When we think of the term “game,” most of us usually think of something that is a diversion, sport or some form of competitive entertainment. Chances are, most of us don’t even consider that many other things in life also have all the characteristics of a game . . . such as the hiring process. Make no mistake about it, in virtually every sense, hiring is a game!

That hiring is a “game,” becomes even clearer when we view a broader definition of what constitutes a game:

•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.

This broader definition, which relates to the field of study known as “game theory,” gives you “cause for pause,” doesn’t it? Viewed from this perspective, one can easily see how hiring (along with many other things in life, of course) is indeed a game. And, once you accept and understand that hiring is a game, you will be able to approach the playing field from a whole new, much more informed perspective.

What we will accomplish in this blog series

In this, the first in a series of blogs, we will take a look at precisely what characteristics are usually associated with the typical game. Then, in subsequent blogs in the series, I will show you how to effectively “play” in this all-important “game.”

The principal end goals of this blog series will be . . .

• To enable you to elevate your “playing” of the hiring game to an entirely new level.
• To empower you with the skills and strategy you need to positively influence the outcome(s) to the degree possible in your favor, in order to maximize your payoffs.

A game—virtually any game—normally has the following characteristics:

• Players
• Payoffs
• Rules
• Strategy
• Uncertainty
• Common knowledge
• Uncommon knowledge

Certainly, the hiring game has each of these characteristics, as shown below:

• Players – This includes you and all other candidates vying for the position, the people who will be involved in the hiring decision and the people who will influence the hiring decision.

• Payoffs – You either get the job or you don’t; the company hires the right person or misses the mark.

• Rules – Prescribed methods of conduct for playing the game (i.e., getting the job). Two facts:

o There are the “rules” the companies want you to think you have to play by;
o Then there are the “rules” that you should play by in order to win the job, and these rules have changed.

• Uncertainty – In a game, the outcomes of all decisions are fraught with uncertainty. It is important to understand that while players more often than not will choose the “best response” to another player’s strategy (i.e., a response that will maximize their payoffs), that is not always the case. Additionally, one’s response may or may not be in the collective best interest of all other players.

• Strategy – In game theory, strategy refers to one of the 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.”

• Common and Uncommon knowledge – “Common” knowledge is information that all players have, whereas “uncommon” knowledge is the information that only a select group of players have.

o The control of who knows what about you in a game (the common knowledge and the uncommon knowledge) is crucial to influencing the outcomes for (or against) you. And taking control of your personal brand in regard to the common and uncommon knowledge is critical to establishing this control.

Ways to play the hiring game

There are primarily three ways to “play” a game, any game, including the hiring game. You can play (or approach) a game from the perspective of:

• Chance
• Skill and strategy
• Or clearly a combination of the two

Unfortunately, many, if not most people approach getting their next job as being largely a matter of “chance” or “luck.” In other words, some people play the hiring game as if it were a lottery. They hope they will be lucky enough to pick the right ticket and win BIG! They look online, find openings and send out their resume, hoping that someone will get back to them. (In the recruiting business we call this approach “spray and pray.”) “If I get my resume out there enough times (spray) and pray hard,” they say, “maybe, just maybe, I will get an interview and maybe, just maybe, they will like me and I will like them and I will get a job.”

Not a very reliable strategy to use in going after your next job!

Obviously, “players” who build a powerful, personal “brand” for controlling the common and uncommon knowledge, understand all of the players in the game, know the rules and devise (and implement!) effective strategies for “winning” in the hiring “game” (and factoring in the various uncertainties) are the ones most likely to have the strongest payoffs in this game or ANY GAME.

NEXT WEEK: Games of Exclusion


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.