I am a member of the long-term unemployed and need the benefit of your experience. I stopped tracking the number of jobs I’ve applied for. (It’s in the high hundreds.) The few interviews that I have been selected for have failed to progress past the phone screen stage. The interviewers have been unwelcoming and downright unprofessional. I grade myself pretty hard, but I have gone into these phone screens confidently and with a positive, cooperative attitude. I adapt quickly to the interview style and I’m less nervous than I used to be, and I have a strong command of subject matter.
My most recent opportunity left me with the impression that I would be invited for a site visit. But after a full 30 minutes of discussion on the phone, they e-mailed me that my job candidacy “will not proceed.” I have a nagging feeling that they don’t really know why.
Anyway, I am running long and my intent is not to burden your time. I hope you can share your thoughts. How do they decide I “will not proceed?” What does that even mean?
Job seekers rarely “proceed” past an employer’s screening because they don’t know you and you don’t know them.
What do you really know about your job candidacy?
Please think about this. When you search for jobs in online databases (Indeed, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, a company’s own “career pages”), all you know about “an opportunity” is that the job has a title, a description and a bunch of keywords. So what do you know about your job candidacy?
Software determined that your keywords earn you a screening — by phone, online form, video or otherwise. That’s all you know about anything. It came in over the transom. What made you believe it was a good match?
What does the employer really know about you?
Without any respect to the “intelligent algorithms,” because they don’t deserve it, the employer really knows nothing about you. That company didn’t come looking for you because you are a good candidate for the job. You’re just a database record.
The company knows nothing about your abilities, motivations, integrity, performance, successes, failures, aspirations, interests, or likelihood that you’d be a profitable hire. It knows nothing about how respected you are in your industry, whether you can ride a fast learning curve, or whether you perform best verbally in person, on the phone, or via video. It has no idea whether anyone in your field would actually recommend you because you can actually do the job.
You know really nothing about the job. Even if you recognize the name and research it, it’s not an employer you chose and pursued with great intent. It’s something that dropped into your lap thanks to a database “search.” If you’re honest with yourself (and here I mean anyone, not just you), you’re applying simply because you can.
The employment databases are so HUGE!
Human beings need to see some kind of connection, a trusted mutual friend or associate that brings them together. We like to see that we have something in common, that we have shared experiences by which to justify further discussion about working together.
The system that dominates employment today offers none of that. So it’s no surprise that virtually all “opportunities” you encounter online turn out worthless. The online jobs world is not fertile ground on which to spread your credentials. It’s a huge arid desert that impresses people because… it’s so huge! As if that’s a benefit!
Nobody needs access to 10,000 jobs or 20,000 candidates to fill a job! A company needs four or five good candidates. The same goes for the job seeker. More is not better. The dirty little secret is that this desert doesn’t produce many good hires.
This system is pretending to be an “intelligent agent” that uses “semantic algorithms” to initiate your job candidacy. But it cannot tell the difference between you and the next 50 candidates it selects for screenings. All 50 of you “qualify,” but — WTF? — after the screening no one can explain to you why you can’t “proceed.”
“I know William”
So how do people and jobs get together? Through mutual contacts, through professional associations and industry events, via customers and vendors and consultants and other trusted connections who can supply this basic element that’s crucial when matching a person to a job and a company:
“I know William. He’s great at doing X. You really ought to talk with him before one of your competitors snatches him up.”
Wouldn’t you love to be the name on that referrer’s lips? If you want a real chance at a good job, you have to be.
Trust your nagging feeling
There is nothing wrong with you. Your judgments are sound: those screenings are unprofessional and unwelcoming. Your sense that you’re not being judged properly – you’re absolutely correct about all of it.
Stop doing what you’re told by “the employment system.” Start doing the kinds of things to find a job that you’d do in the normal course of doing your job. Define your objective, do your homework. Plan who you need to meet and talk to that can help you. Figure out what problems and challenges an employer faces. Map your abilities onto those – and share with the people you meet how you’d do the job. They will tell you whom to talk with next.
WTF indeed. Good question. The answer is right in front of us: Big Marketing by Big Job Boards tells us hiring and looking for work are now totally automated, totally intelligent, and easy! And that’s a lie.
This is all a lot of work. But, so’s that good job you want. Don’t trust your search to databases and automatons. Diddling your keyboard and talking to screeners who don’t know you from their left foot doesn’t work. So do the work.
Make friends and focus on talking shop with people who do the work you want to do at the company where you want to do it.
Make sense? You can’t get the good job you want by crafting keywords and applying for jobs whose keywords match yours. You can’t “proceed” when they don’t know you and you don’t know them.
What do you think they’re really doing behind the wizard’s curtain when they tell you “We can’t proceed with your job candidacy”? How do they decide, when they don’t really know you? What did you really know about them when you applied? How do people and jobs really get matched? How should they? Looking back at the last time you were told “We can’t proceed,” what do you think really happened?