Job Hunt Tip: Feel My Pain
The interview had just started. The candidate was well-dressed and pleasant; she seemed intelligent from our introductory chit-chat. As we started to go through her resume and talk about her experience, I casually pointed out that I had just noticed a typo on her resume.
“It says you started your current job in March of this year. You meant last year, right?” I asked. It was mid-May.
“No,” she said. ”I started it this March.”
“Is it a temp job?”
“Do they know you’re here?” I glanced up at the calendar on the wall. She was hired two months earlier, almost to the day.
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“No. They don’t know.” She smiled, paused. “I took that job because I needed something, but then this came up.” She looked sure I’d understand.
“Sorry,” I said. I pushed her resume away from me. “I can’t hire you.”
“What’s wrong?” She looked stunned, a little put off, even. ”This job is a better fit for me.”
“Look,” I said gently. I got that she hadn’t anticipated this being a problem. “If I give you this job, what makes me think you won’t keep interviewing for a job you think is an even better fit?”
She sputtered, flushed red. “Well, I wouldn’t. I mean…” She fell silent. She had no answer.
It was a seriously awkward moment, but the interview was over and I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t. Including reading this woman’s resume, contacting her to set up the interview, and the brief conversation we had before I trotted her back to the lobby and out of my life, I had spent fifteen minutes on her. The hiring executive and other personnel at the company where she’d worked for two months had taken the time to review her resume and interview her, probably multiple times, check her references, put her on payroll and set up her health insurance and other benefits, and train her to do the job.
I couldn’t possibly hire her and risk this happening to me and my company. It’d be like agreeing to go out with the guy who is cheating on his current girlfriend. Who’s going to feel sorry for you later when he cheats on you?
Don’t get me wrong. I have hired a few candidates over the years that have ended up leaving for another job within a few months. Usually, they explain that they had interviewed for the other job before they were hired by my company. They hadn’t heard back and assumed the position had been filled, or they hadn’t been able to get a straight answer about if and when the hiring process for that position would move forward so they took the sure thing.
I recognized the story of the chronology might not be true, but these short-termers also took the time to explain why the other job was better for them. (One wanted to be a TV writer and the job was for a TV production company, for instance.) They were respectful and apologetic, and though it didn’t change the fact that I was starting over from scratch, I didn’t regret hiring them.
So what could the woman in the interview have done differently? Of course, she could’ve left the two months of employment off her resume. That would’ve been the easiest thing and had she thought it would be a problem, that’s probably what she would’ve done. The more ethical choice would’ve been to leave it on and have a good prepared answer why this job made more sense for her. Her surprise that I had a problem with this continued job hunting after she’d taken another job showed an immaturity and selfishness I feared might reveal itself in other ways even if she didn’t leave us in the lurch the way she was trying to do with her other employer.
So before you look for another job, follow the advice I always give people when they ask for my two cents: “Feel their pain.”
First, think about the pain of the person doing the initial screening, whether it’s a recruiter or a hiring executive. Recruiters want to quickly find great candidates who will land the job so they can get a commission. (Recruiters make a certain percentage of the salary of the person being hired. This is why they sometimes try to push candidates into interviewing for jobs they are actually not interested in.) Company hiring executives want to find great candidates who will fulfill the requirements of the job, stay put and even move up within the company where appropriate, and not create problems.
Second, think about the pain of the person you will be working for. If this is an administrative position, at the very least you will want to appear organized, calm under pressure, and stable. (The boss doesn’t want to have quick turnover in the position any more than the hiring executive does – probably even less so.) If it’s a job that is demanding and has some kind of ladder (such as an agent’s assistant), you want to demonstrate energy, passion, and drive – a desire to kick ass in the job and get promoted. If it’s a job that involves sales, they want someone that will work tirelessly to meet or exceed benchmarks.
Those are the very basics. Read between the lines of the job description to extract more detailed information on what the pain would be for the people doing the hiring. If you don’t see any clear clues, think about how the company makes money. Examples of ways a company makes money would be: selling something, such as concert or movie tickets, getting advertising revenue, and serving clients well and getting results for them so you retain the current ones and get more clients.
Once you have given all of this thought to the job you are applying for, tailor your resume and cover letter to both the stated demands of the job and to those pain points-or rather “lack of pain” points – you have uncovered. And when you get interviewed, do the same thing as you prepare what you are going to say, first to the person screening for the job and then, in the second interview, to the boss. That will give you an edge in the process and guarantee that you will never stop an interview in its tracks.
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