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How To Avoid Being Trumped In The Job Hunt

I will be the first to admit that I am not going to attempt to provide any meaningful commentary around the US elections. What's interesting to me is that someone who, on paper, was clearly the most "qualified" for the job didn't win.

You can deconstruct "the why" in a million different ways, but there are some interesting synergies with what happens in many recruitment processes; whether it be gender bias, political motivation, instinct or just wanting a "change of direction."

It's true that cultural fit is an enormously important factor in most organisations. But it's also true that hiring is often more art than science. The shortlisting process is generally the most reliable for fact based decision making. Resumes are screened to provide a shortlist of candidates who, on paper, appear to have the closest fit to the skills and requirements of the role.

When it comes to interviews studies have found that most hiring managers make up their mind about someone within the first few minutes. One study showed that candidates with 12 weeks of interview training showed the same behaviour as those with none, and continued to classify candidates within seconds.

  • People are attracted to people who share the same beliefs and backgrounds as themselves.
  • "Gut feel" is widely regarded as an acceptable mechanism for selection- which allows for bias.

To eliminate this behaviour some organisations, mainly Government Departments, have enforced more stringent processes to ensure "selection criteria" are clearly met. Their applications are more complex and formal interviews happen much later in the process. One department, the Bureau of Statistics, (ABS) have led the way on "completely blind" recruitment processes to ensure that these sorts of unconscious biases are removed. They claim to have doubled the number of female managers in just months by withholding personal information from the selection panel. This is an interesting new paradigm shift and one to watch. But it's also just one organisation doing things a little differently in a biased world.

So how do you avoid being "trumped"?

You need to put time and effort into each application to maximise your chance of making the shortlist. 

  • Does your resume show a close match to the job spec?
  • Can the key skills and experience be easily found?
  • Do your achievements shine?
  • Are your selection criteria as good as a written interview?And if you get an interview...

Focus on both what you say and how you say it.

I often hear people say that "once they get to interview they can "talk themselves into a job." That might be the case but it's a risky strategy. For these people I would say absolutely play to your strengths but focus on the substance of your content. Practice how you communicate examples clearly and concisely.

For those that find interviews more terrifying, don't be intimidated. Make a real effort to build rapport. Body language, eye contact, engagement are all just as important as what you say, if not more. And again, practice how to clearly and concisely explain the examples you use in your interview questions.

Finally, all good interviews end with the opportunity to ask questions. This is an important opportunity to shine. Research the company and ask genuine, intelligent questions. End the interview on a strong note by engaging in meaningful discussion. Seek to understand what the company is trying to achieve and how the role contributes. It's important to strike the right tone of being genuinely interested, without being judgemental. And the smart bit is to let them do most of the talking!