have spent several hours more digging through all the stories and experience you have. So, we really appreciate you spending a little bit of time with us this morning.
Jerry Bernhart: It's absolutely been my pleasure. Thanks again for having me.
Erik Martinez: Well, that's it for today's episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine,
Tim Curtis: and I'm Tim Curtis from Cohere One.