Friday, August 28, 2009

Buff up with powerful language: Kirk Miller Interview

After my visit to The Art Institute of Chicago, I decided to grab a drink at a random establishment. In general, drinking by yourself is no fun so to remedy this, I turned to the guy next to me and started a conversation. It just so happens that this gentleman, Kirk Miller, is the global account manager of Vodafone, the largest international cell phone company in the world. On a local perspective, Vodafone controls 44.8% of Verizon Wireless. I enthusiastically explained my Job Safari to Kirk, and before I knew it, he offered to be a part of it.

Kirk is responsible for two major accounts for the Vodafone business. His major duties are to:

1. Negotiate contracts and new business on the customer’s behalf with the goal of increasing Vodafone’s share of business in other companies. He fulfills these tasks by meeting with local and regional IT and discussing ways that Vodafone is the right strategic partner for their business.
2. Evaluate mobility challenges for customs and create strategic spending decisions.

In a nut shell, Kirk has a ‘Cosmo Martini’ of a job that mixes business, sales marketing and strategy.

Kirk and I met at a lovely Café in downtown Chi Town. While sitting at this cafe, the first thing I noticed about Kirk is his down to earth, humble attitude and his willingness to talk to people; character traits needed to be a part of this people-centric industry.

One thing you wish you knew:

Be persistent. It really pays off to keep plugging away and never stop.

Kirk also emphasized understanding the employer’s motivation behind interviewing you. As a job seeker, this means understanding the needs and wants of the company and using these to leverage your skills and assets.

When I asked how one could figure out a company’s motivation, Kirk simply said “just ask. By asking others what propels them to success, you are also helping brand yourself.” You can demonstrate how much you know about a business by asking the right questions.

Kirk also suggests that you recognize the importance of your brand. If you do good work, make it known without being a jackass. You need to sell your brands on multiple levels to generate a buzz about yourself.

As far as breaking into a company...

To start, the economy is forcing people to pursue opportunities harder and more aggressively. This means you need to be first, fast and different.

Kirk recommends that you skip HR and get to know people within the business. You can do this by calling the company and asking for an “informational interview” on the subject for advice on your work, via LinkedIn, other social networking sites, or you can even ask people you know personally. Don’t be afraid to "flex your networking muscle, as you know a lot more people than you might think. Simple email blasts to all of your ‘peeps’ can yield new contacts."

Also, do your research and equate yourself with the company’s business language to gain more leverage.

The Interview:

Prior to the interview, get to know the company’s challenges and ask questions about it. A smart way to do this is to look at industry reports and take note of the language. Also, state that you are aware of the poor economy and that you can contribute to business efforts to increase business.

As a side note on this point, gives access to many free services without having to sign up for a subscription. This includes industry reports. - Thanks Julia Johnson :)

Kirk states that there is a fine line between showing off and showing you have done your homework. In general, the less you use the word ‘I’ the less you risk showing off. Use words like 'we,' or 'my group.'

Also, you should do some self reflection and understand how you personally measure success. If you don’t know, how can you expect to go anywhere?

Finally, do not accept no! If someone tells you no, ask why.

On the Cover Letter:

Make sure that it is well researched and never send a resume without a cover letter. Make your cover letter compelling and state your objective upfront. Limit your chance of “bullshit” by keeping the objective crisp, clean and limit it to one to two lines at most. Keep your objective directional, but not overly specific as this could limit you.

The last paragraph should have a course of action. For example, "I will call you on Friday at noon." NEVER say "I look forward to hearing from you." Finally, do not be afraid to follow up.

On Language:

This can be applied to a resume, cove letter, or interview; pretty much any capacity where you will be discussing a position. Kirk stresses the importance of using words that sell. Here is a list of Kirk’s top ten:


Rhetorical language is extremely powerful and an excellent tool to use while in an interview. This involves proposing a question yourself to generate an answer. This is a great way to get the interviewer to ask you good questions.

Keep yourself busy...

If you can’t find a job, work on preparing yourself for when the economy does bounce back. Doing nothing is always an awful idea. Take extra classes, do some independent projects, read books and become more familiar with your ideal business.

Last words of advice:

Don’t walk into an interview with preconceived notions about a person or company. Keep an open mind; if you are offered advice listen to it, don’t ignore it. Be open to any opportunity as you never know where an opportunity will take you. Be prepared to take any entry level jobs and evolve it yourself.

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