Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you out of your mind-set?

So Happy Holidays to everyone. While typically I like to discuss hiring tips and techniques directed more towards hiring managers than job seekers, I’d like to go a little different route this month, and focus these remarks towards job seekers. Let’s face it, at some time or another….we are all job seekers.

Most people have been affected in some way by the economy. Either you’ve lost your job, lost a portion of your income, made a change to a new career, or at least know someone that has. I’d like to focus on a subject that is extremely important for finding success as a Job Seeker……….. “job seeker mindset”.

So what is the “proper” mindset a job seeker should have to ensure success?

In very general terms, there are most commonly 2 schools of thought…both very distinct in their differences.
• Mindset #1: Supreme confidence… “This job is mine!”
• Mindset #2: Cautiously optimistic… “Here we go…get ready to hear “No”.”

So which is best? What is the secret to cultivating a successful mindset?

Mindset #1 is a very upbeat and positive attitude towards the “hunt”. People with this type of mindset feel that every job is theirs to have and it’s just a matter of getting in front of the decision maker. This attitude is very “here is what I can do for you” in its mode of delivery. This job seeker looks at the search/interview process as a sales process, ie… “I’m the product and I’m showing you the benefits of buying me.”

Mindset #2 is more passive, often classified as “realism”. People with this type of mindset feel that the right job is out there, but there are also other candidates who may be more qualified or a better fit. This attitude is very “I am a good fit, but it’s your decision” in its mode of delivery. This job seeker looks at the interview process as an explanation of what they can do for the company, but in a more passive fashion than #1.

In order to understand the “best” mindset for success, let me draw upon some of the things I’ve observed about hiring over the span of my career as a recruiter. I don’t want to call these “Hiring myths” or pretend they are the “absolute” in truth….just observations:

1. The candidate with the best qualifications DOESN’T always get the job.
• Qualifications are important, but so are other factors including: personality, relationship to the company (personal or professional), compensation requirements, appearance, upside/growth potential, etc.

2. Not every position goes to the person that “sells themselves” the best.
• Selling yourself as a candidate while important, comes naturally to some people….and some hiring managers are looking for those who can “sell themselves”…but not all.
• If the sole purpose of your interview is to “sell”, then you may miss very important information regarding the opportunity. Is it really right for you, your skills, interests, and short/long term career goals? Are you answering honestly, or just trying to give the interviewer “what they want to hear”? Are you identifying potential concerns that could keep you from being successful at this opportunity or with this company?

3. “Who” you know often out-weighs “What” you know.
• I am convinced through my own job searches and my experience as a recruiter that companies and managers typically want to surround themselves with people they trust and like. Yes, it is only one factor, but an important one. Look back at how many jobs you got through a personal network or recommendation…it does matter!

4. Skills, knowledge, and experience are all essential to landing the right job, but be careful of where you place your emphasis.
• While there is rarely (if ever) a detriment to training, skills, and experience, be careful to understand that the hiring manager may rank the importance level of each differently than you. Some managers think certain skills are more important than others…some weigh experience heavier than others…some weigh education and training differently. Be aware that what you think will make you successful in the job may be different than what they think.

Ultimately, my point is that either mindset can be effective or ineffective – depending on your own personality and that of the hiring manager. While I am always one to advocate the importance of being able to sell your skills and have confidence, I also try to prepare every candidate for the reality that…this is a long process and there will be ups and downs….so get ready for some rejection (it helps you grow if you know what to do afterwards).

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is something that every recruiter probably tells every candidate: “The best time to look for a job…is when you have a job!” Job seeking and successful searches are always a factor of confidence and comfort. If you aren’t comfortable in the interview, the resume writing, the negotiation, or the search itself, your results will reflect it. Choose a mindset that works best with your personality and most importantly, try to identify what each hiring manager is comfortable with as well. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole…because the hiring manager won’t either.