What might get you hired?

As the saying goes: sometimes even a blind squirrel will find a nut in the forest.  At least that’s how I felt when someone finally decided to hire me: a very lucky, but blind, squirrel. I finished one interview, sent in a sample of my work, and the company called back to say they wanted me to work for them. This is great news, right? But what did it take to get me there? I didn’t know. I was happy and a little confused at the same time when I received the offer. What did I do differently this time that got me hired?

The missing piece – feedback

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the interview process:  feedback. It’s very rare to get feedback, other than the absence of calls or e-mails from a company.  Even if you’ve tried contacting them for an interview status update, most companies seem to think that you’re not worth the time. There are a few who do give feedback. Most of the times it’s the HR person who’ll do that, but occasionally, the hiring manager will actually do so. But that’s rare. It seems these unresponsive companies are intent on keeping the nut in the forest hidden. It’s a BIG FOREST full of these kinds of companies, too.

By the time I received a job offer, I had probably been through about 40-50 or so interviews. Of those, I received about 14 contingent offers. How many of those contingents became a real work offer?  Zero. How many of the companies/hiring managers I talked with offered feedback after the interviews?  About three. You didn’t misread that—there were three feedback sessions out of 40-50 interviews. The nut kept getting buried deeper and deeper.

Which is part of the job-hunter’s dilemma: how then, does a job-hunter improve for future interviews, if the feedback is nearly non-existent? It’s very simple to tell someone to fight for feedback. But it’s quite another thing to do that, especially when a job-hunter seems to be stuck in a one-sided conversation with a potential, but very deliberately deaf, employer. This leaves the job-hunter constantly guessing and tweaking every little single thing: resumes, interview answers, on-line profiles—they all get changed. All these changes are done in a very dark forest of companies in the hope of the blind squirrel/job-hunter tripping over that hidden nut. I did this, and I’m guessing you’ve done this too.

The Lucky Squirrel

So, what does it take to get yourself hired, to be the lucky blind squirrel? I asked this question after I was hired. It turned out having my own blog was a key element. Yes, a blog. But I deliberately set up my blog as a display for my attitude, writing style, analytical prose, etc. I meant for it to show what I could do, what I know, and how I could possibly help a potential employer. I was pleased to hear this strategy had indeed helped. The other elements that helped me trip over that employment nut were: I had an operational background, which would be good for certain tasks; demonstrating through my blog and writing for ClearanceJobs that I was trainable and willing to try different things, which were unspoken requirements for the work.

Part of finding the nut in the forest then, was just making sure to stack the odds in favor of finding the nut. The tweaking of things related to the job-hunt might help. Prepping for interviews, making sure your on-line profile is up-to-date, and honing that resume probably isn’t going to hurt. But in my case, it turns out what mainly got me hired wasn’t what I had written on my resume, but what I was doing and continue to do now—my writing online. My little white cane just kind of tapped against that nut hidden on the forest floor, but knowing which direction I wanted to go increased my odds of finding the nut. Maybe knowing where you want to go will help you too?

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John Holst’s career path is as nonsensical and mad as the March Hare. In a series of what John thought were very trusting decisions, the United States Air Force let him babysit nuclear weapons, develop future officers, and then operate multi-billion dollar space systems. Then John re-enacted scenes from “Brazil” by joining the Missile Defense Agency, working as minutes-taker, configuration, project, mission, and test manager. When he’s not writing for Clearancejobs.com, he is putting his journalism degree skills to use as The Mad Spaceball.