Job search rules were made to be broken.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
The other day, I was talking to Mark about a potential opportunity. A company had posted a position and then pulled it a couple days later. I found out (serendipitously from some guy sitting next to me on the plane) that the position was still viable, but they had some procedural things to deal with before reposting it. I told Mark about it. He called my new airplane friend, and then told me that as soon as it was reposted, he was going to apply. Why? Why wait? Why not network your way into the company before it ever gets posted? In fact, why don’t you get to the hiring manager, get a meeting, have a conversation and save them from having to post it in the first place?
And then I wondered…Mark, why didn’t you think of that? Why did you have to wait for a posting? Is that the rule? Who wrote these rules? And who says you have to follow them?
All this nonsense about rules got me thinking about a brain profiling tool I use called Emergenetics. Emergenetics helps you understand how people think. It divides the brain into four quadrants. The left side includes Analytical & Structural, the right Conceptual & Social/Relational. (If you want more details about it, go to www.emergenetics.com.)
What I realized is that people who have a lot of structure in their brain – and by structure, I mean people who have a preference toward rules, guidelines, process, procedures – may find themselves stymied in today’s job market. And here’s why. People with a dominant tendency toward structure expect that everyone else will, of course, follow the same set of rules and guidelines that they believe should be in place.
And…the thing of it is, in today’s job market, one of the most important things to do is forget the rules. I mean, it might benefit you to have a complete and utter disregard for any rules you believe might exist. After all, who made up the stupid rules anyway? Chances are, those people are probably not even at the company anyway. Here are some of the rules that, in my opinion, you should make every effort to break:
We only take applications online. You can’t tell me that if the CEO met the absolute perfect person for a VP-level position that wasn’t even posted, the CEO would tell them they need to apply online? I don’t think so. If you see a position online, and are really interested in it, get a contact within the company – and have them introduce you to the hiring manager.
I need to send my resume to people if they’re going to help me with my job search. No you don’t! Who say’s so? Nobody, that’s who! You don’t need to send your resume to anyone. What you need to do is ask people for contacts and connections. And then you need to follow up on those and have actual real live conversations with people – without your past history (in the form of a resume) getting in the way. “But, they need to see my background.” No they don’t. Guess what. Nobody cares about your background. Nobody cares that you “Decreased costs by 15% while cutting staff by 30%.” Half the time, we don’t even understand the type of work you did. The other half, we’re not really all that impressed with your so-called accomplishments. But the good news is that we know people. And we can connect you to people. But we’re only going to connect you to people if you promise to quit waving your resume like a white flag in front of everyone’s faces…and learn how to be a real live human being who’s capable of a having a real live, engaging conversation.
They’re laying off people so they must not be hiring. You know what…while the company is getting rid of 20% of its workforce, about 80% that are still there are thinking “I might be next. I’d better start looking.” What’s the company going to do when those people in key positions leave on their own accord? Well, they’re going to replace them, that’s what. While HR thinks their only issue is planned attrition…they now have a new challenge…in the form of unplanned attrition. And do you think the hiring manager who was just left in the lurch is going to have the luxury of time – and a long, drawn out hiring process? No, they need to get this person replaced as soon as possible – with minimal interruption to the business. You’re the perfect person and you can start tomorrow. Great! You’re hired!
Just because they ask you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it. Without being a downright liar (which I do not recommend at all!), there are ways to avoid answering a question you don’t feel like answering. My favorite question to not answer is the age-old “What are your weaknesses.” Usually what I want to say is “My incredible lack of tolerance for people who come up with stupid questions like that. That’s my weakness!” But I refrain…and turn that question into some really useful information for both of us. I say “Well, what I really don’t enjoy is routine, maintenance type work. So if you’re looking for someone to do the same thing every day, to implement a strategy that’s already been planned, I’m definitely not your person. On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to figure out the strategy, to expand new markets, to build new businesses, and build the team to get us there, that’s where I excel and you’d be crazy not to have me on your team.”
This type of answer accomplishes a couple things. First, it tells them what makes me the wrong person for the job. Then, it tells them what makes me the right person for the job. Now, they can check off the box that I answered the question. Even though I really didn’t. I answered a different question that was never even asked. So what? I’m doing them a favor by either taking me out of the hunt, or putting me at the front of the pack.
Perhaps my own complete lack of preference in the Structural side of the brain makes it easy for me to disregard the rules. I’ve always thought “They certainly didn’t mean me when they made up that rule. That line, oh that’s for the people who like lines…not me.” Try adopting that kind of mindset – at least while you’re in the job search. Think about what everyone else is going to do…and then do the opposite.
Does the job fair begin at 9am? Show up at 7:30am, go in the back entrance and get to know some people at your target company by helping set up their booth. Better yet, call the company putting on the event and offer to work the corporate registration table.
Does the website say apply online? Find someone who knows the hiring manager and get a meeting.
Does the person tell you to send them your resume? Tell them you’d love to…”but real quick, while I have you on the phone, let’s set up a time to meet.” And then bring the resume with you to the meeting – and don’t ever give it to them. But instead, find out who they know and who else you can get connected to.
Forget other people’s rules. Be your own boss! And make up your own rules! You might just find the process a lot more effective (and a little less frustrating).