Interviewing for a job reminds me of what you occasionally see in an NFL game when a new, untested cornerback is put in a game to replace an injured or an ineffective cornerback. Everyone in the stadium knows that the new cornerback is going to be mercilessly targeted by the opposing quarterback by throwing passes to whoever the cornerback is covering on a pass play.
Even the announcers on TV remind the viewers with a flippant comment that the cornerback, from the constant barrage he is likely to face, will either become an All Pro (best at his position) or be looking for another job. The cornerback is going to be a marked man and there is no place to hide while he is on the playing field.
The cornerback may be good, and he may have all the skills to be very good and may have been a great player in college or in high school, but that is not going to help him much now. It is a new game and a new situation. He is facing his "High Noon," in that he is on his own to deal with the challenge on the playing field and if he plays it right for the rest of the game, he may not only survive but thrive.
Looking for a job feels the same way in that you are on your own subjected to all kinds of stuff “thrown” at you by the recruiters, companies, politicians and the media. And if that isn’t enough, you have to put up with insensitive comments from friends, relatives and family members.
With this type of an onslaught, you are either going to suck it up and become very good at looking for a job, or get so frustrated that you stop looking altogether, which unfortunately many have done. And you can’t blame those who have thrown in the towel, since the process has become so brutal that it wears you down physically, emotionally and psychologically. It is tough to be out of a job when you want to work and have done outstanding work in the past and know that you can still do an outstanding job today.
All I can tell you is that if you are in a similar situation, don't be hard on your self. There are lot of things going on that are completely outside your control. I know you need a paycheck to pay the bills, but if you understand the situation and then develop a strategy and execute to that, I think you will increase your chance and may even start having fun along the way. It does not have to beat you down unless you let it.
Tough market with new rules
The reason getting a job has become so difficult today is that not only the job market has gotten tight, but the rules have completely changed. Companies no longer invest in job training so they want a perfect candidate who will be productive from the first day on the job. This means they are not going to compromise at all and (let’s face it) they don’t have to since there are so many prospective candidates to choose from.
The new rules are very simple: the candidate must have the hard skills, the soft skills and willing to accept a job at a lower salary. It is a buyers market.
HR out of the loop
Another contributing factor that makes getting a job so difficult is that companies have cut its human resources (HR) department. HR has no or very limited role in the hiring process today. What companies have done is taken the professionals out of the hiring loop completely, since they don’t see any value they bring to the process.
Many companies simply have outsourced this function or use sophisticated software to find candidates matching their job requirements with the resumes that they receive or stored in their job database. The hiring manager is the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) HR professional. With no real HR professional in the loop, most candidates have no interaction with HR until they receive a job offer.
The problem this creates is that there are no ground rules regarding the interview process. Also, you don’t have a professional whose involvement is to preserve the company’s reputation and ensure that the candidate is fairly treated. This is an important value that only HR can add, since their role is to facilitate and not to drill down into a candidates background.
With no HR to coordinate and manage the hiring process, it has created another problem that makes getting a job difficult in that you have two “amateurs” trying to navigate through a complicated interview process.
Job interviews are extremely complicated for both the company and the candidates. Both sides have lot on the line if it does not work out. Companies could not only lose financially bit can hurt the morale within the company. The candidate wants to stop the bleeding if he is out of a job and simultaneously does not want to hurt his career if the job is not a good fit.
The other thing that makes interviewing difficult is that the skills needed to be effective are not practiced much by both sides. You need the candidate to be an expert salesman in selling himself as the product and the solution.
Similarly the company not only has to sell the position but also must know how they are going to buy. What you end up getting are weekend golfers playing in a professional tournament. We are not dealing with two professionals when they meet for an interview. Hence when it does not go well, it results in frustration, disillusionment and acrimony.
Employees not important
The hard truthis that companies don't need to hire because according to Business Insider, corporate America is making boat load of much money without hiring,workers. Why would they want to change this?
With outsourcing and automation, companies can gain productivity and increase profits without hiring lot of people. Corporate America is beginning to more like National Football League (NFL) where there are so few openings to make it on the 32 teams. There are only 32 teams with each team having 53 players and perhaps a dozen more on their practice squad. Each team has one or two tier 1 players; the quarterback is a tier 1 player since he is usually the most important player and thus the highest paid player on a team; a team probably has between three to seven tier 2 players who are very good; a team may have between fifteen to twenty tier 3 players who are good but could be replaced, and the rest of the team consists of journeymen (who will bounce from one team to another since they are not considered elite players).
If you map this to a corporation, it probably has handful of tier 1 payers, which are mostly executives; it will have perhaps have 1% of their employees classified as tier 2 players; it may have probably 5% of their employees classified as tier 3 employees; the rest are all workers who are lucky to be working at the company and earning a paycheck. The last category have no power today to earn more money since they face the stiffest competition for very few positions that are available.
Companies need fewer employees to succeed today and all they need is few people on the top to grow since they have three levers to play with for productivity: outsourcing, automation and cheap labor.
This is one thing I have not read anywhere but based on my experience with IBM and my friends experience with Amazon and Oracle I have reached a conclusion that job opening is nothing but a big manipulation game that the candidates are the only ones who don't know that they are the "ball" in the game.
Here is how it works. Companies are using job interviewing as a perk and as a whip. It is a perk since employees who are interviewing are made to feel powerful that they have the power to hire. They are not professional interviewers or provided hardly any training so they are essentially incompetent at it. Also the companies are using the interviewing as a whip to keep them performing at a high level since they see how hard it is to be on the outside trying to get in to the company.
Similarly managers are also playing this game by dragging the process on since by not hiring they have a cover for lackluster performance and can look good if they beat the low expectations that is set due to being understaffed. With this situation, why would a manager want to hire quickly? The manager can keep the position open by blaming i the candidates for not having the right skills or they were not a good cultural fit. This like a pilot who flies by the instrument on a clear day so the separation has to be far between planes and thus causing big delays. They are just following the right procedures. Managers in companies have adopted this play from the pilot's playbook when it comes to hiring.
The HR is also quite incompetent or, worse, a willing participant since they they are not technical and take all the skills on the manager's wish iist and turn it into a job requirement and then advertise for a position that no one can meet, not even people who are currently doing that job in the company. The companies keep recruiters busy by getting them to find the next great candidate that does not exist. Recruiters may know this game and are also a willing participant since they are getting paid and why would they say anything since they don't want to blamed if the hire does not work out.
The real victims of this manipulation game are the candidates since they think there is a job that they have a chance to get. I have reached this controversial conclusion by my own experience and others in the way the managers talk to you on the phone as they want to hire you but during face-to-face interview they tend to get very confrontational, which is quite perplexing. Why not do that over the phone and save everyone time and money?
There is a kind of Catch-22 that corporate America, through the complicity of the media, has convinced all of us that companies can't hire when they are not doing well, but also can't hire when they are doing well since they can;t find candidates with the skills they require.
I don’t have a solution to correct the bigger problem of the interview process as it exists today, but I will offer few tips in my next blog that will help a candidate be on offense right from the beginning while still being a professional throughout the interview process.
The first phone call is very important and will help you determine if the opportunity is worth pursuing and if you do decide to pursue it, how you can increase your chances of receiving a job offer.
What do you think are the main problems in getting a job today?
Do you think HR needs to be in the loop or do they just get in the way?
Do you think that candidates and companies are good with the interview process?
Is interviewing pretty much a seat-of-the-pants approach today?
Jay Oza is a founder and principal innovation development consultant at 5ToolGroup, a company that specializes in helping startups and established firms bring innovation to market within 90 days through our unique 5Tool Methodology that integrates sales, marketing, partnerships, customer development and agile/lean methodology to enable frugal or ("Jugaad") innovation. We believe that to succeed today, you have to continuously look for ways to do lot more with lot less. This is the only way to win today!