It can be tough being a candidate, whether it be for a job or even one of those roles of a more public political variety.
Even if you’re seen as a slam dunk pick (think Hillary Clinton as the “inevitable choice” during the 2008 presidential campaign), things derail. The same is true of job candidates.
A client recently was being wooed by a firm until he thought they’d gone frosty on him; his hunch was that they’d decided he was really a “generalist” in background when they’d figured out they really wanted a “specialist.”
While one person’s ugly duckling is another person’s swan, the fact of the matter is that employers most likely hire you for what they see you as – not necessarily what you really are.
Having managed large to small recruiting operations for corporations, I can tell you that interviewers often get a bead on a candidate – think of developing a persona for web site design – and if there’s enough interviewer consensus it becomes how the employer sees you. If you’re 6’5″ and interviewers think you’re short, you’ve become in the eyes of that employer beholder “short.”
Overcoming that perception – right or wrong – is tough, and frankly seldom successful.
There are all sorts of things that candidates can do to up their odds of being selected – the types of ideas found on this blog (e.g. show up a little early, do really solid research and prep, please and thank you to everyone you meet including receptionists, etc.) and others such as the excellent Career Thought Leaders blog [Disclosure: The site carries my writing] which can be found here.
It turns out that even the order in which you are interviewed as a candidate (or alternately, the order in which you interview candidates or make other selection assessments) can influence your decision. More on that bag of worms and research via Shakra Vendatam and NPR can be found at Deciphering Hidden Biases During Interviews.
People will strangely hire you for who you aren’t, or alternately talk themselves into hiring you by changing the job spec to suit a candidate they’ve locked on (“I know Booth (The University of Chicago’s very excellent B school) is not in the Ivy League but it would be if it weren’t in Chicago.”)
It’s not a fair world. So the secret to being the “right candidate?”
Find the right employer who hires you for who you are and what you have to offer.
Guest author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better.