As a recent practicing HR professional, I still find myself amazed at the plethora of new terms the HR profession continues to rain upon us. Until recently, if you told me “talent management” was the current term for looking at employee recruitment and engagement you could have fooled me. I would have thought it was some new sub-specialty with the focus on recruiting people within the entertainment industry. And here’s another one for you: companies chasing after the “purple squirrel” which is now HR jargon for dragging out the hiring process until they find that impossibly qualified job applicant. It was really this latter term that made me pause, in my current practice as a career coach, and think about why the hiring process has become such a dragged out process for so many job hunters.
Part of the problem is that too many job hunters are applying for jobs online where the application process alone can be long and daunting. Job hunters can spend hours a day filling out applications only to have them land up in the proverbial black hole of the HR department. If they are fortunate, their application and resume may make the first cut and garner an initial phone screen, but usually with a junior level HR person. Then more time passes before they’re notified if the company has an interest in interviewing them in person. Even following an in-person interview, these job hunters return to their online quest for job openings to only find the one they interviewed for has been re-posted. Thus it continues: the employer’s search for that elusive perfect and very rare animal — the purple squirrel!
Last week, an email was circulating among several coaches of The Five O’Clock Club regarding an article which showed that despite the superior credentials of job hunters out of work six months or longer, they were still at an extreme disadvantage at getting a job, compared to those out of work less than six months. If anything, this article further points to the almost futile attempts to get interviews and land jobs through online postings, but as Kate Wendleton also warns, “bad news sells” and can further discourage job hunters and companies from hiring the long-term unemployed. If you combine the negative forces surrounding why people are not getting jobs with along with the notion that more companies are chasing the “purple squirrel,” no wonder you have a large number of job hunters feeling more discouraged than ever.
At The Five O’Clock Club we know from our members’ past experiences that, at most, 10% of job hunters get jobs through answering ads. If we start with that premise, we know that this approach to getting interviews can be the most disadvantageous approach to job search, and lead to job hunters’ self-doubts about their ability to land a job. In too many cases, job hunters end up being the runner-up but never the winner when it comes to getting an offer. And this scenario applies to those who have been unemployed less than six months as well as those greater than six months. So what can a job hunter do to avoid getting caught up in a job search that can take an extremely long time, turn into a demoralizing experience, and have such a negative outcome?
My first suggestion to any job hunter is not to lament over your lack of responses to advertised positions, since we know only 10% of job hunters get jobs this way, and that not getting a response has little to do with your ability to do the job. Instead, take your cue from those 80% of job hunters who get interviews through their networking and/or direct contact efforts. While attending professional association meetings, taking advantage of other social and professional networking opportunities, or contacting people directly may require some job hunters to move out of their comfort zones, meeting other people will not likely result in the same negative feedback as getting a rejection letter from some anonymous online recruiter.
A recent study by The Career Thought Leaders Consortium found that “67% of job seekers’ responses indicated that their most effective job search activity involved networking and communicating with key contacts.” This same study found that those who best “embrace the job search process” assess their goals on an ongoing basis, research their target companies, prepare for interviews (often with the help of a career coach), and do all the requisite follow-up. Certainly sounds like The Five O’Clock Club approach to job search! With the aid of the Seven Stories and Forty-Year Vision exercises, Five O’Clock Club members get to focus on the experiences, skills and accomplishments they bring to a job, and then learn how to share these experiences with others through a focused and proven job search campaign. We also give our members the tools and techniques they need to network effectively, and how to contact people key to their job search through the targeted and direct mail approach.
The good news is that, at The Five O’Clock Club, we have witnessed many of our members land good jobs even though they had been out of work more than six months, and they were paid at market or above market rates. Some had struggled on their own for several months before joining the Club and taking advantage of our weekly small group strategy sessions. In short, we don’t allow negative forces, and negative news, to keep our members from thinking positively about themselves and fellow members. Our members also hold one another accountable for their job searches and do not let length of search, age or any other part of someone’s background keep them from landing that next job. By following a sound methodology, not spending endless hours answering ads, and avoiding all the negative news out there, our members just don’t let the “purple squirrel” syndrome hold them back!