Know Your Audience

flickr image by wben-tv
flickr image by wben-tv

As promised in the post, “How Long Should My Resume Be?” I want to share with you what I’ve recently learned about the importance of knowing your audience.  By understanding your audience and being realistic about who your audience members are (not who you think they are) you will craft a resume, prepare for an interview, network,or present at your next business meeting better than anyone else.  Here’s are a few examples.

I made some personal recommendations for a friend who was searching for a marketing job.  I know him well, he is talented, personable, professional, and a good interview but I had never reviewed his resume.  After a few recommendations that didn’t land him the job or even an interview, I asked to see a copy of his resume (he’d sent the resumes directly to the people I’d introduced him to).  The resume, while meant to be unique and creative, was hard to read and not showing his potential.  His mistake was not understanding his audience.  In his small, conservative business community the resume didn’t appear creative it appeared disjointed and hard to read.  He was trading professionalism for uniqueness.  Would the resume receive attention in a more progressive city or if he was applying to highly creative marketing firms? It probably would have but they weren’t his audience.  He was applying to be the creative amongst a group of more traditional business people. Those traditional business people likely struggle to understand creative types and will never take the time to follow a “creative” resume.  We kept the content that demonstrated his creative experience but changed the format and he not only got an interview with the next company he applied to, he got the job.

Knowing your audience is also important when interviewing.  Do your research, ask who you’ll be meeting with, prepare for the interview based on who will be present.  If you’re an IT professional and the CFO is being invited into your interview, be prepared to talk about numbers and how your work benefits the organization financially.  The opposite may also be true.  If you’re interviewing for the Financial Manager position and the CIO has been invited to your interview, be prepared to talk about how important technology is rather than what a drain it is on the budget.  Knowing your audience will help you relate to them throughout the interview process.

When networking or attending businesses events it’s very important to get to know your audience before you make assumptions about them.  This is something I’m guilty of often & am always working to improve.  Just last week I began the Strategic Leadership Certificate Program at Loyola University in Chicago.  I’m a strong public speaker but when asked to present to this great group of women, I was very nervous.  Why? Because I assumed each of the women in the room were better educated than I was given that I didn’t finish college.  I thought the first time I stumbled over my words they would see I was some sort of idiot fraud that didn’t deserve to be there (we’ll talk about professional insecurities in a future post). Once I got to know this great group of women, I learned that everyone had a different background and different perspective they brought to the table.  We respected one another for those experiences and continue to build our relationships.  While everyone told me I did a great job, I knew I could have done better and saved myself a lot of grief and stress prior to presenting if I had not made assumptions about my audience.

As you go about your day today, stop and ask yourself what you know about your audience & never, ever, assume.

 

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