In today’s economy, job hunters often get screened out for reasons unrelated to their ability to handle the position they apply for. It can happen both before you get an interview and even after you get one — if you are fortunate to secure a meeting with the hiring authority.
Common reasons for this include things like age, education, unemployment, too little or even too much experience in their industry, job-hopping, self employment, lack of a particular credential, etc.
Failure to anticipate and effectively reduce or eliminate the most likely “knock out” issues in your situation will almost certainly result in being eliminated from consideration.
That’s why defense is as important as offense in job hunting/job-getting. Your defense strategy should begin from the first contact you make for an open position.
First, bypass HR and communicate directly with the hiring authority via a letter. You can do this via email, or better yet via USPS, aka “snail mail.”
The critical importance of a successful effort to get yourself properly and fairly evaluated cannot be overstated. In nearly all cases that means educating, influencing, and motivating the hiring authority to evaluate you primarily on the basis of your capabilities to help him or her reach their business/financial goals faster. Therefore, you should not send your resume with your letter. Send it only if and after they express interest in you and ask for it. Why? Simple. You want their decision to contact you to be based on factors that you can win on. If your resume is used for doing that, there’s a very high risk that you will be screened out prematurely for one or more of the reasons listed above.
THINK about it for a minute. If they hire someone from their business/industry, they usually do so out of a reasonable expectation that the new hire won’t need to be trained. But that seemingly reasonable expectation is often very problematic. Someone making a lateral move is apt to bring with them habits learned from a company that conflict with the objectives and strategies of the new company. “That isn’t how we did it at The Fried Chicken Insurance back in Muleshoe Texas.” They often try to question all kinds of things and may come to be viewed as a maverick and a pain in the neck. The hiring authority knows what has worked successfully at his company and he just wants someone who will do the job the way he wants it done. Not the way they do it at the company down the street. Both companies might be successful, yet operate differently.
So, if you are writing to a hiring authority in a business sector you have experience in, or even if you have little or no experience in their industry, you want to say in your letter something like: “You know what has been effective at your company and what you need to make it even more successful, and I’ll do the job exactly the way you want it done. You won’t have to worry about me complaining and comparing things with the company I just left.”
In an interview, if the issue about your industry experience comes up, you could respond by saying “that’s one of the main reasons why you should put me on your team — because I have the capabilities you need, without the baggage of bringing along the habits and ways of your competitors.”
The idea is to always try to keep the focus on how you can help him or her. You want to be viewed as making an offer to be of service, not someone that is trying to sell their services and/or their experience at a competitor who might be much larger, have more assets, etc.
In a horse race, it’s not the jockey, it’s the horse that matters most. In a job, it’s not the age, education, or past employment of the “jockey,” it’s the effectiveness of the company’s business strategy that matters most. Regardless of education, current or recent employment status, etc. — if you believe you have what it takes to handle the job you want, a smart defense may be exactly the key you need to open the door and secure an offer.
Tom Kellum is a job hunting consultant, helping people's dreams come true since 1987. He specializes in providing a personal job-landing service based on proven marketing strategies and methods. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.