Hiring power. Few people have it. Even fewer people wield that power well.
Yet we all, at some point in our lives, must face those with “the hire power” and ask for work – full-time, part-time, or contract/project work.
As someone who jumps that fence regularly between being hired and doing the hiring, I see a lot of harmful assumptions among job seekers. I say harmful because job seekers waste the precious little time they have in front of hiring managers, both in the application process and the interview.
Here’s some job hunt lessons I recently shared with a group of aspiring writers:
1) OF COURSE YOU ARE QUALIFIED – If I interview you or ask for more info, then I know you are qualified. I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER call someone in for an interview to see IF they are qualified. If I took up precious time on my busy schedule – and it’s busy or I wouldn’t need to hire you – then I believe you are qualified. I may ask test Qs to make sure you told the truth on your application, but it’s not to see if you are qualified. Remember, a lot of qualified people applied for the same job you did. I’m looking for why you are EVEN BETTER than the rest of those qualified people. Ask yourself what you have to offer that is beyond the skills/tasks listed in my announcement, and how that experience or those skills are unique, and set you apart from those other applicants. Unfortunately, you don’t get to know anything about those other people and what they have to offer, but you should know your industry and your competition well enough to know why you stand out.
2) IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT ME, ME, ME – Stop telling me why you would like to have the job. Instead, tell me what you will do for me in the job. Not “I will work hard and toil long hours.” Anyone can do that. Remember, this is a business, in fact, it’s MY business. I want to know how you are going to save me money or bring in more money or make my life easier so I can make money. Just because I landed a large contract or have a big budget, doesn’t mean all of that cash landed in my pocket. I have personal bills to pay and payrolls to meet so others can pay their bills and taxes to pay – way more than you think. Let me tell you, as the one in charge, I am in constant fear that the last client was my very last client with the very last check I will ever receive! I worry that I will have to fire the people I am getting to really like as coworkers. So, when I interview you, I want to know – are you going to add to my stress or help relieve it?
3) BE AN INTERESTING PERSON – Most applicants fail to show me their personality on their resume, not to mention leaving it out in the interview. Afraid that anything “off script” will disqualify them, many candidates actually just melt together. One key aspect of hiring is answering the question: Why would I want to sit next to you for 10-12 hours, or trust you to treat people well when I’m not there, or ask you to take important calls for me? You need to have interesting, exciting outside interests that demonstrate your ability to interact with people (aka “clients”), as well as to fill the time we may be waiting in an airport…extra bonus points if those outside interests demonstrate that you are resourceful, helpful and smart. Trust me, if you’re big outside interest offends me, you don’t want to work for me anyway.
4) BELIEVE IN YOUR VALUE – Do not beg for a job or say you’ll work for no pay or low pay and long hours. Again, anyone can say that, do that and hate that…and you have made yourself a commodity. It is true that some people who hire like to hear that, but you do not want to work for someone who hires you solely because you will work long hours for no money. They will just wait for you to drop dead, and then move on to the next sucker. Instead, pick a price and stick to it. Do not come down in price for the same services. In other words, if you need to make $50k/year, then say that. If the employer says the position only pays $40k, then say, “Well, I can work for $40k if I can get 5 weeks vacation, a gas allowance and full health benefits” or “I would be willing to come down to $40k if you will work with me to expand my skills in speechwriting by sending me to one conference a year,” or “Sorry, I can’t really go below $50k. I appreciate your time.” It also helps if you can say “I helped my last boss save $XX and got him a meeting with X and so I’m confident I can help you with the same.” If you can point to accomplishments that helped with the previous boss’s biz, then you can add, “Do you want to try it for 30-60 days at the $50k level? If you don’t think I’m worth it, we can part amicably.”