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What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?
44 Insider Secrets That Will Get You Hired
By Cynthia Shapiro
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2008 Cynthia Shapiro
All rights reserved.
YOU ARE BEING ELIMINATED
DO YOU THINK THE HIRING PROCESS IS ONE OF screening and interviewing applicants to determine the best fit for a job opening?
It's not. Not anymore.
In the last several years, what used to be a standard process of candidate consideration and placement has changed dramatically, and not in your favor.
The new tactics employed by today's hiring mangers are enough to make us all yearn for the days when sweaty palms and nervous interview answers were the worst of our worries. Most people have felt a shift in our hiring practices but can't quite pinpoint why things feel so much more stressful than they used to. It's not your imagination.
If it seems tougher out there than it used to be, that's because it is. Interviewing and hiring has gone from being a merely stressful process to a full-scale gauntlet that most candidates are finding themselves unprepared for.
The new hiring and interviewing practices have morphed into a barrage of trick questions, hidden discriminations, psychological traps, secret criteria, and unfair barriers that are actually designed to make you fall apart during the process. Some are even designed to make you eliminate yourself.
The real question is not why things feel so much more stressful; it's how are people handling what's going on out there. Sadly, many are not handling the job market well at all. Today, according to reported data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 37 percent of America's unemployed have been without work for up to six months or more. That's the highest percentage in twenty years. Right now, for every job opening in the United States there are three unemployed workers waiting to take it. To make matters worse, it's estimated that only 1 percent of résumés are effective enough to make it to an interview and almost 95 percent of all interviews will end with unreturned phone calls or the dreaded form letter. In the midst of all this, there is no way for candidates to find out the real reason that they didn't make it. That is, until now. It is imperative that candidates learn how to read the signs, get the insider secrets, and protect themselves in this new hiring environment.
This chapter will give you an unparalleled glimpse into the true motivations of hiring managers, what they're up against, and what tactics they've been trained to use to get what the company wants. You'll learn how closet discriminations, secret criteria, and interviewer tactics play a part in the candidate screening process and how to protect yourself so you can move forward.
I will not be discussing some of the more obvious aspects of résumé and interview preparation you may have seen or read elsewhere. I am going where no other job seeker guide has dared to go before — into the taboo aspects of the job search process and into the world the hiring managers don't want you to see. You will uncover where their best-kept secrets are hidden and finally achieve a unique and powerful advantage in the hiring process.
I'm going to show you how to work the system from an insider's perspective so you'll never have to worry about what's expected, what they really want to hear, what to avoid, or how to look like their top candidate. Some of these secrets are indicative of issues that cannot be changed but are still critically important to understand. Many secrets represent issues absolutely within your control, so you can use this information to make the decisions that are best for you throughout the process.
It's time to learn the truth about what candidates today are truly up against.
INSIDER SECRET 1
You're not being hired; you're being excluded.
"I HAD ALL THE QUALIFICATIONS THEY WERE LOOKING FOR. This would be such a perfect fit. Why didn't I get a phone call?"
"I'm the one with exactly what they said they were looking for. Why couldn't they see that?"
We'd all like to think that hiring managers are paid solely to look for the perfect fit for each position. Don't they read every résumé and cover letter, actively looking for anything that might signify a good match? If you have the right qualifications, you'll certainly be up for consideration, right? As many of you may have already guessed, that's not how the process really works.
Imagine instead teetering stacks of résumés, directors and vice presidents screaming at harried hiring managers to hire for that open position "or else," and the phone ringing off the hook with unwanted calls from candidates wanting to know "the status of my résumé." Hiring managers don't exactly have a leisurely job and don't have the time or energy to care about your résumé or your desire to work for the company the way you'd like them to. Everyone who submits a résumé wants to work there, and that means hiring managers are squeezed from all sides. They are pressured to make placements as soon as possible, but the people hired have to be the perfect candidates with all the right skills, have to be a good fit with the manager and team, and above all have to be a safe bet for success, or that hiring manager could soon find him- or herself out of a job.
And what if the manager for the position is doing the hiring rather than someone from human resources? That can be even worse. A busy manager leading a team and meeting deadlines has even less time to deal with résumés and interviews, no matter how much he or she wants or needs that position filled.
So what does all this mean? It means that when you submit your résumé, you aren't being considered for hire. From the first moment the process starts to the very end, you are being excluded from hire. There's a big difference.
Those in charge of hiring for a company are not like recruiters. They aren't trying to find the best fit. They are not looking to place you in a position. They are looking to eliminate 98 percent of the candidates as quickly as possible.
It's a common misconception that the hiring process is one of inclusion, carefully looking at each candidate to find the right match. The harsh truth is that until you have an offer letter in hand, you are in a system of elimination. Thinking the opposite will hurt your chances for making it to that coveted 2 percent.
Today's candidate-screening process consists of a brutal three-phase elimination that begins as soon as you submit your résumé. Most hiring managers don't have the time or resources to go through every résumé carefully looking for qualifications that match the position. In fact, they most likely aren't even reading them. They are scanning and quickly separating résumés into piles labeled "maybe" and "no."
The typical hiring manager spends only three seconds on your résumé. That's it, three seconds. That means if it doesn't stand out immediately, it's in the "no" pile before the hiring manager has finished a sip of his coffee. Some résumés don't even get that three-second courtesy. If the cover letter is too long or seems boring, the hiring manager may not even bother to look at your résumé. That also goes for résumé submissions that are several pages long. Unless you're applying for a high-level executive position, résumés that are longer than one page may not be considered at all.
That's if your résumé even gets to a real person. Having a total stranger do a quick scan on your résumé to decide your future is actually the best-case scenario. Many companies now use scanning software tools that look for certain key words to determine if you're a viable candidate. If you don't have enough of those secret key words, your résumé will never be seen by a human being. It will be screened out as soon as you hit that "submit" button on the company's online résumé submission site.
The truth is: It's estimated that only 1 percent of résumés capture the attention of a busy hiring manager. The rest end up in the "no" pile. And none ever come back from that pile.
I know this sounds brutal, but you have to understand that résumé screening is quite tedious. It's not that hiring managers don't care; it's just that after the first hundred résumés, every submission starts to look the same and their instinct to narrow the field kicks in. Thus the fast and furious exclusion process begins.
If you craft your résumé imagining it will be carefully screened and analyzed by everyone who reads it, burying your key attributes in the details of your entire career history, you'll ensure that it looks like everyone else's résumé in the pile and you won't have a chance of standing out in the crowd.
What if you get a phone call? You know, the one that says the company you'd love to work for likes your résumé and wants to ask you some questions or determine your availability for an in-person interview. This would certainly mean you're moving up, right? You'll be included now, right? Well, sort of. It is definitely an accomplishment when you can escape the stack of résumés and graduate to the level of a phone call, but it's not time to let your guard down. You will be moving up, but you will also be moving into phase two, a much tougher aspect of the elimination process.
Most people believe that if they've managed to get that coveted phone call from the hiring manager, they're in. They're now being actively considered. Well maybe, but only if they survive this next phase of the elimination process that more than half of participants won't. This introductory phone call is known in human-resources and recruiting circles as "the phone screening." And it's called that for a reason.
Phone screening is not designed to get to know you and is not focused on hearing more about your skills. It's designed to look for secret red flags that will remove you from consideration before money and time are spent on a face-to-face interview. In fact, if you don't know what they're specifically looking for, you will find out that these phone screenings are often the last time you hear from the company. The phone screening is so heavily fraught with trick questions and traps that there's less than a 50 percent chance a candidate who gets one of these calls will move on to an actual interview.
If you're one of the lucky few to survive the first few elimination phases and move on to an interview, certainly you'll be close to being considered for hire, right? Sorry, not yet. You can certainly feel very proud that you've made it this far, out of the stacks of literally hundreds of hopeful résumés. But you will still be in that process of heavy elimination. In fact, you'll be in phase three. The person or people interviewing you won't be looking for reasons to make you an offer. They will be actively looking for reasons to show you the door.
Companies simply have too much at stake every time they hire someone. So, instead of looking for the best candidates, they will be much more concerned with actively looking for any red flags or danger signs that this hire may not work out. They do this because an unsuccessful hire can cost the company a great deal of money and time in both removal and replacement. Depending on the industry, a company can spend as much as 150 man-hours on hiring-related tasks and cost-per-hire can be as high as almost half a new employee's first-year salary. The fear of making a hiring mistake that could cost the company double its hiring costs or become a contested removal creating a legal liability has morphed the hiring process into the gauntlet we see today. And the interview itself has the highest stakes in the process.
Once you've made it to an interview, the company believes you have the skills and talent to do the job. That's the good news. The bad news? They will be screening for other things in this face-to-face meeting, secret things. They will be looking for company fit, appearance, personality, and, yes, danger signs that can best be discovered while talking to someone in person. No company will admit to this, but they all do it. The interview is an in-person high-stakes elimination process filled with trick questions, personality profiling, Internet screenings, background checks, and even psychological testing: "The last time you took illegal drugs at work, did it adversely affect your performance? True or false." (Yes, that's a question on an actual employment test!)
Again, this is all designed to eliminate potentially undesirable candidates so the hiring manager can determine the safest bet for hire. Because a hiring manger's job is on the line with every recommendation for hire, the safest bet is the one who will receive the offer, not necessarily the one with the best qualifications. Explains quite a bit, doesn't it?
This is what you're truly up against in the process. You will be actively eliminated right up until you get a formal offer in writing from the company. If you approach the process thinking that they are looking for all the reasons they should hire you, you won't be at the top of your game and you won't be able to stand out from the crowd of other hopefuls.
If I've scared you with all this talk of exclusion, elimination, and your résumé in the trash bin, don't worry. These are all things that can easily be overcome if you know the insider secrets I'm about to share with you. I'll give you all the best insider tips on how to create a résumé that goes right to the top of the pile, how to protect yourself in that initial phone screening, and exactly how to work the interview system to your advantage for survival and success. I'll give you the secrets to get around each of these elimination processes so you'll find yourself way ahead of the standard pack of hopefuls.
First, a few more secrets about what you're truly up against in this process and a closer look at the secret criteria companies are using against you....
INSIDER SECRET 2
You don't fit their secret criteria.
MOST PEOPLE WHO SUBMIT FOR OPEN POSITIONS HAVE THE skills, talent, and qualifications to get the job. But they won't. Why would a candidate who matches exactly what the company is looking for not get a chance at the opportunity? There's clearly something else going on in the selection process that's excluding you from the jobs you desire. The truth is: Skills and talent won't get you the job. When a company has several candidates with equal skill sets, something else comes into play, something secret and unique to each company. The number one hidden factor in the exclusion of qualified candidates is a company's secret criteria.
Every single company, whether tiny or gigantic, has its own set of secret screening criteria that it requires its hiring personnel to follow. These criteria are never written down anywhere and go way beyond the standard requirements for the position. Some are things you've heard about such as: We don't hire anyone with a prior termination, or who doesn't have at least three stellar references. But there are many others that we don't hear about such as: We don't hire anyone who has been out of work longer than three months, has not worked for one of our competitors, or doesn't appear to match our company's ideal image. Then there are the ones that a company never wants you to find out about: We don't hire anyone of a certain religion, ethnicity, background, appearance, lifestyle, health level, or parental status. That final tier in the secret criteria list is largely based on the personal preferences of the key decision makers at each company, and often these criteria fall squarely into the realm of discrimination.
Yes, discrimination during the hiring and interview process is illegal, but companies still do it every day. How do they get around the laws designed to protect us? By making it part of their secret criteria that's never written down and never openly discussed.
Most job candidates know it's illegal to discriminate against them for reasons based on age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, marital status, or medical issues, so they feel comfortable sharing these issues during the hiring process. I've heard countless times: "What does it matter if I tell them what religion I am or that I'm a recovering cancer patient? They aren't allowed to discriminate, right?" Yes, that's true; they aren't legally allowed to discriminate or exclude you because of these things, but they do. This type of information regularly causes candidates to be secretly eliminated from consideration. The company will never tell you the real reason that you weren't offered the position and won't even openly talk about it themselves. You'll be given the standard lines as to why the job went to someone else, such as "Your skills weren't the ideal match for the position" or "We decided to go in a different direction." Maybe you won't get any explanation at all.
It's important to understand that anything you choose to share with a potential employer, whether in a formal interview scenario or informal chat, may be used against you.
Excerpted from What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? by Cynthia Shapiro. Copyright © 2008 Cynthia Shapiro. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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