How to think like a recruiter and win the job game.

It was the year 2000, I was 18 years old and still living in the mother-land (the south-western suburbs of Sydney, Australia). By then, I had already been out of school and working for nearly 5 years (I was a special case), and after those 5 tough years, the only thing I had was a $3,000 debt and my dirty green 1980 VK Commodore Wagon.

Underneath the grime and the battle scars, she was a beauty…

Now, she was temperamental but I got to know her mood swings well enough. I knew when the semi-installed 6x9 speakers were sounding a little tinny, that usually meant she was going to throw a tantrum and not start for me sometime pretty soon. I also knew a bit of gentle persuasion and a tap with a hammer on the battery terminals would get her going.

I thought I knew enough to get me by, and I always managed to come out the other end of any roadside nightmares. Until everything I knew stopped working…

Then I realised. I’m no mechanic. I don’t know anything about this machine. I don’t know what makes it tick, I can’t read the warning signs, and I can’t predict what’s going to happen next.

Which brings me to an epic segue. The mechanics of the job market.

I can see a little bit of my 18 year old self in almost every person I speak with. Sure, you know your own work experience. You know what worked in a job search two, three or 5 years ago. Enough to get the job you wanted at the time, anyway. You knew what sites to visit, what buttons to press, which people to be friendly with. And after enough of that activity, eventually it worked. You got a job. Just like me, eventually starting my old VK.

Except, nowadays, you’re at 100 job applications with no response. You’ve had phone interviews but never heard back. You’ve had face to face interviews, but you’re told your experience wasn’t quite aligned to the role (even though they would have known that by looking at your CV).

It becomes painfully obvious that you don’t know what you’re doing anymore. You don’t know where to go, who to speak with, or what advice to take on board. None of it works and you’re not getting the results you need. Help!

The job game ain’t as simple as it used to be.

It’s easy to forget that Australia doesn’t have a large job market. We’ve got a few major industries (mainly primary resources for export), with only a few businesses at the top of each sector. Almost all other work in Australia trickles down from there.

We’ve been a great place for foreign investors (at times) to develop major projects, and that means we intermittently inject large volumes of workers into our market. When our projects near their end, a lot of those people start competing for jobs that no longer exist.

That’s one of the challenges that place us in a unique market.

  • Employers become flooded with interested candidates and are spoiled for choice. That means work experience stops being the main focus and recruiters start shortlisting according to variable manager preferences. It’s a convoluted shortlisting process.
  • New technology changes the way recruitment is executed. LinkedIn, for example, enables internal recruitment teams to behave like recruitment agencies and pool thousands of talented professionals into a bank for their needs down the track. When a company invests heavily in such a resource, its recruitment team needs to use that to its full potential.
  • Employers stop needing to advertise to find candidates.
  • Employers start rewarding their staff, financially or otherwise for referrals.
  • Job vacancy advertising platforms attract and funnel thousands of job seekers through a process that is humanly impossible to manage, with no regard for fake or real job ads.
  • Recruitment agencies impose a 6-month ban on employers from hiring any candidate who’s CV they’ve emailed around. That forces hiring managers to ignore some applications because they simply won’t gain approval to pay tens of thousands to an agency in this candidate-rich market.
  • And it goes on…

These are the nuances in the market you’re competing in. One wrong move can take you out of the running for an ideal role and leave you guessing what you’re doing wrong, accusing employers of discrimination, or claiming age bias for no good reason at all.

There’s little wonder so many job seekers are in a negative downward spiral. Trying to find a reason for failure or someone to blame (in this system) is futile.

How do you compete when there are so many influences at play?

One of the hurdles you’re facing (and failing to get over) is how to make yourself relevant. That should be a key focus in such a competitive market.

When was the last time you checked your mailbox only to find a bunch of junk choking it up? What did you find? A fast-food coupon booklet? Three real estate agent fridge magnet calendars? A BCF catalogue, The Reject Shop’s $2 deals?

What did you keep and what did you toss? You tossed it all, right? why? Because you didn’t see anything of any relevance. You’ve also seen it all before, so you’ve developed the pattern of tossing that crap out and these days you’re far quicker to judge something as rubbish and throw it aside.

A recruitment team’s email inbox is exactly like your mailbox at home. It’s always full of irrelevant rubbish, your CV included. You may not feel your CV is irrelevant, and you’d probably feel that way because you’ve got the right kind of experience. But, as I mentioned earlier, experience is no longer a major factor with such a high volume of available candidates.

How to start thinking like a recruiter or hiring manager.

Remember, “relevance”. It’s one of the key factors to success in a competitive job market. Relevance is not work experience and qualifications, in a market like this.

You start with learning what your personal value truly means to a business and how you can present that value relevantly to your target business.

Here’s something I learned a number of years ago in a book called Entrepreneurial Intelligence. I picked it up from the café close to my office in Brisbane CBD, and it was based on the rise and practices of Queensland based coffee legend Philip Di Bella.

In the book was an extremely simple and valuable exercise that you can do right now to understand how you’re being viewed from a recruiter/hiring manager perspective.

This process isn’t exactly how the book played it out, but here’s how I’ve used it with clients in the past.

You start here.

Go to the original post to find out this simple yet very powerful tool…