Why The Best Candidate Rarely Gets The Job And How To Change That
We are all led to believe that the job market, the career bazaar, is a meritocracy. That every appealing position attracts a swarm of candidates and the laws of nature combined with the wisdom of mankind, selects the best and the brightest to fill the slot.
But in reality, that is rarely the case. And there are three key reasons for this flaw in the system:
1. The candidates best matched for the positions via skills and experience fail to make an effective case for themselves. They wait to be discovered instead of getting ahead of the pack by unabashedly marketing themselves.
2. The hiring manager really isn’t searching for the most talented candidate. Instead, he prefers the one who is most deferential to him and is savvy enough to inflate his ego.
3. HR has a projected employee job description that is actually a checklist of attributes. A minimum level of annual experience, highly specific academic achievements and the like. Sometimes even a secret age preference. Regardless of how strong the best candidate presents for the job overall, if she falls short on a single checklist item, she is discarded in favor of another who matches perfectly on the paint by numbers list.
If the system is structured so that those who should be the runners- up or worse win the prize, how can you best compete in this inefficient and unfair marketplace?
As a business owner who has advised on, observed and engaged in thousands of recruitment contests over the years, I suggest the following three actions designed to offset the bias built into the system:
1. Don’t come to the interview equipped to respond to the job specifics. Many will score A’s on that front. Instead, race ahead of the curve and find a way to wow the decision maker. Tell a humorous story, bring along a sample of your creativity or discover (perhaps through LinkedIn) something in the interviewer’s accomplishments to compliment the person. Once you recognize that in so many cases, it is really more about them than about you, bingo — you are a contender.
2. Toss out all of the standard paraphernalia of the job interview. No one really enjoys reading a resume or sitting through a contrived elevator pitch. In the first few minutes, seize on something in the person or the setting and do a spontaneous riff on it. There is no doubt that the unscripted you will stand out.
3. If you’re thinking “that’s risky,” exactly right. But winning in anything in life is so much about taking risk. Yes, you may lose if your interviewer is a total stuffed HR shirt, but you may actually disarm and charm the stiff and if not, there is another opportunity waiting in the wings.
Think about the people you admire the most: chances are they are script less, free spirited and unplugged.
The ideal mix for the employment search tango contest.