Be Deliberately Innovative

John Whitaker Always Be Closing, Audacious Ideas, HR, Innovation, John Whitaker

Here’s a tip for you, prospective job-seeker… grab a scratch pad and start describing your talents in terms of “innovation.” Look at your list. Now ask yourself this question— “Am I innovative?”

If you are one of the 50% of Americans who do consider innovation/creativity as a strength, you could be selling yourself short if that competency is not readily apparent in your CV. Why?

  • 300 CEOs were asked to rank the critical skills needed to best assure the organization would perpetuate success in the future (Pritchett, 2014.) Ranked second on the list is “Creativity & Innovation.”
  • In the same survey, when asked to rank (from 1-10) their current strengths in their respective company, “Creativity & Innovation” finished dead last.

We’re all familiar with supply and demand, right? There appears to be a significant deficiency in the supply of creativity and innovation. Mind the gap, please.

And there’s more: Chances are as the new guy or gal, your ideas will be heard. Why? Well, ironically enough, despite the clear awareness for future (and current!) innovation from the CEO, that sentiment is not trickling down to the employee population. If you ask them, 80-85% of the employees will tell you that they are paid (and pressured) for productivity, not creativity. You may be able to speak about this firsthand from your current job; when was the last time you sat down with your boss and were asked to “give me an example of an innovative or creative process you implemented previously, and tell me why it would/would not work here.” Does that ever happen? Probably never. That’s an interview question for candidates looking to join the company, but for some reason we quit asking them once they join the flock. How often do you submit ideas (edible paper, i.e.) unsolicited? A lack of ideas will eventually suffocate a company—when you buy into the mindset of “busy over creative,” you’re contributing to the lack of oxygen.

If you don’t share innovative ideas now in your current job, you may not be able to convey your creative skills in a job-search, right? The opportunity is there if you can somehow communicate your ability to innovate in the one-dimensional world of a CV. A task made more complicated by the technological roadblocks that want to add you to a pile of lemmings.

This is a four-step process, so it’s officially two-thirds easier than most other programs in which you might participate.

  1. Define the current ways you are innovative and/or creative. Don’t confuse “innovative” with “inventive.” Have you improved current processes? Have you expanded the scope of your position? Have you implemented best practices from others? Congratulations, you’re an innovator. Now, put it to paper and find ways to highlight these occurrences on your CV.
  2. Be creative in your application process. While there seems to be a growing fondness of the ATS from the perspective of recruiters, I don’t think there’s any candidate that thinks anything other than “this sucks.” And it does suck, because chances are 3 of 4 resumes will never even be reviewed. So you need to cheat the system. Go to LinkedIn, find the company, look for employees currently working at the company, start InMailing if you find a recruiter, a business leader in the area seeking candidates, a friend of a friend—whomever makes sense. Use this as a “first hurdle” requirement. Don’t apply online until you’ve made a connection with someone who can give you a name/email/phone number.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile to highlight your creativity and/or innovation. Make a video clip introducing yourself. Use GoAnimate.com to create a 30-second cartoon vignette. Attach a Powerpoint highlighting a project on which you contributed. Attach your (now updated) resume. Add hyperlinks, write a freaking poemthe point is, do something.
  4. Rehearse. So Jane, can you give me an example of a time where you used a creative solution to address a problem?” You bet I can! If you’ve done the due diligence, you’ll have examples to share without hesitation.

Innovation is the currency of the interview process. Make sure your pockets are stuffed.

John Whitaker
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is Vice President of Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.