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Blog (3) - Put Down the Smartphone

Blog (3) - Put Down the Smartphone

02 Jan 12:00 by Matthew Rollinson


Over Christmas I read an incredible book by Bob Iger who has had more influence on popular culture and technology than I knew.


He is the CEO of Disney Corporation, was great friends with Steve Jobs and has overseen their acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Think about the last 10 films you loved, the iPhone in your pocket, the way you consume media (does anyone watch a film on regular TV anymore?) and Bob is in some part either behind it, or how it works.


What struck me about his inspiring book “Ride of a Lifetime” is how rapidly the new technology we now use has caught on. Just going through some apps on my iPhone and looking at what is on my desk you can see how transformative the last decade was. – 9 years old

iPad – 9 years old

Spotify (UK launch) – 10 years old

iPhones – 12 years old  

LinkedIn – 16 years old


Now, this blog is aimed at graduates so in writing the above I totally understand that you were 6 years old when LinkedIn came out. However, the issue is down in part to this. You see while all this seismic change was happening, you were unfortunately probably not aware that it was a change. You were in year 5 Primary school when your cool Aunty first got an iPhone and perhaps have never owned a physical CD given how well Spotify caught on.


I experienced this first hand recently. I love technology and drive a car which is an absolute marvel that I can unlock it with my Apple watch and, because it’s got it’s own internet connection, I’ve put the heater on from baggage claim and it’s been warm and defrosted when I got to it in the airport car park.


If I have a problem with it, there is a button I can press that, anywhere on the planet (I’m reliably informed, haven’t tried) a clever-person will drive to me and fix it.


Isn’t technology fantastic?


Well, I’m also learning German and recently bought my new book. It came with a CD for the car to practice. My car has no CD player.


Because in the last 10 years things changed.


I like to think of Graduates as like that Car.

However your new boss is that CD trying to interact with that car.


The issue this frames, is one of expected behaviours versus learned behaviours. These are self explained but the people you are appealing to have expected behaviours and you have your own learned behaviours.


This problem is more pronounced because of the above list of new launched in the last decade – all of the tools in the toolbox you have are brand new and these are the ones you are using.


These are also the ones you instinctively use. There are other tools – you just haven’t been conditioned to consider them as valid. If you imagine the conversation when designing my Car about a CD player going in you can imagine a bunch of hipster car designers scoffing at the thought. Whereas the German Linguist company naturally figure a CD is a great addition to their product.


The issue here is they are both right, and both wrong.


I hope that makes sense in framing the problem. Basically you’re all new and cool and fresh with loads of new technology and your new boss isn’t. This specific problem, from what I can tell, hasn’t happened at any other stage in the last 100 years as prior to this we were all just writing letters and CV’s and sending them to specific people.


Now, one pushback I get on this is that surely these tools like Indeed, LinkedIn etc mean ‘more applicants’ and ‘more applicants = good’.


I argue the opposite, the above tools are a bit like walking around a Mall with shopfronts but all the shops are locked with a puzzle to solve to get in the shop.


You can do a lot of activity, feel busy as a customer and maybe the shops get enough customers to survive.


But it is a stupid way of running a market, and I guarantee if I write this in 10 years someone will have come up with a better way.


The productivity of applications from the mobile phone is very low indeed. I personally assign a minimum 20% success rate to everything I do in business. If I’m not hitting 20% I stop and change tactic if nothing else for efficiency and sanity, fortunately the numbers are far higher in all areas - apart from candidates who apply that I can assist. This, I’ve given up on because of mobile applications and frankly irrelevant mobile applications.


The reason for this, is the learned behaviour of mobile applications being convenient, quick, low-zero investment and perhaps having a chance of working out. This is why for a £70,000 paying Analytical Chemistry role I’ll receive candidates with A-Levels in English and History.


It’s ok to try that by all means - but if that above application had meant writing a cover letter, printing a CV, walking to a shop, buying a stamp, and sending a letter – would I have received it? Absolutely not. The above application just creates noise and it’s drowns out other applicants effectiveness.


This is the issue with the mobile phone, it’s made applications too easy to do and it means the good applicants also have little ‘learned behaviour’ to fall back on and stand out.


We had this issue in 2003 when I first graduated too. Back then you applied for jobs in New Scientist and finding adverts was the difficulty as companies each had their own ‘place’ they would put an ad so they were easily missed.


A good friend from my course had a folder-file of CV’s in his car. It was organised into one for sales, one for bench based lab jobs, one for marketing jobs and one generalist one for everyone else. I’m sure there were actually 5 but these are the ones I remember. He worked in sales which meant driving around a lot and at every opportunity could pop into companies and physically hand in the CV to HR.


Now, that same friend is one of the most successful people I know and will be board level before his mid-40’s. We can’t all be him.


However we can borrow some lessons from behaviour like this which I cover in ‘make people feel special’. Consider that approach or perhaps physically posting your CV, or looking up the person who placed a job ad and linking to them on social media or liking the companies tweets and their messages or finding a list of your local laboratories (see below) and just popping in with a CV and asking for it to go to HR.


What do these behaviours achieve – well, the boss you are appealing to still accepts these behaviours. They are probably in their 30’s or 40’s and remember well doing precisely the same thing. So doing this is ok and what is more, nobody else is doing it – you stand out!!


It also shows you want to work there.


They weren’t just another swipe, another click, another afterthought.


Again, I cover this in more depth in a later blog in this series “make people feel special”.


One of the things I’ve always admired about my friend with the CV’s in the car is he never since asked for permission in his career or followed a defined pathway waiting on promotions. He just tried stuff out and worked hard and guess what, people noticed.


The Universe responds to over-effort. Lack of effort just means you disappear into the crowd.


If this blog achieves one thing, try out that mindset.


What can you do differently to the next applicant? What can you do to circumnavigate the 100 CV’s waiting in the inbox and actually get noticed. The answer is not found in the smartphone. Some ideas are below:


  • Apply from your laptop where you have FULL EDITORIAL CONTROL of the CV. Send the current one as well as a cover letter. The time where “I’m sorry the website sent my old CV” as an excuse are just gone. It simply-put comes across very badly in 2021.  
  • Post your next application as well as making it online, with a note to say ‘just in case I got to the junk inbox – I really wanted you to get this so see a letter’
  • Every time you apply to a company, follow them on Social Media platforms, share their next few articles. You’d be surprised how much quiet watching goes on.
  • If you can (and this probably will need to wait till we are post-COVID), physically go to their sites reception with a CV marked for HR. They may not let you on site without an appointment but most small to mid scale companies are just open fronted with a buzzer on the door, dress smart for this, and ask nicely and they should let you in. Expect a 20% failure rate with this (or 80% success rate).
  • Write more than one CV depending on what you are going for emphasising your skills that are pertinent to their company.
  • Apply directly to companies as much as possible. The following organisations will list the hidden small-to-mid scale businesses operating in your local area.





Good luck!


All views my own.