12 February, 2014

Let Me Show You The High Percentage Way To Get Hired

A friend told me the other day that he had taken my job seeking advice and "it worked". He went on to tell me that after a lengthy unemployment period he was offered a job he's excited about and he got it because he was referred to the employer by a mutual friend.

Folks, this is how most white collar jobs (and many non-white collar jobs) are really filled. They candidate with the best resume is no match for the guy whose best friend plays golf with the hiring manager or the candidate whose resume is hand-delivered by a mutual friend along with a "you should hire this guy."

It's how the employment world really works. It's how it's always worked. HR departments don't want you to know that - and lawyers won't let them tell you the truth - but if you're looking for a job and you're a "B" candidate with an "in" you're more likely to get the job than an "A+" who is a stranger to the organization and to the hiring manager. 

So why are you sending countless dollars and hours sending your resume to strangers who aren't going to hire you if an acceptable non-stranger is available?

I've never seen the work place less "meritocratic" than it is today - and that's saying something since (a) it's never been very meritocratic and (b) employers have never declared what meritocracies they are as much as they do today.

Back in the early 90s I got a call from the HR department at my largest client, a publicly-traded Nashville firm. The HR department told me I had to start working with them instead of working directly with the Area VPs I usually worked with. That call was followed by an Area VP who told me to ignore the HR department.

"Nothing's changed," he said ", you and I work together exactly the same way we always did. I'll be damned if HR is going to tell me who to hire."

And that was that. If Area VPs (and even lesser hiring managers) wanted to hire somebody they liked instead of the candidate HR determined to be the "most qualified", that's what they did. 

In light of this reality, who would you rather be, (a) the most highly qualified candidate with the best resume who is championed by HR or (b) the candidate favored by the hiring manager? Right, the answer is (b). 

Qualifications get job candidates into a game that relationships win. Stop and read that statement again. Notice that I didn't say "unqualified people get hired all the time." But I am saying that a "B" candidate with the right connections will get hired ahead of an "A+" candidate every time if the "B" candidate has a "sponsor" or co-signer for the job and the "A+" candidate doesn't. 

Meritocracy be damned, here's what hiring managers are really doing: they're stocking their companies with people they "like" or feel comfortable with. By this measure they can use any criteria they wish and they don't really have to justify their decision to anyone so your job as an employment seeker is to make sure somebody likes you and feels comfortable with you. The easiest way to do this is to get recommended by what I call en employment co-signer or sponsor. 

And notice that I didn't say you have to be the hiring manager's best pal. You just have to be a non-stranger. Strangers don't get hired except in "cattle calls" where Ibex Global is hiring 250 call center workers or where Amazon.com is hiring anybody with a pulse to work the Christmas season. 

A non-stranger is the guy being introduced to the hiring manager over coffee at Starbucks by their mutual friend while you're sitting in the lobby sweating bullets over whether the $500 resume you're carrying is good enough. You're a stranger. The hiring manager will not hire you. The hiring manager will hire the non-stranger, the guy who's being introduced to him by their mutual friend.

Don't be insane. Don't continue to do the same thing over and over each time expecting a different result. Don't double down on sending resumes to strangers when deep in your heart you know this is a low percentage strategy that seldom works. 

Let me show you the high percentage way to get hired. I offer a job seeker workshop free of charge to groups in the Kanawha-Putnam areas. 

Higginbotham At Large reads all submitted comments but only publishes comments from clearly identified submitters. No pseudonymous or anonymous comments will be published. By "clearly identified" I mean something like this: JosephHigginbotham@gmail.com. No Ring of Gyges for you.

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