04 March, 2011

To Get The Job, Get Out Of The "Stranger" Category

A Fortune 400 company advertised a position in their government affairs office. According to the published ad, the successful candidate would be someone who spoke an Asian language fluently, had lived in Asia, and had worked for a government agency.

The person who got the job had never worked in government, never lived in Asia and couldn't speak a foreign language of any kind, Asian or otherwise. The successful but unqualified candidate had something the qualified candidates didn't: she had a relationship, a professional co-signer, whose intervention made all those pesky "minimum qualifications" requirements melt away.

Having a professional co-signer can launch less qualified candidates past better qualified candidates. It happens every day. It happens in large Fortune 400 companies like the one above and it happens in the small mom and pops.

Until my Linked Liberals group on Linkedin started having a big discussion about job search, I had no idea that so few professionals in their 40s and 50s have somehow failed to notice that the hiring process is not "fair" and that the best candidates don't get the jobs unless they have professional co-signers who vouch for them.

The sooner you realize that life isn't fair and that the hiring process isn't meritocratic the sooner you'll spend your time looking for a professional co-signer instead of spending your time playing the low percentage game of sending resumes to strangers.

I've said this in my previous few blog posts but I haven't fully defined what I mean by the word "stranger".

Harry Beckwith has correctly observed that people don't like to do business with strangers if there is a non-stranger available. So what is a stranger? A stranger is someone who is both unknown to you and unknown to anyone you know. In other words, a stranger is 3 degrees from you. To get the job, you don't have to be the hiring manager's best buddy, you just have to get out of the 3 degrees away category and get to the 2 degrees away category. That happens when a mutual friend or colleague - this is your professional co-signer - introduces you to the hiring manager. The hiring manager immediately warms to you when your professional co-signer introduces you to him.

In my next post, I'll address some misconceptions about working with headhunters.

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