Spying on the enemyJoe Cornocompetition, key phrases, job-hunting skills, respond to ads, early rumor detection system
Sometimes we worry about competition to the point that it
restricts growth and profit. What can we do to implement the best
laid plans and thwart the competition? At little cost, you can
develop a fantastic watchdog system.
If you are worried about what the competition is doing, spy on
them. One of my previous bosses had me, as the chief operations
officer, read through industry-related help wanted ads. Every
Sunday, I would read and select various positions that the
competing companies were advertising in the major newspapers.
The boss explained that most employers want to brag about
themselves and what the company is planning. I would apply and
interview, to listen to the goals and plans of these companies. I
asked permission to take meticulous notes and requested that I also
talk with a department head and a manager before deciding to take
the position or not.
Applying for a job became an art to me. If you would like hints
as to how to put together an application that will get you an
interview, here they are. There are five key elements to getting an
interview from the initial application.
1. Lift key phrases from the job description and put the same
words and phrases in your résumé content. Also, use the
same words and phrases when filling out the company narrative
portions of the application.
2. List your strong job skills early and frequently. In this
way, employment software and personnel see your job skills in past
and present positions. It creates a parallel team concept, as you
use the same words and phrases.
3. Whenever the application requests the source about how you
heard of the position, always put "company employee." Yes, it may
be a fib, but this bumps your application ahead of "job listing."
Your goal is to get the interview, so this prioritizes your
4. If you are applying by long distance or out-of-area, use a
friend's or relative's address. In the worst case, you could rent
an address from the post office or private address services. Be
sure to change your résumé to match.
5. If you want attention, get in their faces or in their ears.
If you find an ad that really interests you, stop the application
process, pick up the phone and call them. Physically visit or talk
to them before applying.
This article is not about improving your job-hunting skills, yet
job-hunting skills are important, because if you are going to
respond to ads to spy, you need to capture the interview. My salary
was always being adjusted, because I knew what my position was
paying each and every year as a result.
A shrinkage period makes it imperative to edge past the
competition for more market share. We are currently hearing of
mergers, sales and closures of industry competitors. Create an
early rumor detection system by having key employees search the
Internet on industry competitors.
Check the Internet for industry rumors a couple hours a day and
see if the company is removing job postings from its site. Drive by
at 5:00 p.m. and see how full its parking lot remains. If it looks
like everyone is running away from the pit of despair at 5:01 p.m.,
there may be a morale issue, and it could be time to cherry-pick
some of the best talent away.
By the way, watch your own parking lot. This could be an early
warning of flagging morale, and you need to do something about it
before you are cherry-picked by others. If you think your company
is the best to work for, make sure that it is the best company to
Go to industry shows and conferences. Rather than finding the
old reliable and trusted friends, start conversations up with your
competitors. Make a deliberate misquote and hold to your poker face
when they correct you. All of a sudden, these new relations are
spewing their guts on their company technology, sales strategies
and new areas that they intend to attack.
As you allow these new friends to divulge so many things about
themselves and their companies, reality hits you that your
employees are just as loose-lipped at the evening socializing hour
and during the conference that you paid for them to attend. If you
are an employee, button up the lip.
The information just a few of your trained employees get out of
their new conference friends will fuel your marketing plan until
the next conference.
Now, beware of the "plants." You know, the ones who said after
Katrina hit, "We are buying up dyke land and are going to develop
beachfront communities." This is their purposeful misquote to get
you to spill your guts.
There are some high-tech devices available to help contain your
own company secrets, and they are becoming evermore present in
every industry. The cost is low, and you can monitor your own
company for potential espionage.
Intra-office monitoring of electronic conversations, such as
instant messaging, will keep people from wasting company time, but
also patrol what is being transferred. Protective devices to keep
prohibited e-mailing and attachments from entering your network
provide another shield of protection.
However, employees feel violated and infringed upon if they are
not informed. Let them know you need the security to prevent being
ravaged by the competition. Place outside accessible Internet
systems in break rooms for their personal use. Periodically, check
the histories of the systems and see where and who the employees
are communicating with.
My best thoughts and concepts are not stored behind firewalls
and systems that I can access from anywhere. My best of the best
are stored on a system that is not connected to the outside world.
Keep your company plans and strategies offline. This way, no one is
capable of sneaking in your back door, unless they physically break
into your company and steal the specific word processor. That is
what cameras and alarms are for.
If the content of this article, particularly how to reap
sensitive information from a competitor, has you concerned, you may
have already been a victim of corporate spying. Smarten up and get
trained to protect your company treasures.
Joe Corno is president of Utah-based We Be Consulting and
Seminars. He may be reached at (801) 836-2077 or e-mail [email protected]