To Be Eliminated or Not, That is The Question

It is harder today to get in the employment door…

Career training is aimed at finding a job, writing the perfect resume, and the interview process is in much demand these days. There’s definitely a need.

It is no doubt more difficult today to get in the employment door–harder than in a very long time. Not much has changed though–except the unemployment pool is larger, more experienced, better educated–and better trained.

When the company has a job opening, it’s a problem for HR, but it is a different problem for the applicants.

How HR handles its problem does make a difference to those who apply.

To be eliminated or not, that is the question.

So, now you are trained to get in the door and say all the right things. I’ve never seen this training before: elimination training, but someone must do this at an HR conference. I’m not talking about potty training but eliminating candidates to make the selection process less cumbersome. Even if some good potential employees eliminated there are plenty more equally good ones waiting for an opportunity that made the short list. It’s a reality especially for those looking for a job in the current economy. The career trainer gets you in the door so you can make a respectable impression; however, the rest is up to the employer.

I heard that some people felt that they were being unfairly viewed by others if they were lacking in either education or experience–especially when applying for a job–so I wrote an article, A Look at the Education vs Experience Debate. Here, I’m going to lay out some thoughts on the subject without talking so much about training but rather a perspective of how training, education and experience operate in the job search–including the process of narrowing the candidate pool. Narrowing the field and finding the right candidate is a daunting process for HR and the hiring folks, however, for applicants, it is neither as logical nor as transparent as maybe it should be.

Mostly what we remember about the job search is apply, apply, apply.

And, we think the interview is the good part where we woo them, where we convince them how much experience we have for the job, where we tell them things not on our resume that should clinch it for us. Little do we know it is more a time for the employer to measure of how we fit in with their perception of the company image, and about how they glean this from our first meeting.

Now comes the elimination part. Someone–in fact, a great many “someones” have to be eliminated. Joe is already with the company; he’s to be interviewed, too. They asked Bob and Brenda from a competitor company; the interviewers know them by reputation. They were asked to come to the interview without having to actually apply, but in order to be fair a job order has to go out to the public. The experience doesn’t seem any more fair, does it?

Our resume and cover letter (head shot) got us in the door.

If you’ve followed any of my blogs you will find various references to theatre. Why? Because it mirrors life in so many ways, but it sometimes can make what’s right in front of us make more sense.

Think about this: an actor goes to an audition after being told in his source that the director is looking for an actor, 40-50 years of age, medium build, to play a father. He must provide a headshot and resume beforehand and he will be called if he is deemed suitable for an audition.

The director is weighing the same factors against his or her vision for the play. (Let’s say her for simplicity sake.) All the actors she has selected from the headshots and resumes are qualified, but the audition and interview will give her more information. Those who did not submit a headshot, but submitted a resume she eliminated (except for Tom who she knows personally), and the same goes for those without a resume; they received no call.

At the audition, she asks everyone to do a monologue that they have prepared. Those without a prepared monologue are eliminated. She didn’t tell them before, but she wants experienced actors who know what’s expected in an audition. One actor speaks up and says, I don’t have one prepared but I can read one here on the spot if you. “Okay,” she says reluctantly, knowing she may eliminate him, too. However, when he has finished, she’s not sure she wants to eliminate him now.

Audition over. It is between Tom and the one who improvised. So, despite her requirements for the part, she has chosen the leaders for reasons not a part of the qualifications she herself developed.

The process is exactly the same.

With addition the head shots, there’s another variable but actor are used to it. For them, it is not about the physical attractiveness but a stereotypical look, which other situations would be insulting. It’s a part of acting. Just as the actors needed the headshot and resume to get in the door, the regular job applicant needs what the employer has specified to get in the door. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you need both the education certificate and the experience just to get in door. The elimination of candidates has already begun. You need both to get the call unless they know you.

Granted, it’s frustrating seeing others without your work experience, walk in and take the same job you may even have to train them for. On the other side of the issue, even being trained specifically for the job is no guarantee you’ll get in the door–because getting a job is not all about qualifications.

Are you shocked?

The posted qualifications narrow the field of applicants, and not as much as you think.

Everyone has their reasons for who they pick, and it’s not always about qualifications. In fact, more jobs are to be found by networking and through someone else than applying to a posted entry. Today, we can’t afford to wait for all our networking to amount to something; however, we do have more networking options than ever. We can’t assume that it is either the education or experience qualification that disqualified us from the job; it could be anything. Maybe they just didn’t like us; there was no chemistry. It’s all about fitting in. We all want to fit in, but we don’t always. Personally I’d rather have that job where I fit in and the hiring folks agree.

In some cases, to just to go beyond a certain level in your job you have to have a degree. I have a super smart sister who made straight “A”s and could have named her ticket to any major university. She chose instead to work. She enjoyed her work, but she become stuck at one level and watched several people, not nearly as smart or as good at their job progress when she couldn’t because she didn’t have a degree. At the time she began working, the degree didn’t seem important. For some people, advanced education just doesn’t fit in the plans for a variety of reasons, including financial.

HR does put a value on education.

An education is more than specific training for a job or it wouldn’t be called education. But education is general and has to be applied. What it does show is the ability of someone to start something and see it through to the end. Certification is a little different since it is more a validation of specific knowledge to a specific end, and does tend to be short term compared to education.

We don’t realize, especially when it affects us personally, just how many people out there are looking for work. Some are very qualified either in experience or education. Want someone younger, you go with education. Want maturity find the experienced person. With both–you win. At least sometimes. However, it is never that obvious.

It’s not a perfect system.

I have degrees that by themselves are rather worthless, but combine them with practical experience and use the knowledge (not in a book way) but in a way that makes sense, and you suddenly seem very qualified. Still you don’t fit the mold exactly–especially if the requirement is specific. Not an architect, an engineer, an MBA. The degree doesn’t match the job.

Another example, colleges and universities love PhDs and would rather have one over a Masters degree–even if the Masters degree had tons of teaching and research experience. Colleges and universities are competing for credibility and the more PhDs, the more respect. Logical. Not at all. Well, to them. Choosing kids who can play a sport to play a game makes sense. Choosing friends who can’t play so well doesn’t make sense to anyone but those in on the reason. It’s all a matter of perspective.

The years of experience we earn can help, but they can also hurt. The number automatically tells someone how old we are and there are other clues to that as well. While they aren’t supposed to discriminate at all (and this would be age discrimination), it is all about getting the employee they want–not necessarily the best qualified. You don’t have to be a different race to be discriminated against. It’s just elimination now. How about not getting it because you didn’t go to a particular school or because you were a blond, or short, or fat. Or not handsome or pretty. Image plays a part, like it or not. And when people need to eliminate people from the pool, anything is game unofficially.

However, getting the interview is important, but attitude makes a difference.

I don’t care how good you are at your job, a bad attitude will make someone want to sacrifice your experience and know how to train someone who’s enthusiastic and wants to do it the way they want them to do it.

I have quite a few good years left. I doubt it is my positive attitude, lack of education and experience holding me back…

That’s it for me on this job hunting excursion. Check out my website for more from me on training, communication and theatre as I try to apply what I think I know in one place. Happy training.

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