Just because you're shown a path doesn't mean you need to take it.

online interview cartoonThis is a guest post by Roderick Lewis.

It is not easy for today’s job seekers: social unrest, crippling debt, and mass layoffs. Whether you are a current student, recent graduate, or restless professional, you’ll find that the burden of your job search is borne by you, and you alone.

Don’t expect any favors or tips from the companies for whom you want to work – especially the “so-called” great places to work. Their objective is to survive and prosper in an increasingly competitive global market that has nothing to do with your desire to get a job.

You bear the burden of trying to figure out what’s fact versus fiction as you begin your quest towards getting hired. Standing in the path of truth and transparency will be a plethora of vague job postings, ubiquitous job boards, flashy career sites, gatekeeping recruiters, and propaganda-wielding employer brands – oh my!

It’s enough to strike a sliver of fear in even the most intrepid job seekers.

Getting extended an employment offer these days is not for the faint at heart. You need a sound strategy, executable tactics, and an ability to avoid job search tar pits in order to get the ultimate prize – an employment offer.

It’s all a game – a shell game

But not like any shell game you have ever seen.

In this game, you do not know the rules, and there is no user’s manual. Yet, you’ll be expected to play along until the music stops and you’re the one who is left without a chair to sit on.

Welcome to the corporate recruitment game: where lies are disguised as half-baked truths, obfuscation is the norm, and transparency is the exception.

It’s a wonderful game indeed – for the employers that play it, of course. Why? Because they get to cherry pick the best applicants from the daily harvest of online job applications while maintaining their positions as employers of choice.

And for all those hundreds of thousands of job seekers who don’t get selected for an interview – let alone the courtesy of an email rejection – they will be left scratching their heads wondering if it was even worth their time (and effort) to apply. But no one ever said you had to play the same game as everyone else – you just need to play better than everyone else.

What is the point of the formal recruitment process?

Is it:

  1. to get an interview; or
  2. to get a job?

Most job seekers are so busy trying to get an interview that they forget the real objective is to get a job. The two objectives are completely different and will affect the way you plan your job search.

When viewing the recruitment process as a journey to get an interview, you’re basically setting yourself up with the nebulous goal of trying to appease the pleasures of a corporate recruiter.

You are trying to create the perfect application that will pass through multiple recruitment process checkpoints before it meets (if you’re lucky!) the actual eyes of a corporate recruiter. And it will more than likely be an incompetent recruiter at that!

In the formal recruitment process, all roads lead to a recruiter. Wise job seekers follow the maxim: “Recruiters are to be avoided, not engaged.” Why would you invest so much time in an online application just to get a “screening” interview with a recruiter whose business acumen is suspect at best, and non-existent at worst?

On the other hand, if you approach the recruitment process as a journey to get hired, then you are trying to get a job – not an interview. Therefore, you will eschew the formal recruitment process that is administered by corporate recruiters, and create a personalized recruitment process that is tailored to your specific objectives.

All of your hard work and effort are now put into getting an audience with a Hiring Manager – not to interview, but to get a job. The interview process itself, whether given by a recruiter or Hiring Manager, is inherently a screening tool that favors the interviewer.

You should never allow yourself to be interviewed in the traditional sense because it instantly positions the recruiter as the “lead” and you as the “follow” in the recruitment tango. Think about it, the interviewer is assuming the role of the “selector” while you assume the role of a job beggar – or more appropriately, someone who needs a job more than the company needs an employee. How does this give you any advantages, or position you as a resource person to be desired by the company?

It doesn’t.

Therefore, a focus on getting hired means that you find ways to present your employee value proposition to the benefit of business-minded decision makers at your target employers.

Make no mistake about it, there are only two choices you can make when conducting your job search campaign:

  1. apply online to be screened by a recruiter; or
  2. speak directly to a Hiring Manager.

Option one is loaded with the trap doors and fake mirrors that form the heart of the corporate recruitment game.

Option two is the road rarely taken that bypasses the game.

Many job seekers are inevitably drawn to option one because they are unable to break the “psychological rules” of the corporate recruitment process which imply that the only path to become an employee is through the bosom of the recruiter – the online application.

It is standard corporate recruitment practice to lull job seekers into believing there is only one path to getting hired.

This belief is nurtured by the explosion in online job boards and corporate career sites. Recruiters are all too happy to send you directly to the online application because it makes their lives easier.

But why should you be trying to make their lives easier?

Why would you want to do your song and dance for them?

You’re not planning to work for them, and you most certainly don’t need to rely on them to screen you out (or filter you in).

The only person you should want reviewing your credentials for a job is the Hiring Manager, or someone with direct functional experience from the department in which you desire to work.

About the Author

roderick lewis portraitRoderick Lewis is an international employment consultant and author of “The Corporate Recruitment Game: What Recruiters Don’t Tell, And What Employers Try To Sell”. He holds an MBA from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has worked internationally in corporate recruitment and career consulting for over 10 years. You can connect with Roderick on his personal website at www.voiceofthejobseeker.com and on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/lewisrod.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Erich Lagasse

    The article presents a solid argument, yet the title of the article is deceptive. You can apply for a job online by getting in touch with the hiring manager. Job seekers should focus on being memorable to catch the hiring manager’s attention. This is what’s important. We recently posted a piece about this. – Erich

  2. Roderick

    @Erich: There are only a few exceptions when I advocate applying online. One is when contact has been made with a Hiring Manager first and that Hiring Manager wants to hire you. Then applying online is just a formality for HR’s sake. Outside of that, it’s just a game of “best résumé” wins the ATS key word scan: and that is a time-consuming game. Better to cut out the middle man and go straight to the business-minded hiring managers who are more concerned with your ability to provide solutions for their pressing concerns, rather than your ability to write a world-class job applications.

  3. Patricia

    This is good but how do you make contact with the “Hiring Manager” and/or determine who that person actually is?

  4. Roderick

    @Patricia: Thanks for the comment. The easiest way is to contact people in your network to see if they know someone who works at a company you are targeting. Your network is larger than you think. For example, if you are a college graduate, you can contact your school’s alumni career services and ask for contacts at your target companies. You can also do a keyword search on Linkedin to find alumni who work at your target companies. I know it sounds overused, but Linkedin is really the goldmine of professional contacts. If you don’t find any contacts through your personal contacts and/or alumni, then another method is to connect with people in professional organizations (online and offline) that are in your industry/function of interest. Oftentimes you might share an online (or offline) group with a contact at your target company. The challenge then is to build a credible relationship with that person so that they either refer you directly to the hiring manager or tell you who he/she is. The Direct-to-Hiring Manager approach is not always a quick process, and can take a few weeks or months. But it is much better than sending résumés into black holes where you don’t know anyone or know if anyone even looked at your résumé. The key is to focus on expanding and nurturing your network.

  5. josh

    I like this post. In the world of job search, the ‘beggar’ is indeed the actual role the searcher takes on. This post tries to motivate you into job search with a bite.

    I really like these two sound bites of intuition:

    About job search in general: Most job seekers are so busy trying to get an interview that they forget the real objective is to get a job.

    About digital job search:
    In this game, you do not know the rules

  6. Kate

    I think there is a point to not *just’ applying online. There is a huge role for networking.

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