Frankly, I'm amazed anyone gets hired at all.. The typical hiring process endorsed by Human Resources is a massive waste of time, calculated to keep hordes of applicants away from hiring managers. But wait, you say! Networking and recruiters, that's the ticket. And you would be... partially correct. Every great job opportunity I've had in the past two decades has come through personal relationships and referrals. The problem is all of these opportunities arrived on their schedule, rather than mine. And if you're out of work or impatient to move on to the next level in your career, this isn't fast enough.
Stop Talking To Faceless Machines
Apply on the website? Seriously? Imagine being a saleperson and telling your boss you "signed up on their website". They'll chuckle and ask when you're going to do some real work. Like a face-to-face salescall. The goal of this website is to help you take control of the job hunt, speeding up your search and getting past barriers.
Two hundred years ago, Human Resources didn't really exist. If you wanted to get a job with a business in town, you walked down there and spoke with the boss. Heck, resumes were not commonly required until the 1950's. Your ancestors actually had to... talk to people. Explain why it was a good idea to hire them, why they would be reliable employees. Convince a current employee to vouch for them. When is the last time you walked up to a potential employer and had a straightforward conversation about wanting to join their organization?
Most of the time, Human Resources is not going to be your friend in this process. The typical recruiting process is oriented towards keeping bad candidates out, away from the management team and unable to inflict other forms of drama (lawsuits) on the business of the company. Since a good part of Human Resources time is spent managing various forms of drama, there is a natural bias towards candidates who are meek and submissive to the will of the company. The website only makes this easier, since you don't need to deliver a rejection in person. And let's face it: for every position advertised on the internet, there will be 20 - 100 candidates hitting the "discard" pile.
Prospecting: Do Your Homework
Half of winning really is showing up, suited up and ready to play. Before investing an afternoon for an interview, spend a few minutes reading about the company, checking out the manager on LinkedIn, and getting your thoughts together. What do they need? What do you have to offer? Sadly, most candidates don't bother to do even the basics before walking through the door.
In sales, we call this pre-call planning. You should never set foot on the customer's site without doing some basic research on their situation (even just checking a sales report) and having a game plan around what to offer them. It's ok to change the plan once you start talking to them. That's just good listening. But at least have an idea before you walk into their office....
Expand Your Focus: Teams vs. Jobs
The job description is the fatal flaw of the entire hiring process. From a Human Resources perspective, it makes perfect sense. If the company is a great big machine, why not use job descriptions for each of the little parts? To pick a candidate, we will compare their current knowledge to the specifications and select the best fit. All Nice and Scientific. And, of course, you can easily explain away any bias or legal concerns.
The problem is... humans aren't machine parts. We can change, learn, and evolve. That junior analyst will learn to manage projects and can become a marketing leader. A process consultant can learn to code and become a software developer. And sometimes the most useful path isn't necessarily "up": while the employee may not be "promotable", there may be a ton of value in having someone who is super-flexible. Most of the job descriptions I've seen are out of date within 6 - 12 months. A typical "good hire" in many industries will stay on the team for 5 - 10 years.
Stop limiting your searches to the jobs you are "highly qualified" for. Don't be afraid to ask for a different role - or take a position on a good team in a role other than the one you desire. Good things tend to happen when you're working with a good team.
Focus: Rip Your Resume in Half
If the job description is too narrow, the typical resume is too broad. Tear it in half. And if it is still over a page, toss the rest in the trash. Any mid-career professional can have a three page resume. Presenting me with this monstrosity will convince me you are unable to anticipate, communicate, and prioritize.
You are not a resume. It is, at best, a marketing document, a leave-behind piece of sales literature you create. Identify those things which are essential to the value you offer an employer and present them. Discard the rest, aside from items of conversational interest and enough employment history to verify your ability to keep a job. You may safely assume that if the most recent job on your resume says "senior manager", I do not need the full details of every previous position you held, especially if they focused on unrelated tasks.
Tell me, in simple English, what you have to offer and why I should hire you.
You know why I hate job board postings? Because everyone in town can see them and will apply for them. So the odds of getting the job go down. Even better, most of these people are giving up their salary information, so HR can sit back and quote a salary based on the lowest bidder. And to add insult to injury, most of the candidates are being screened by HR managers who likely don't really understand how to judge technical job performance / quality, so they fall back on simple things like... price. Or credentials. I wouldn't waste your time applying unless you're an absolutely perfect match.
You know when I've gotten huge pay packages? When the underlying business is a hot mess and because of my past experience with that particular situation, I am one of the few people the hiring manager trusts to get it fixed. I mean... sure, you can try to go hire an external candidate. First, are you sure you are hiring the correct person? Can they learn the business quickly enough? This is where you can often get a little more....
Really, it's pricing 101. The county school bid always goes for a low price with a bunch of people fighting over it. Customers who need some custom service, maybe a quick turnaround... pay more.
Overcoming Career Barriers
Despite all their talk about diversity, corporate HR departments rarely give non-traditional candidates full consideration in the hiring process. If you've got a gap in your credentials or a blemish in your past, you're going to face an uphill battle if you approach this the "traditional" way.
Funny thing though... look deep enough into the organizational bushes and you'll often find plenty of exceptions. College degree required for management? Perhaps, but we have a few people we really like. Fire anyone with a DUI or criminal conviction? Perhaps, but that particular individual is a top seller and it wasn't work related. Don't ask, don't tell.
If you fall into one of these categories, read on - we're developing additional guides on job hunting despite some of these challenges. It is all about finding the right person who will give you a chance.