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Job-Hunting Truths: What 'No' Really Means

Job-Hunting Truths: What 'No' Really Means

Jeff Schmitt | BusinessWeek

There are so many ways to get passed over—and many reasons for it. A company may already have a candidate in mind, such as a proven internal applicant who represents little risk. They may hire someone who struck a chord, whose pop and polish masked his deficits. It could come down to a gut feeling. There could be political, quid pro quo considerations too.

Bottom line: Companies want to deal with people they know. They want to hire people they like and implicitly trust. Like all of us, their judgment is sometimes faulty. Don’t view it as an indictment of you as a person.

Decision-Makers Aren’t Always on Target

Many times, screeners are far removed from the front lines. Don’t assume they are aware of industry developments. Don’t assume they study what works outside their company. Most important, don’t assume they are well-versed in a position’s daily responsibilities and requirements.

Even more, employers don’t always apply the right formula in hiring decisions. They may apply a successful organization’s methodology without taking underlying variables like stage of growth into account. They may mine the company history for specific traits and success stories, without examining how positions evolve. Worst of all, they may evaluate candidates based on the values they preach, not the ones they actually practice (or vice versa).

Sometimes, hiring efforts get off track. Often, it is the candidates themselves who expose flawed suppositions during the interview process. In the end, all you can do is research, network, and be yourself. The rest takes care of itself.

You May Not Fit the Real Culture

Most companies want to keep things the way they are. They are creatures of habit; they crave stability and predictability. Sure, they attempt to interpret market forces and anticipate customer demands. Unfortunately, they rarely reshape established processes and hardened attitudes at the speed of change.

This tendency seeps into hiring. At ground zero, they still want to fit you into a neat pigeonhole. They want you to be one of them. That’s why experienced mediocrity almost always trumps talent every time.

If you want to succeed, set your sights higher. Tap into those intangibles that make you special. And don’t settle for just a job. Identify organizations that truly live up to their ideals, top-to-bottom. Seek out employers who stay steady and calm in uncertain times. Anything less, you are setting your sights too low.