Job hunters, this blog is for you! The economy is opening up and millions of people are unemployed. If you will be job hunting or have any friends or relatives who will be, you might pass this blog on.
A recent Wall Street Journal article (The Surprising Strategy for Acing a Job Interview) offers some great advice to job seekers: tell the truth; don’t “game the system” with hyped accounts of your successes and clever efforts to hide your weaker points.
Unfortunately, it is socially acceptable just about everywhere to view job hunting as a game with the deck stacked against job seekers – companies are overwhelmed with resumes so they look for any reason to reject candidates. So, “putting your best foot forward” is essential. But that approach is problematic.
Google “How to Ace the Job Interview” and pages and pages of information are available, with too much advice on how to conceal your weaker points and mistakes. For example, in response to “Describe a mistake you’ve made,” you’ll be advised to pick one that you quickly corrected and learned a good lesson from to prevent a recurrence.
The reality is, this strategy won’t work so well in 2020. Why? Companies are extremely selective and will quickly reject candidates who seem to be too perfect, too rehearsed, too inclined to “game the system.”
Brad’s Advice to Job Seekers
Be transparent; don’t try to game the system. Be yourself and be real. Build trust. We all have weaker points and it’s essential for interviewers to know if a candidate is truthful in admitting weaker points and is likely to work on and overcome them. We at Topgrading figured out how to assure transparency from the employer point of view and a lot of companies use our methods.
For you to be transparent you can:
- Assume the employer will talk to your bosses. In the Topgrading hiring process, candidates know that a final step in hiring is for them (that’s you, candidates) to arrange those reference calls. This inspires transparency, of course.
- If you’re a high performer and the company does not say finalists are asked to arrange reference calls with bosses, offer to arrange those calls. This proves that you are willing to be totally transparent.
- Prepare by researching the company and the LinkedIn profile of the hiring manager. Too many candidates think about what employers can do for them. Use the knowledge you discover to explain how you can contribute to the company.
- Prepare by interviewing yourself. Assume you will be asked basic questions about all your jobs in chronological order. Practice by interviewing yourself – for each job explain why you took the job, what you did, how you did (your successes but also failures), how your boss would rate your performance, and why you left. Candidates find this practice illuminating. They realize what impression their answers will make and “clean up” some responses – not to game the system but to show self-awareness and honesty.
- Prepare by rehearsing answers to the most common questions. Not all interviewers will use Topgrading, so Google “20 common interview questions.” Practice so you are fluent and self-aware, and do not create false answers that are supposed to “sound good.”
- If you were fired, say so. Don’t say, “The pandemic caused Acme to fire hundreds of us” if that isn’t exactly true. Say why you were fired (“I mistakenly sent confidential records to a competitor”), show self-awareness (“I was too hesitant to admit I didn’t really understand the system”), and convey honestly how committed you are to doing better in your next job (“It was my first job out of college but that’s no excuse – I definitely learned that is better to ask for help than to risk making a big mistake.”)
Conclusion: Speaking honestly from your heart will be more impressive than gaming the system.