In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: Why is it that job descriptions say one thing when you reply to a job posting, and the boss wants something else when you show up for an interview? Again and again, managers interview me, but it’s not about the job I applied for. The job they want to fill is one I can probably do, but the manager sits there with my resume and tells me all the things I’m missing. I follow the advice every expert gives you — set up your resume to be about the job posting and leave out what doesn’t apply. Any suggestions for how to win the job anyway, when the manager is on another page?
Nick Corcodilos: You have to step up and take control of that job interview. Most applicants are too afraid to do that because they’re following archaic rules — just like the rule that told you to write your resume specifically for the job in the ad.
I’ll tell you a story that illustrates this perfectly, but you’ll have to figure out how to apply this lesson to situations you find yourself in. It should not be hard, but you must dare to be assertive.
A college student I know needed to earn money for Christmas gifts. A local factory was advertising for temporary production workers on the night shift to meet higher quotas for the holiday season. Van went to the group interview and stood in line with several dozen other students. The shift foreman was randomly selecting workers. (As production workers, all college students are the same, right?) You could almost hear the recruits thinking out loud: “Pick me! Pick me!”
He asked each recruit one or two questions and either told them to leave or stay. When he was done, the foreman went back down the line, assigning jobs.
As he made his selections, the foreman handed each new hire a time card with either a red or a blue stripe on it. Van nudged another company representative who was standing nearby.
“What’s the difference between red and blue?”
“Red cards are for production line jobs. Blue is for material handlers. They bring parts to the production lines. They get paid more.”
By this time the foreman was cursing because he was out of blue cards. Van stepped off the line and walked up to the foreman.
“You need more material handlers?”
The foreman reacted as though a cow had broken herd to ask the time.
“Yeah, I need more material handlers,” he growled, fingering the red-striped cards.
Van reached out and took a blue marker from the boss’s shirt pocket, plucked a card out of his hand, and drew a blue stripe through the red one.
“You’re in luck. I’m a material handler,” Van said. The foreman looked Van up and down and replied, “Then get to work,” as he initialed the card for the higher-paying job.
When a manager interviews you for the wrong job, don’t go along with the herd. If your resume doesn’t exactly match what the manager says he or she wants, take control of the interview. Take a risk. Show you’re ready to do the job the manager needs done. Find your own way to step off that hiring line. (See “The New Interview.”)
Dear Readers: How do you handle job interviews that somehow turn out to be for the wrong job? What would you do to convince a manager to hire you anyway?
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”
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