It Takes Experience to Excel

You are salesperson. You sell widgets. When you started your career, you would make a hundred calls a day. Ninety people hung up on you. Ten spoke with you. Five politely turned you down. Five agreed to meet with you. One became a client or customer.

Over time, your numbers got better. Only 80 people hung up on you. Eight agreed to meet with you. Two became clients/customers.

And when you finally got really good, you closed an average of three to five deals a week.

With experience, you got better and excelled. Nothing new here. That’s how it works with everything. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes experience.

Enter the job seeker.

The job seeker is not selling a widget, they are selling themselves. If memory serves, when John Kennedy was running for president, an ad person working on his campaign told him he was a box of cereal. You, my job seeking reader, are a box of cereal. Problem is, you don’t have the experience to sell yourself.

And that it totally logical. For the job seeker, and these are real numbers, applying for hundreds of jobs is par for the course. (Some apply for thousands!) A two to four percent positive response rate is average. (It is true what they say, a job search is a numbers game.) But closing, getting the job offer, only, with few exceptions, happens once.

Think about it. You have five interviews. You get a positive response, a job offer, from one. You can’t afford to wait for the other four, so you accept the job. It does not matter because you actually want that job and, more importantly, you can’t risk losing the job by waiting for the slow-pokes. And you did the logical thing and, in my opinion, all things being equal, the right thing: you accepted the offer. (Better a bird in the hand…)

And now you don’t have to look for another job, hopefully, for years. And maybe never again! It happens. Your next job can be your last job.

And there’s the rub. Once a job seeker closes the “sale,” they stop selling their product – themselves. So they are out of practice and are not as sharp as they would like to be the next time they join the ranks of the job seeker. But there are a couple of things they can do to overcome this deficiency:

The first is to accept an interview for any job which sounds reasonable. I said “accept an interview,” I did not say “accept the job.” The job may not sound perfect, but the experience of interviewing will help the candidate hone their interviewing skills. And, who knows, maybe first impressions are wrong and the job is actually something of interest to the job seeker. The job seeker is not wasting the interviewer’s time; they are giving the interviewer a chance to sell them on the job. Additionally, they are also providing the interviewer with practice. It goes both ways! And, more importantly, after interviewing candidates many employers tweak the job description as a result of what they learn from the candidates. So, again, the interviewer’s time is. not being wasted.

The second is to help ask a friend (here I am shooting myself in my career counselor foot and putting a target on my back as other career counselors won’t like this) to conduct a mock interview so that the job seeker can practice. Just because the friend will be playing “interviewer,” does not mean that the job seeker will not learn from the experience. (Of course, by definition, they will not do as good a job as a professional career counselor – which, hopefully, has now removed the target from my back!)

There is, of course, an exception to the rule. There are some really great interviewers. (Technically, I think that should be “interviewees” since the “interviewer” is the employer and the candidate is the interviewee. But no matter..) They are masters at the art of interviewing. They are modern day “snake oil salesmen,” con artists selling cure-all tonics. Any recruiter who says that they have not been taken in by one is either new to the profession, a fool, or a liar. These people interview very well, but don’t keep their jobs very long, because they cannot deliver on what they are selling. They talk a good talk, but there is nothing to back it up. They are all fluff and no substance.

That is why it is so important for employers to be cautious of candidates whose resumes show that they do not stay long on the job. And that is why before quitting, a job holder most consider the impact of being labeled a “jumper” on their chances of finding new employment. Of course, have one or two “mistakes” on a resume is not uncommon. That is why good employers, and good recruiters, at least give an applicant an opportunity to explain what happened. I know from personal experience that that is how I secured excellent candidates for my recruiting clients that others had missed. That is also why it is a mistake to rely on Applicant Tracking Systems. Computers notoriously miss the gems that humans find.