In the military, every operation gets looked at from two perspectives. The first is from the friendly perspective (as a Marine or Soldier looking at the enemy.) The second is from the enemy’s perspective (what he would be thinking looking at us.) This is done to ensure a comprehensive approach to mission planning and, while we can’t mitigate every risk, it allows us to begin thinking about how we can predict and influence the actions the enemy may take in the future.
One of the hurdles people often face during the job search is that it can be difficult to put yourself into the shoes of a corporate hiring manager. It can be difficult to turn the map around because people haven’t worked in human resources or truly understand how these managers look at job applicants. When I was going through a job search after leaving the Marines, this lack of understanding forced me to be fairly reactive to the advice I was getting. Without understanding the framework for hiring, I couldn’t take the proactive steps to put myself into a position to stand out from my job-seeking competition. Before we can provide any advice on how to improve your ability to succeed in the job hunt, we first have to turn the map around and understand how a business looks at recruiting and hiring.
To help me in understanding this process, I talked to Lisa Pachence, the Director of Selection for the Seery Financial Group at Northwestern Mutual** about how her company goes about finding candidates. One major takeaway that I got from my conversation with Lisa was the reminder that companies are overwhelmed with the number of job applicants and resumes they receive. Companies are looking for ways to quickly shorten the list of potential candidates to a manageable number, and often begin the process by looking for reasons to proactively drop a candidate from consideration. They do this because they want to separate out the serious candidates from those sending their resumes to every possible company that they can. This means that the first round of cuts doesn’t determine who makes the team, but who gets the opportunity for an actual tryout.
This concept of making the first cut just to be considered takes me back to a previous post I wrote titled “Natural Lines of Drift in an Online Environment.” If it is a challenge for a recruiter to research your background, you increase the chances that they don’t have a reason to not drop you from consideration. How can you put yourself along that path of least resistance to make sure you don’t get cut and quickly shifted into the “no” pile? It starts by building your professional online reputation and placing it in the spot where recruiters are going to look first. Currently, the most effective place to do this is on LinkedIn. This is the first tier that recruiters look, and without meeting the criteria here, there is no second tier. What I found really interesting talking to Lisa about was that, especially for veterans transitioning into the private sector, they weren’t looking for people who necessarily had experience in that specific job, but that she looks for people who have a history of success in any field they have been in. She followed this statement by clarifying that the only way a company would know about a history of success was when the resume or LinkedIn clearly brought it to their attention.
Once you are deemed as professionally capable, the HR manager (or whoever is doing the specific hiring for that job opening) is going to begin looking into your character/personality to see how well you fit into the team. Lisa Pachence brought up that the easiest way for a company to find this information is the same way that you research a new movie, a new restaurant, or how to do something new – they Google you. Again, HR managers are looking for a reason to say that you are not what they are looking for at this point. Many people, unless they have created a blog or regularly contribute to a periodical, have not assembled the kind of information that really shows their personality. Lisa often looks at a candidate’s ability to write effectively and correctly. Her company’s business is communication, and that is a serious component of their search. Lisa said she is always looking for people who have stood out for a positive reason. If LinkedIn or your resume doesn’t adequately describe your leadership experience, show it in a blog post that clearly articulates your strengths. That is something she mentioned that will absolutely make you stand out from the job seeking competition.
Do A Quick Assessment
How do you stack up right now? Do a Google search of your name and see on what page of the results does actual, meaningful information about you come up. Are you on page one? If not, this is a problem. The person doing their homework on you may or may not dig deeper onto page two or three of the search results. Now that we know where the natural line of drift is, we can figure out how to best target the companies and the recruiters by putting our information where they will find it.
This is the research a company does before they sit down with you for the first time. If you are a person who gives the common answer of, “I’m better in person,” and “As soon as I am face-to-face with them, I will show them why I am a good fit,” you’ve taken a risky approach and probably isn’t one you should bank on. Instead, take control of how a company is first introduced to you.
** Lisa has worked in a recruiting capacity for a few companies and her take on this topic and our conversation was a blend of those experiences. Please don’t interpret her statements during our conversation as how Northwestern Mutual sees recruiting.