“If you were an eraser, tell me how you would sell yourself to a pencil?”
– Uh, well I would… Do I have a pimp in this scenario?
Did you ever imagine you would have to think out-of-the-box from so deep within the box? Questions like the one above are becoming common in interviews but what do they really accomplish? A recruiter would say that questions like this take the candidate off guard to see how they respond under pressure. Fine, but more and more the entire interview process has become inundated with inane questions and inefficient processes.
If you search, “surviving the hiring process” today, the first result is an article from a well-known recruitment firm detailing how employers can survive the hiring process. Hiring the right candidate can be difficult, no doubt, but that process is nothing compared to finding the right career.
Employers have the following advantages in the hiring process:
- Having a paycheck.
- Having time (sometimes an indefinite amount of time) to make hiring decisions.
- Dictating job requirements and prerequisite experience.
- Having a pool of applicants.
- Not having to go anywhere (applicants come to them).
- Not having to respond to applicants (saves time).
- The ability to continue earning money by offloading work onto current employees.
Applicants might have advantages in the hiring process too but they are much more difficult to list because I cannot think of any. Is having basic equality rights an employment advantage?
In this article I explore the biggest obstacles of the hiring process from the applicant’s point-of-view, and how you can save time and money while discovering the perfect career opportunities.
Timing Your Job Search
When I quit my job this year I had the benefit of timing. I considered my options, my savings and goals and had a backup plan in case I couldn’t find a new career. If you have a job, even if you hate it, following the old adage, “never quit without a job in place,” is probably the wisest decision you can make.
The benefits of Job Hunting while you’re employed:
- Maintaining a steady income: Desperation can breed contempt from employers. Its natural for recruiters to seek out the most confident and secure applicants.
- Being more selective about what opportunities you evaluate.
- Feeling accomplished: When you are unemployed and none of your efforts are panning out it becomes a huge emotional drain. Alternatively, if you are working and interviewing simultaneously, you become empowered by your extraordinary efforts towards a career change.
However, if you were laid off, fired or you quit your job without a plan, your time is now more valuable than ever. You can’t afford the long drives, multiple interviews, testing and waiting for responses that sometimes never arrive. They will drain you over time. When you become burned out by the hiring process it is almost impossible to hide it.
In order to avoid job search burn-out its a good idea to set some ground rules. By limiting your search and focusing on relevant opportunities, you can save time and money in your job search.
Here’s my list of rules for evaluating career opportunities:
- The job description: I stop reading if it references more than two processes that I’ve never heard of. The job (as described) must also align with my work experience in a meaningful way. Job descriptions that are too long suggest companies looking for someone in-house. If the description is too short, its probably something most people would avoid if the posting were more detailed.
- No group interviews: If I’m not getting a one-on-one, I move on.
- How far away is the office?: It makes no sense to get a job that matches or slightly improves your salary, only to cut it back down with vehicle maintenance costs. Also, a long commute can take a toll on your overall happiness.
- Research Every Job: I investigate every company I apply for. Not only does this help you during the interview but you can find a wealth of information about the hiring processes of companies by doing some online research.
These are just the rules I generally follow, they are not set in stone. If the right opportunity arises I can make adjustments in support of my larger goals. This process can significantly reduce the time you spend applying and save you from job hunting burn-out.
The Hiring Process
If you are not a specialist in a niche field, or if you are changing careers, it’s very difficult to navigate job opportunities online. Before you are hired you must usually invest a lot of your time and resources.
The typical process of finding and getting a job without a personal reference:
- Avoid scams, fake job postings and cat video distractions.
- Locate a job that meets your search criteria (as shown above).
- Send in your introductory e-mail, cover-letter and resume.
- Complete the employer’s application (usually a redundant step).
- Complete prehire testing and surveys.
- Phone interview – 10-15 minutes
- Personal interview
- Rounds 2-3 if available.
- Job Offer or Salary Negotiations.
Your path to a new career can be brought to screeching halt at any of these junctures but as you move forward the applicant pool becomes smaller. Sometimes, however, you were never meant to get the job. Nobody was. It was just posted so that a recruiter could claim that it was made publicly available. Other times, employers keep a pool of applicants just in case they have an opening.
The key to conquering this process, without losing your mind, it to treat it as a robot would. At least until the interview. Don’t worry, you’ll be dealing with mostly robots anyways. Systematically eliminate bad jobs, focus in on the relevant ones and provide the employer with what they are looking for. You should echo back words and phrases from the job posting in your cover-letter. Once you get the interview, however, you need to be as personable and confident as possible.
Job Hunting Tips That Are Worth Your Time
Aside from being a qualified applicant for the career you are targeting, there are a few skills that make getting a job infinitely easier:
- Writing an excellent cover-letter and resume: The hiring process starts off cold and impersonal. If your cover-letter and resume are not focused and well-written you won’t even get a response, let alone an interview. To ensure that your resume is read, use a short, professional template with at least 11 point font. Also get someone else to edit your writing. It’s too easy to make errors when you’re the only one reviewing. I once listed my phone number incorrectly for a week before I caught the mistake.
- Take advantage of your university: Colleges are often evaluated by their ability to prepare students for the work force. Take advantage of these services before (or immediately after) you graduate and you will be in a much better position for hire. Universities also often host job fairs and networking events that can become a powerful resource for career prospects.
- Cultivate excellent interview skills: Practice with friends, family or even coaches. Mastering this skill will guarantee that you separate yourself from your competition.
- Networking with friends and family:
“80% of the people in this room got their job because a friend recommended them.” – Chris Rock.
Job Resources Not Worth Your Time
- Many Recruiting Firms: Many recruiters are sales people. They spend the day securing contracts for employment with their business clients. So if you are making a career change, or just starting out, it is unlikely you will fit perfectly into one of these positions and you will end up in a drawer. A common practice among recruiters is to just ignore you after the initial formalities. In my research for this article I noticed this complaint over and over again. So I decided to throw my hat in the ring and set up an interview with a recruiter. As a mid-level, licensed tax consultant (with proven sales skills) looking to enter other areas of finance I was told I was, “highly employable.” I gave them a low salary requirement and told them I was willing to work my way back up if necessary. Everything looks great right? I never heard from them again. I contacted three separate reps from different territories and haven’t received a single response (15 days ago). Now I can call it investigative research, since it didn’t work out.
- Pay-to-Work schemes: If you have to pay for materials, or goods for resale, you are actually in business for yourself. A good employer will pay to train you and provide you with ample resources to accomplish your job. A great employer will even pay for you to get a new degree or license. In the wide world of opportunities there is little reason to have to “make an investment” in your employment (besides gas and time that is).
What is your best advice for job searching? Share your thoughts and I will email you a kitten.
I like the advice to treat it as a robot would. I found most of my frustrations came from going on line and filling out the employer’s application process. Like, microwaves, every one is them seems to be different. The worst thing that can happen is losing an hour’s worth of work because you’re kicked out, the second worst is trying to figure how to get to the next page because you didn’t fill out something exactly the right way, like your salary for example (comma, no comma, decimal point or not, using the .00 or not) and the third worst is having to take a questionnaire (optional?) after you arrived half mad at the supposed finish line, one that takes up to 45 freaking minutes! Any advice here?
The trouble is that it costs so much to hire an employee that businesses sometimes resort to a tremendous amount of pre-qualification processes. The applicant pool is also much larger now. But these paperwork heavy hiring practices have not improved efficiency much. Rather, they often serve to limit a company’s (sometimes massive) applicant pool. A better system would focus on connecting with people first and require the majority of this paperwork once an offer is made.
My best advice is to incorporate easy application tools (like linkedin which sometimes allows you to simply upload a resume). Other than that, freelancing and private consulting are highly appealing and don’t require an application!