In the past 30 years, on more than one thousand different search projects, I must have debriefed four thousand different hiring managers and candidates. The big aha from all this: getting a job is as much art as science, with a lot of luck mixed in. Regardless, by knowing what to do and not to do, job-seekers can better position themselves to be found more easily, assessed more accurately, and getting an offer more likely. Following is my shortlist of the required dance steps. (Here’s a video intro to the full lesson.)
Increase Your Chances to Be Found
- Implement a 20/20/60 job-seeking plan. Only 20% of your effort should be spent on applying to jobs, another 20% on making sure your resume and profile are easy to find, and the balance on networking.
- Give yourself a 10-second review. Look at your resume for 10 seconds and circle everything that stands out. Since this is how much time a recruiter takes to decide to read your resume, make sure the first line is compelling and your track record stands out.
- Become a networking guru. HR leaders contend their best hires come through employee referrals. So when you find a job posting of interest, use LinkedIn to find someone you’re connected to who is connected to someone in the company. Then get this person to refer you. Networking will also open the door to the hidden job market.
Don’t Get Excluded When First Contacted
- Be strategic, not tactical. Don’t focus on the comp, location, company or job title. Ask about the job and the impact on the company. If this represents a career move, the stuff you get on the start date will be more than enough. Better: you’ll be invited in for the interview or possibly considered for other jobs.
- Take control of the interview by asking questions. Don’t let the recruiter go into box-checking mode. Ask about why the job is available, how long they’ve been looking, and some of the challenges and responsibilities. Even if the job is not a perfect fit, you might be able to get it modified if they think you’re a strong person.
- Shift the conversation to performance. Very few candidates are a perfect match on skills and experience. The best candidates are those who have accomplished the most comparable work regardless of their direct experience. You’ll need to get this point across during the first call.
Make Sure You’re Accurately Assessed
- Ask job-related and forced-choice questions. First, ask the interviewer to describe the job. To ensure the person asks about your strengths ask something like, “Is (one of your major strengths) important in this job?” Then give an example that best demonstrates this ability.
- Be prepared to discuss major accomplishments in depth. Write up your biggest team and individual accomplishments using the SMARTe model below. Giving a detailed two-minute answer separates you from those who mention quickly forgotten generalities.
- Give SMARTe answers. I wrote a book for interviewers on how to ask SMARTe questions. Job-seekers can reverse engineer the process by giving examples of accomplishments that are Specific, Measurable and Action-oriented. Also include the Results achieved, the Timeframe and describe the environment.
Negotiate the Job, Not the Compensation
- Find out where you stand. At the end of the interview ask about next steps. If non-committal, ask what area in your background is the interviewer most concerned about. Then attempt to provide a SMARTe answer to address the concern.
- Expand or modify the job to fit your background. Jobs can be modified to fit the needs of a strong person. Rather than focusing on compensation, see if the job can be enlarged or re-scoped. If you’re successful in a bigger role, your compensation will rise accordingly and more rapidly.
- Prove your worthy. Negotiate an early performance review if the company is unwilling to increase the compensation. To prove yourself, volunteer to start in a temp role or on a short-term consulting project. Not only does this demonstrate confidence and character, it also puts you in a very strong bargaining position once you’ve demonstrated your ability.
Getting a new job takes practice, patience and perseverance. Following these ideas will increase your odds, shorten the time to get another job, and improve your bargaining power. The key is to proactively lead the process, not follow someone else’s. This is what dancing is all about, especially with a partner who is a bit clumsy or out of step.
Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He’s also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. For more hiring advice join Lou’s LinkedIn group or follow his Wisdom at Work series on Facebook.
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