A job search is anxiety-provoking by nature, but it can become even more frustrating when your approach is based on incorrect beliefs about the hiring process.
Here are seven hiring myths that get in your way, and tips to overcome them:
1) The hiring process is logical, fair and objective. We’ve been trained to trust authority and procedure, so it makes sense that we’d want to believe the hiring systems companies have in place adhere to some type of objective structure. But you may be surprised to hear that’s the exception versus the norm. Humans bring bias into all things they create, often unconsciously. This means there’s a lot of variability between how you’re being assessed and how the next guy is being evaluated, even if on the surface there are similarities. What you can do: Take a proactive approach. Understand and address your “red flags” (we all have them) so you don’t get eliminated early in the process. Re-work your resume, clean up your social media, and line up your most relevant accomplishments front and center. Essentially, do the heavy lifting for the hiring manager.
2) Hiring managers have been trained to interview. Sadly, it’s rare that managers are trained how to lead, evaluate or coach others and are just expected to learn these skills on-the-job. Hiring isn’t an exception. With only interviewing a few times per year if that, it’s likely the person sitting across the desk evaluating you has no background in objectively assessing candidates. They have little awareness that regardless of what data they collect, their emotions will play a major role in the final decision, and that they’ll unknowingly evaluate applicants who are most like themselves the highest, even if this isn’t what the team needs. What you can do: Prepare, prepare, prepare, and know exactly what information you want to leave on the table regarding the value you bring to the open role, regardless of what questions you’re asked. The onus is on you to be 100% ready to show how you’re a fit, which may seem unfair (see #1), but won’t be consoling when you don’t get the job.
3) All online job postings are real. This myth is especially harmful to a job seeker’s self-esteem. While not all job boards are created equally, the big aggregators are full of outdated openings, scams, and roles that have already been spoken for internally, but require a few sham interviews to check the legal box. Further, up to 80% of jobs are never posted, which means when you apply online, you’re competing with 100% of applicants for only about 20% of openings. What you can do: Use your network to get an insider’s view of any companies you apply to online. Is there a hiring freeze? Have they identified an internal candidate? Is this job all it’s cracked up to be based on the job description? This can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
4) You can beat an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). There are countless articles offering tricks to beat the ATS (the system Human Resources uses to sort applications based on their ideal qualifications for a role). While these strategies can increase your odds, there’s still a lot left up to chance. In fact, ATS often weed out about 75% of applications before they reach human eyes. This can be due to your resume being formatted in a manner the system can’t read or getting knocked out of the running for a single field (e.g., salary requirements, preferred degree, etc.). What you can do: Reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager to ensure your resume has been received. It’s relatively easy to research this information online (hint: LinkedIn), and politely inquiring about your candidacy status can get you out of the ATS abyss and into the consideration pile.
5) Headhunters help to place job seekers. This is a popular misconception. The bottom line is that external search recruiters (aka, headhunters) are hired by companies to source candidates for difficult-to-fill roles, such as executive-level positions or those requiring a rare skillset. They don’t have huge databases of jobs, aren’t interested in coaching candidates who can’t earn them money on what they should do with their careers, and will likely find you on social media on their own if you’re a fit for the types of openings they fill. What you can do: Find out if you’d be attractive to a headhunter based on your expertise and interests, and if there’s mutual benefit, build a relationship with one who works in your industry. Most job seekers overlook the fact that quality headhunters are relational, not transactional. Recommending you reflects on their brand that they’ve worked hard to establish.
6) You need to have all of the qualifications to get selected. I’ve seen many job seekers talk themselves out of applying for a position because they didn’t meet every listed requirement. Well, in the same way you’ll never find the “perfect” job, a company won’t find an exact match to every qualification. In fact, most job descriptions are written with haste or to entice, and aren’t even tied to the performance measures that you’ll be evaluated against. What you can do: Getting a referral is the best way to land an interview for a role where you miss the mark on a few qualifications. But even if you don’t have a trusted reference, you still may be selected to interview. Many times, it’s the top 2 – 3 qualifications in the job description that are most important and carry much of the weight. Plus, likability, creativity and a strong brand can carry you far.
7) “This is our best offer” means you can’t negotiate. There’s always something you can negotiate. And while it’s usually best to begin with base salary since so many other perks are based on that figure, if your new company can’t budge on base, there are still many other benefits that can put more money in your pocket or make your work (or commute or environment) more satisfying. What you can do: Make a list of perks that are meaningful to you such as extra vacation, a sign-on bonus, tuition reimbursement, travel benefits or a telecommute day each week. If a company can’t meet your ideal salary, often they’re willing to negotiate in other areas so you come on board motivated.
While it’d be great to live in a world that was predictable and orderly, it’s just not a reality. So while you can’t control every aspect of a job search, understanding the areas where you can will give you a major competitive advantage.
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