Savvy employers have always looked for reliable short-hand methods for identifying a “poser” – the one who talks a good story but doesn’t really know how to do the job.
In the early 50s, my father worked as a carpenter on construction projects in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unemployment was high and would-be carpenters approached the foreman virtually every morning. He didn’t ask for a resume, he just asked ask to see what was in that toolbox that each one brought to the job site, hoping to work that day. Anyone with a toolbox full of shiny new tools was summarily dismissed as an obvious “poser”. Brilliant! The tools of an experienced carpenter are well worn.
Here are a few lessons we can learn from this simple story:
- Know the typical indicators that hiring managers in your field use to screen applicants. Conduct information interviews with people already working in similar organizations, the one you’re applying to if possible. Don’t just guess. Be sure.
- Once you know “well-worn hammer” for your field, demonstrate it. Today’s hiring manager may have had more formal training in modern interview techniques, but is just as busy as that foreman. That places employs simple “rules of thumb” to eliminate unsuitable candidates at a premium.
- Prepare thoroughly to avoid elimination. If they don’t like to see shiny new briefcases, borrow one that has seen a little use. If they care more about attitude than grades, practice that smile!
- Build a portfolio of completed projects as evidence that you really do know how to use a hammer and bring it with you to the interview.
- You may dislike some of the decision rules that you encounter. You might think they’re unfair or arbitrary, even idiosyncratic! That’s OK. When you have their job, you’ll get to have your own arbitrary policies!
In his new ebook, “’Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets”, Skip Freeman advises jobseekers that today’s employers are looking for reasons to exclude you from consideration, not to include you. Hoping that a kindly foreman will overlook your shiny tools ensures that you stay excluded.
Photo from phidauex on Flickr.com