Wouldn’t life be great if your job searches were never touched by fear or failure? You would proceed with total confidence from start to finish and have a desirable outcome every time. Right–and I’m the Queen of Sheba!
And what about fear of failure? Sounds like a double-whammy, doesn’t it?
Realism in the Job Search
I’ve never met anyone who could honestly say he or she had never experienced fear or failure in a job search. Even the most successful individuals have, at some time or other, encountered either or both of them. If you can accept that as natural and normal, you’re in a stronger position at the outset of any job search you plan and conduct. What matters more is what you do when fear or failure rears its ugly head in your job search.
Where might the fear aspect come in? Aside from things like the pressure of wondering if you’ll be able to pay the mortgage next month, fear can smack you in the face on a number of fronts or it can sneak up on you when you’re not paying as much attention as you should. If you recognize the possibility for such occurrences early on, you can at least minimize the occurrence of fear and reduce its intensity–thereby enhancing the positive energy of your job search.
The desirable corollary of that is the reduced likelihood of failure in achieving the goal of your job search. Notice that I said “reduced” likelihood, not the elimination. Unless you’re Superman or Wonder Woman, I doubt that you can completely eliminate the possibility of failing to achieve your goal (desired position). What you might well be able to do, with the right kind and amount of forethought and planning, is to increase your odds of success by taking savvy job-search steps. You know many of those, right? Building and maintaining a strong professional network, continually refining and upgrading your skills and expertise, etc.
Fear or Failure, Success or Excellence:
Look for (on) the Bright Side
I’ve just read two items written by people I follow that fit at least loosely with the theme of this post. Here they are, with my comments added:
- “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change our world.” (Simon Sinek, StartWithWhy) The same could be said to some extent about your current or next job search. When you have a desired goal (position) in mind (the idea), try for it. If it doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped, analyze the reason(s), regroup and try for another one.
- “We can look at competition as the standard or as an indicator of our progress towards our own standards. We can chase success or we can embark on a quest for excellence and focus 100% of our energy to become our best… and let success find us.” (Jon Gordon, Jon Gordon’s Weekly Newsletter, Jan. 27, 2014) What standards have you set for yourself in the job search? If they’re within reach, use them as your guide in conducting the most effective job search you can. Know what your target employers’ probable needs are and do your best to demonstrate your value as a solution to those needs. Be knowledgeable about your competition, but don’t be driven by it.
Enthusiasm, insight and determination might not totally prevent fear or failure, but they can go a long way toward keeping it at bay. Put them to work for you in your job search. I’ll bet you won’t be sorry.
I have to admit that the whole idea of “big data” overwhelms me! In fact, reading articles about it tends to make my eyes glaze over. However, we live in a world where such topics can impinge on our actions, career success, life balance and more, so trying to ignore big data completely is probably not a realistic or sensible choice.
Corcodillos and Big Data in Job Searching
I’ve mentioned Nick Corcodillos and his Ask The Headhunter newsletter a number of times. Today it’s in relation to his article about “Big Data, Big Headaches for Job Seekers?”
If you’re already feeling frustrated by the ways in which impersonal screening and hiring techniques make your job search more difficult, time-consuming and prone to failure, Corcodillos’ article won’t provide you with much encouragement. He sees the trend as continuing to grow and is seriously concerned about the emphasis on big data in that regard.
For example, he mentions an article in The Atlantic by Don Peck, called “They’re Watching You at Work,” that quotes a recruiting VP at Xerox Services as saying, “We’re getting to the point where some of our hiring managers don’t even want to interview anymore….They just want to hire the people with the highest scores.”
Corcodillos is trying to arrange a discussion on TV between him and Peck about increasing use of big data in HR. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds and, if so, how that discussion goes. In any case, I highly recommend that you read his article (I’ve provided the link above). It’s very thought-provoking and more than a tad disturbing.
So What About Big Data and Your Job Search?
You and I can’t control the big data leviathan individually…maybe even not collectively. However, you do absolutely need to be aware of its possible impact on your job search. To the extent possible, you must take such factors into account and be both assertive and creative in your approach to job searching.
To start with, fight back by getting personal in your job search as much as possible. That includes making person-to-person contacts, not just online, and nurturing your contact network (both online and offline) so that you are viewed as a real person by those key people. Don’t succumb to the idea–however tempting–that you can manage everything electronically and by rote and still be a viable top candidate for the positions you’re targeting.
Does this mean more work for you to conduct and achieve a successful job search? Undoubtedly, but the alternative is unpalatable. You can throw up your hands, knuckle under to big data and all its cousins, and resign yourself to praying for a minimal job opportunity to present itself to you. That’s really not an option you want to choose!
No, I never got asked any of those dumb interview questions myself. However, I know people who have, and you probably know what I mean. It’s the “what flavor of ice cream would you be” or “if you had to choose between selling your child and selling your car, which would you choose” (I made that up–at least, I don’t think it’s ever been asked!) variety of interview question.
I’ve heard that even some supposedly successful and reputable companies like to throw in this off-the-wall kind of question during interviews. Presumably they’re hoping to get a sense of how the applicant thinks on his or her feet, responds to totally unexpected questions, etc. I can’t believe, though, that there isn’t a more effective and less far-out method of determining that information, and I’m certainly not alone in thinking this.
Useless Interview Questions
Just as one example, I recently read an online post by David Welsh titled “Which Member of the ‘Rat Pack’ Matches Your Leadership Style…and Other Useless Questions.” Welsh appears to be UK-based, but his somewhat tongue-in-cheek post makes good sense in a much wider area than that. Why more companies don’t “get it,” I can’t understand. As Welsh says:
“The irony is there are several really high quality psychometric tests out there that are very good predictors of leadership ability and traits. I’ve even seen them used. And paid for. They are not cheap. And then clients would listen to the results, nod, ask that stupid question about leadership style at final interview and rely on the answer alone.”
How to Handle Dumb Interview Questions
Basically, you have two choices when you encounter what appears to be a really dumb interview question:
- React with shock, dismay, etc., and “blow” your answer (and probably the interview while you’re at it).
- Take a moment to decide whether you can give an answer that says something meaningful about your unique value to the company and doesn’t seem too far away from whatever silly thing they asked. Then provide that answer calmly and concisely.
Actually, I suppose there’s a third choice. You can pause, say “that’s an interesting question–can you tell me what prompted you to ask it?”–and then wait for their response.
Although choice #3 might produce an interesting outcome, I suppose I’d probably advocate for #2.
One Final Tip onInterview Questions
A critical part of any successful job search involves astute evaluation of the interview process and a plan for approaching it as effectively as possible. I always encourage clients to prepare thoroughly for interviews, including doing extensive research on the company before the interview. Then I remind them that “expect the unexpected” is consistently good advice, to be ignored at their peril. You can’t be thrown for a loop in an interview if you’ve given thoughtful consideration to how you will handle unexpected situations and have made sure you’re ready for them.