5 ‘Rules’ You Must Learn to Get Hired Today!

Personal Branding

Today’s job market is unlike any other in recent memory for most of us. Certainly it is for me. As I point out in “‘Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!, there are all new “rules” in today’s hiring “game”—and that’s precisely how you must look at getting hired in today’s job market, as a “game”—and what may have worked, say, just a few years ago to land a new job no longer works, in many cases.

The major thesis in “‘Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets,” of course, is that the “rules” of the “hiring game” have changed . . . Forever! In the book I examine the entire job market and the many new rules that are operative in it. Then, I share hundreds of “secrets” that I have successfully used for nearly a decade to effectively work around these new rules and help hundreds of job candidates land their dream jobs—even during the Great Recession. The intent of the book was (and is!) to show job seekers whom I can’t personally help how they can, in effect, become their own “headhunters.” In this blog, I am going to examine five new rules that are quite common in today’s job market and then show you how you can effectively work around them to get where you want to go—to land your dream job in 2012!

New ‘rule’ #1 – the hiring process is designed to exclude you as a candidate

This is one of the best-kept, least-understood and most under-appreciated aspects of the job hunting process today. Contrary to what you—and the overwhelming majority of other job seekers—quite probably think and believe, companies are not looking for reasons to hire you! The truth of the matter is, hiring companies today are looking for reasons not to hire you, i.e., for reasons to exclude you from the candidate pool!

Maybe they decide they don’t like the look of your résumé. They might categorize you as a “job hopper.” Or, maybe they call you up and, if you don’t have a professional greeting on your voice mail, they simply assume that you probably aren’t all that professional, either. Or perhaps they don’t like what they see/read about you on your Facebook® page.

Why do hiring managers and the companies they represent treat today’s job candidates in such an arbitrary, capricious manner? The short answer? Because they can! With literally hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of candidates for virtually any open positions in today’s job market, besieged hiring managers usually have one principal goal in mind: To winnow the number of candidates down to a manageable number as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Unfair? You bet! Still, that’s the way the hiring game is played today, and if you are going to “play” in this game, then you had first better learn how not to lose.

“Headhunter” Hiring Secret: If you are losing on offense in a game, oftentimes upping your defensive game can turn the tide, and that certainly can be a winning strategy in the hiring game. While your competitors, i.e., other job seekers, are making the same mistakes over and over again, make sure you are not making these mistakes. After all, that’s what the whole personal branding concept is all about, isn’t it? Making sure that, in comparison to other candidates, you appear to be flawless, or at least virtually flawless. And it’s really all in the details. Here are just a few areas to concentrate on during your job search:

  • While others may not even think about the importance of having a professional voice mail greeting, make sure you do!
  • Make sure you know the importance of using an email address that actually works with today’s computer-read screening software systems.
  • Make sure you format your résumé in such a way that it invites being read, not challenges a hiring manager to “plow” through it.
  • Learn how to properly construct your LinkedIn® profile, your Facebook® page.
  • Ensure that all written communications involved in your job search are error-free!

 New ‘rule’ #2 – HR is the new ‘black hole’

Human Resources was one of the hardest hit employee groups during the Great Recession. (“Hey, we are not hiring so why do we need all of these HR folks?!”) As a result, and as hiring is once again picking up, HR simply can’t handle the increased volume of candidates until they themselves increase their own numbers. Thus, more often than not, a résumé submitted to a company’s job opening actually has little chance of being reviewed by a real, live person. (In the recruiting industry, HR these days is referred to as “the new black hole.”) Generally, a computer scans the résumé looking for key words. If the right words are there, you may get a call. If not, you are excluded (see “Rule #1”)—even though you may actually be the best candidate! Humans can overlay judgment on your résumé, computers can’t. But seldom anymore does a human being ever lay eyes on a résumé submitted online.

“Headhunter” Hiring Secret: There are powerful ways to brand yourself as unique and get around the online application process. Companies want you to believe that the only way to get hired is to apply to their positions online. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Here is what you should do:

  • Go  ahead and apply online, in order to play the HR game. Then, go around the HR process and position yourself, in parallel, directly with the hiring manager, by launching a direct mail campaign (click on this link to learn more). Today, this single tactic is one of the strongest in a job hunter’s arsenal during the job hunt.

 New ‘rule’ #3 – some online job postings aren’t all they appear to be

 Generally, the job descriptions you read online are only half the story, and many times, not even the most important half of the story. Hiring managers themselves almost always know precisely what they are looking for in a candidate. But sometimes, when this information is communicated to Human Resources, something gets “lost” in the “translation” when a job description is prepared. You, as a potential candidate, read the job description and think, “Hey, I fit that. I am the perfect candidate.” And indeed you may, at least ostensibly! You might even get an interview by HR, but then you could just as easily end up not being the successful candidate and never really know why! It could be something as ridiculously simple as your not ever having been made aware of “the three things” (requested by the hiring manager) on the interviewer’s checklist. Why? Because these “three things” were never communicated to potential candidates or included in the online posting!

“Headhunter” Hiring Secret: Network inside the hiring company to learn what makes both the company and the hiring manager “tick.” Learn what the “hidden criteria” may be for any given job—before submitting an application for a position. (Click here to learn more about the approach to take to accomplish this.)

New ‘rule’ #4 – the interview ‘process’ is seldom a process

Candidates invited in for interviews are oftentimes subjected to interviewers who are ill prepared for the interview. Off-the-wall, irrelevant questions are asked, or virtually the same question (or type of question) is asked over and over again. And just when you think things went well, you are invited back for yet another round of interviews. (As a “headhunter,” I call this “death by interview.”) Unfortunately, even among some of the “best” companies in the world, the overall corporate interview process is, more often than not, considerably more whimsical and directionless than it is scientific and integrated.

“Headhunter” Hiring Secret: By learning to use the technique I have dubbed “leading the witness,” you can literally take control of the interview—without becoming overbearing or boorish. (Click here to learn more about this technique.)

New ‘rule’ #5 – cast ‘shadows on the wall’ and, again, you’re excluded!

If you have ever watched any type of criminal TV show or movie (and who hasn’t?!), you are undoubtedly quite familiar with the so-called Miranda warning read to alleged wrongdoers: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. . . .”  All too often candidates, in the spirit of wanting to be completely open and honest, share way too much information during a job interview. While I certainly don’t advocate lying or being dishonest, I do strongly advise against “baring your soul” during an interview. If you do this, you could easily end up casting “shadows” of the interviewer’s/hiring manager’s office wall. These “shadows” consist of mentioning anything that could cause the interviewer’s/hiring manager’s “antenna” to suddenly perk up. Let me give you an example of how this can work (true story, by the way).

A hiring manager interviewing one of my firm’s candidates remarked, as he rubbed his shoulder, “Boy, I need to get some surgery done on this shoulder. It continues to bother me.” The candidate himself had a bad knee, and in trying to relate as well as be empathetic, responded, “Yes, I know what you mean. One of these days I need some knee surgery too.” Needless to say, the candidate wasn’t hired. The candidate cast a “shadow on the wall.” The hiring manager later told me over the phone that he had several concerns: “How long will he be out if he does indeed have surgery?” “What other medical issues does this person possibly have?” “How much money will he end up costing the company?”

“Headhunter” Hiring Secret: First, be aware of the necessity for avoiding casting “shadows on the wall” during interviews! (Many, if not most, job seekers are not!) Then, take any steps necessary not to cast “shadow on the wall” by anticipating questions you may be asked during an interview and by practicing “safe” answers to such questions. Unfortunately perhaps, rarely in today’s job market is it the best candidate who is ultimately hired for the job. Usually, it is the safest candidate!

Study after study indicates that many currently employed people are looking to make a job change as the market improves. That means the competitive playing field will become even larger and more challenging than it is today. So, if you intend to be among those landing their dream jobs this year, it is even more vitally important that you strongly brand yourself as being different from and better than the “average” job seeker. Learning the new “rules” of the hiring “game,” and then using “secrets” such as I’ve suggested in this blog to work around and/or within the confines of these new rules will certainly get you headed in the right direction. Guaranteed.


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.