As long as there are people looking for employment, in other words as long as there is employment, there will be advice on how to get it. Here we have three pieces from two authors, one maybe the best employment-obtaining columnist in the nation, and one with a standpoint of value without much previous stature in the field, anthropology. What are they saying, and how much merit does it have?
First is another incisive warning from Liz Ryan of Forbes, her August 8th “Ten Signs You’re Interviewing For A Fake Job Opportunity.” She recapped a letter received from a blogger cold-recruited for “Director of New Markets” and brought in for four interviews, during which “every conversation was stimulating,” then invited to a fifth, before which he overheard himself being described as a “tremendous resource… helping us figure out how to market our new products.” He left the meeting early, then, when his main interviewer asked him to meet with a customer, requested that the man “get serious about this job offer,” after which he was never contacted again.
With online sources giving information about people’s knowledge and experience, which is often more than seekers of lower and middle management positions usually had in decades past, such abuse is a real problem. Her ten tipoffs included a lack of apparent vetting and new interviewers every time who record your answers (“If they were going to hire you, why would they need to write down what you say?”), contrasted with vague and ever-changing information on their recruiting process, inability to articulate business “pain” with which the organization needs help, and a situation where “the job title, reporting relationship and responsibilities change every time you talk to them.” As Ryan has written before, when all the company seems to care about is obtaining what you know, it’s time to talk instead about a consulting fee.
The second piece was Richard Eisenberg’s November 9th Next Avenue “Why Job Hunters Don’t Find Work,” an interview with anthropology professor Ilana Gershon. She reached five ostensibly preconception-free conclusions, that personal brands don’t help people get jobs, that “people you don’t know very well” aren’t worth much either, that “employers rarely know” how effective potential hires would be, that true workplace ties are the best, and that age discrimination is often implemented by employers dropping applicants without communication. I think better of personal branding than Gershon, as it is a way of becoming known before jobs become open, and don’t think all people have enough direct work contacts to ignore the secondary ones, but otherwise I can’t disagree with any of these.
The third article, published January 9th and also from Liz Ryan in Forbes, gave me more to quarrel with than anything I can remember from her. Perhaps that started with the overstated title, “Ten Things Every Hiring Manager Is Looking For.” Clearly she was right about candidates’ needing to tell stories showing, instead of just stating, that they are “hard-working, smart and reliable,” even if such tales may not be believed, but those filling jobs don’t always particularly want “someone who can think on their feet,” “who’s dependable and keeps their commitments,” or “who has a sense of humor,” especially if they are not like that themselves, and it is surprisingly naïve to say that “they want to hire someone who has great ideas and is happy to share them,” or “is willing to learn, and to teach what they know.” Having been told I wasn’t “a good fit” for a position that fit me like an Italian driving glove, after a day’s worth of interviews during which I emphasized my quality with actual work experiences, may have biased me, but I think most long-time corporate managers have seen the same.
So what does work for getting a good job? I will stay with my perceptions, originated by me during a half-year of unemployment and seconded by my career counselor, that hiring managers want two things: someone with specific experience at the position in question, and someone they like personally. You will know when you have the former, and the latter is far too individual to say, beyond ordinary manners and courtesy, what will win you over to “every” interviewer, or even to most of them. As with tournament bridge, all you can do is play your game, and if you lose, you lose. As with standup comedy, since you always risk it you should ensure that if you bomb it is with your own material. As I learned in comedy improv, if you “suck” and “die” you should smile and bow. Accordingly, prepare, be on time, and be yourself. That is the right approach.