• Learn How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand That Will Differentiate You and Allow You To Compete in the Global Marketplace.
  • How Do You Get Hired? First, Don’t Lose!

    In the Amazon.com bestselling job hunting book “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed….Forever! we teach you how to approach getting hired using game theory. In other words:

    • Hiring is definitely a game
    • It has rules (which have dramatically changed since 2009)
    • And there are strategies

    And when you approach going after your next job as a “game,” not only is it more fun, but you significantly increase the probabilities that the outcomes will be in your favor.

    What’s game theory?

    In game theory, a game is an event or situation involving two or more players, in which each player may win or lose based upon the decisions that they themselves—or others— make or fail to make.

    Furthermore, in game theory, strategy refers to the various options that a player can choose. Every player in the hiring game has a set of options and must choose one. A good strategy will be one that not only thinks through the various possible options but also includes the range of various possible outcomes that could result from implementing each choice, i.e., thinking through the various “uncertainties.”

    Thus, one set of strategies that a player can choose between is a strategy of “inclusion” or a strategy of “exclusion.”

    When faced with these two options from another player, you then should choose between a strategy of “playing to win” or “playing not to lose.”

    • In the “hiring game” the strategy often played by the hiring company is a strategy of exclusion, NOT inclusion. In other words, all too often the hiring company, instead of looking for all of the reasons to hire someone, find all of the reasons to NOT hire someone.
    • Thus, you as a player in the game on the “candidate” side, must, in turn, “play to not lose.”

    Trying out

    One of the best analogies is high school football “try outs.” Even though I fully understand that 95% of the U.S. population will never have tried out for football, there really is no other comparison as applicable or appropriate to the hiring process. Read on and see why.

    Each fall, at virtually any high school in the nation, upward of 200 young men, in the case of the larger schools, show up to try out for the football team. All of the hopefuls know that, on average, only about one-third of them will actually make the team. Still, they show up, hoping they will be among the chosen few. The odds facing a job candidate, of course, are even worse! Only one candidate is going to be successful for any given job opportunity and the number of applicants generally far exceeds 200!

    In order to quickly “separate the wheat from the chaff,” most football coaches hold the dreaded “two-a-day” practice sessions, usually one two-hour session in the morning and another two-hour session in the afternoon. (These afternoon sessions can be particularly grueling in states like Texas or Oklahoma, where high school football is practically a religion, and afternoon temperatures are still flirting with the mid- to high-90s at this time of the day!) This extremely challenging regimen goes on for about two weeks in the typical high school football program.

    Making the cut

    At each practice session, the candidates run, run, run, oftentimes until many literally fall to the ground, exhausted and, at least for the time being, defeated. The goal, of course, is to push these young men to their absolute physical and psychological limits. Some of the hopefuls don’t have to wait to be “cut,” they merely take themselves out of contention because they either can’t—or won’t—make the sacrifices necessary to become part of the team.

    To the casual observer, it appears that the football coaches are merely trying to determine which of, say, 50 to 70 young men they will actually select for the final team roster. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. What the coaches are actually trying to determine during this two-week period is which of the other 130 to 150 young aspirants they can eliminate from further consideration.

    What does this have to do with job hunting? In a word: EVERTHING! Because that’s precisely how many, if not most, employers view any given pool of job candidates. They are not looking for whom to include, they are looking for those whom they can exclude! Harsh? Unfeeling? Not “fair”? Yes, yes, and yes, but that’s still the way it works, and you need to understand this right from the start of your job search. Failure to understand this key concept puts you behind the rest of “the pack” before the try outs have even begun.

    So, just as is the case with the “football tryouts” analogy, you had better show up ready to “play not to lose”— and this is where personal branding comes in. You must make sure the brand “you” is sharper, more polished and differentiated than the “other” brands (i.e., all of the other candidates going after the same job) so that you won’t be among the first to be “cut” (excluded). Remember, the strategy for you in any game where one side is playing a game of exclusion is for you to “play to not lose,” i.e., make sure you don’t get eliminated!

    Next week: What Angry Birds can Teach you About Getting Hired!


    Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.


    Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!  (http://portal.sliderocket.com/BFDSG/Find-Your-Dream-Job), an international bestselling job hunting book on Amazon.com, and Career Stalled? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZD-bqj4bE), his latest book in the "Headhunter" Hiring Secrets Series of Career Development & Management publications. He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (www.hiretowin.com), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

    Tagged with: , , ,
    Posted in Brand Yourself As, Career Development, Job Search, Personal Branding
    Promote Yourself Newsletter
    Sign Up & Download For Free:
    10 Personal Branding Secrets You've Never Heard Before
    12 comments on “How Do You Get Hired? First, Don’t Lose!
    1. avatar
      Roger Scime says:

      I’m not certain that the football tryouts analogy is the best; maybe, the “prisoners’ dilemma” might be more appropriate.

      However, that huge caveat out of the way, as somebody who will shortly be having his first “real” job interview in more than a year, I intend to follow the good advice in this post. Thanks.

    2. avatar
      Skip Freeman says:


      The Prisoner’s Dilemma is an excellent analogy and I don’t disagree at all.

      In my book, “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets, I propose the therom that “most companies have flawed hiring processess” and that is because most companies are looking for ways to exclude people and kick them out of the process (and then hire the best of who is left) vs. looking for the best from the beginning. (And this is from 8 years of experience recruiting for companies.)

      Thus, as long as a candidate in the process understands this concept, then they can “play not to lose” and will come out much further ahead. I teach my candidates this method and we generally get them hired.

      Thanks for your comment.


    3. avatar

      That’s a nice perspective to go by in entering the pit of the hiring battle. Though what exactly can you do while in a game mode? Aside from being alert and showing your best, how do you win an interviewers mind completely?

      • avatar
        Skip Freeman says:

        Good question. You can never win an interviewer’s mind completely because they are looking for ways to exclude you, not include you. Additionally, as noted in the recent blog, “Is hiring a game? Yes, it is!”, uncertainty is one of the traits of a game.

        However, there are certain strategies to use that increase the probability of success. I address them in the book, “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets, and also will be developing these strategies further in the week’s ahead as we explore the HIRING GAME in depth in upcoming blogs.

    4. avatar

      I have found myself in a job I no longer feel challenged by with no were to go. So, I decided it was time for a change. The problem is that I havn’t looked for a job in almost 20 years. I found you on the web, then bought your book, then found this blog. Even though I have always felt I was a quick study I realized pretty quickly that without the information you’ve provided, I’d be playing the hiring game much longer than I could afford to do. Thank you for your information and I look forward to learning more from you!

    5. avatar
      Lew Sauder says:

      As one who has been seated on both sides of the hiring desk, I would reinforce something you only touched on at the end of this piece, regarding being sharper and more polished. Every once in a while, when I’m reviewing resumes or interviewing people, I run across a person who rises to the top. From the moment I read that resume or interview that person, they become the one to beat, the standard to which all others are compared. While I agree that you want to play not to lose, it’s also important to brand yourself to be the standard bearer. Because once that person is established in the hirer’s mind, it’s hard to change it.
      Lew Sauder, Author, Consultnig 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com)

    6. avatar


      You are absolutely right. What I have learned is that too many candidates think that they have all of the right experiences, all of the right credentials, etc. and that there isn’t any reason why the company shouldn’t interview them and ultimately hire them.

      Once someone understands that every step of the process is a step of potential elimination, then one begins to realize that they could get eliminated for any number of reasons. Thus, don’t give the hiring authorities or HR professionals reasons to eliminate you. Ask yourself these types of questions, “What is it about my resume that could cause me to get eliminated?” “What is it about this voice mail that I am about to leave that could get me eliminated?” and so forth.

      Example – I get too many long winded non-sensical voice mails left on my phone. I use those to eliminate people. When I get 60-70 voice mails a day, I am not looking for those I am going to call back…I am looking to delete those that I won’t call back. And at the end of the process, I find that sometimes I call back a few and sometimes I don’t call anyone back because they all eliminated themselves.

      Conversely, as you so well point out, the person who has the best resume can become the standard bearer for the hiring manager now making it even easier to eliminate the rest. When I get over 100 resumes for a position, I put them in two folders – no and maybe. Then I go back thru the maybes and see if I can find 5 to call. From the beginning, I am not looking for the 5 to call. I am looking to find the 95 I am not going to call. And having that one resume that stands out makes it easier to get rid of the other 95 that much more quickly.

      That is why one critically needs to play the game not to lose vs. playing it to win.

      Thanks, Lew, for your comment.

    7. avatar

      What an interesting metaphor, Skip! You are completely right, there is a strategy required when searching for the perfect job, it’s not enough to carpet bomb your resume and pray. The newest strategy in any job seeker’s playbook should be establishing an Internet presence. Go ahead, Google yourself right now. Where do you rank?

    8. avatar


      You are entirely correct. The old addage used to be, “It isn’t what you know but who you know.” Today the extension of that is, “…and can you be found?”

      So having a ubiquitous internet presence is critical to one’s branding today.

      One secret I point out in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets is to establish an internet resume using http://www.weebly.com.

      Check out this online resume that a colleague of mine did using the Weebly suggestion: http://andrew-williams.weebly.com/


    9. avatar
      John says:

      Interesting article! I really enjoyed reading it. One of my favorite metaphor about job hunting is : “A job search is like a treasure hunt: You dig around and even if it takes time to find the treasure, the process itself is fun.” I always have been a treasure finder 🙂


    10. avatar
      tukeind says:

      I wish people would just get more realistic…what good does any of these things spoken and suggested here have to do with the issue of several millions jobs being lost over the past several years…and not enough…jobs had being created to offset them…. a major factor…positive attitudes do not overcome this reality…the bulk of people will remain unemployed until those old jobs are replaced with new jobs…a come back…or sorts….There is a difference between blind hope and hope that is not on the way…fast…enough…

    1 Pings/Trackbacks for "How Do You Get Hired? First, Don’t Lose!"
    1. […] How Do You Get Hired? First, Don’t Lose! Personal Branding Blog. Mar ’11 […]

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    Content Partners
    As Seen In