The secret to job hunting: It isn’t about you

Job hunting sucks.

The problem is, we sometimes are so desperate for a job that we focus too much on ourselves in the process of searching for employment that our desperation shows through as we try so hard to fit into the mold we think the employer wants—and they see right through it. But guest blogger Erika of All Things E cuts through the painful stuff in her guest post today to tell job seekers everything they want to know about the hiring process… from the employer’s side.

job hunt

Applying for jobs is stressful.

You agonize over tiny details, ride the roller coaster of hope and rejection, find yourself legitimately concerned that your voice “sounds weird” on the phone and overall, turn into a ball of nerves.

Am I good enough? Am I what they’re looking for? Is this job actually as great as it seems on paper?

(Answers: Yes, maybe and probably not… if you were wondering.)

The humbling, tiresome circus of applying for jobs after graduation or as a working professional is something that we all experience, usually several times in our adult life. After settling in and finding a job that I actually like (though, I have to say: I had a job from hell beforehand—it was character-building), I recently found myself in an entirely new position in the hiring process: as the one doing the actual hiring.

Weird.

I’ll say this first: being on this side of the equation was not at all what I expected. Companies hire when the amount of work is greater than the amount of manpower. Because I work for a small company, the extra work plus the work of finding a suitable candidate to join our team meant late nights and very busy days.

And a LOT of pressure to find someone that would be able to step in, learn fast and contribute right away.

Luckily, we found that person. It took about 3 months, but it’s in the past and I’m on my way to figuring out how to manage (also, very weird).

I learned a LOT about the hiring process from the other side of the table and the experience made me reflect on how I’ll go about applying and interviewing for jobs in the future, so I’m excited to be sharing my insights with you to hopefully make the job-hunting process a bit less scary and anxiety-ridden.

First, the biggest takeaway from the experience:

It isn’t about you.

From the company’s perspective, you are one piece in a pretty big puzzle. I don’t say that to belittle you or make you feel small about what you’re getting into. I say it to help ease your nerves.

Because the truth is: you, as the applicant, control only a very small portion of the outcome.

So breathe easier, embrace patience and by God, take it WAY less personally when you don’t get the job, even if it’s your “dream job.”

If it were your dream job, you would have landed it. Because you would have been the perfect fit. You see, the trouble is, it’s difficult to deduce whether you’re “the perfect fit” for any job from a one-page description.

Personality traits, foundational skills (i.e. writing, talking to people, coming up with ideas) and cultural elements are all really important dimensions of a candidate that just don’t come through in a job description.

So my biggest piece of advice? EMBRACE the fact that it isn’t ALL about you. 

Once you embrace this idea (and the idea that the outcome of the interview process isn’t a reflection of your worthiness as a human being in the slightest bit), you’ll be ready and able to actually showcase yourself and your talents in a way that a potential employer won’t be able to stop thinking about you.

Beyond that MAJOR piece of insight (seriously, take it to heart), there are a few pieces of advice that I know I’ll be keeping in my back pocket for when I go back to the other side of the table:

  • BE THOROUGH. Small details matter. Spelling, grammar, layout and presentation of your resume and cover letter DO make a difference—it’s easier for the hiring manager to weed out the people who were too careless to run spell check or make sure that their cover letter made sense. Also, things like thank you notes and proper email etiquette go a long way. Present yourself with polish.
  • BE HONEST. I was flabbergasted by the number of people that straight-up lied to us about the very things that we spent ALL DAY doing for work. It was actually kind of offensive. If you don’t know something, say so. If you lie about knowing how to do something, your employer is going to expect that when you start, you know how to do it. Don’t set yourself up to fail from the get-go.
  • BE PREPARED. Know something about the company and come prepared with questions to ask the interviewers. It shows that you’re curious and know how to use Google, which are two very important skills. Make a list of questions if you think you’ll forget it when you’re in the moment and please, make sure this one is on your list: “What would a normal day be like for me in this position?”
  • Finally, BE YOURSELF. Nail down the “tell me about yourself” and “what do you like to do outside of work?” questions with interesting, complete answers. Practice delivering them—it’ll give you confidence. Talk with passion about something —anything—and you’ll stand out. Personality goes a long, long way. Many people shy away from their personality in interviews because they want to show how professional they can be. Don’t. Interviews are impossibly boring and when you interview a lot of people, they all run together in your mind. The people who had a great personality stood out a LOT.

 

Obviously, every job is going to be a bit different, as is every job interviewer.

One thing I really believe to be true after this experience is that one of the most critical times to be your true self is when you’re in the process of finding the job that you’ll spend a HUGE chunk of your waking hours doing.

So if you walk out of an interview feeling like you represented yourself in an honest, engaging way and you don’t get the job?

It wasn’t the job for you.

And it wasn’t about YOU.

So tell me: what’s the best piece of job interview advice you’ve ever received?

Erika SevignyErika Sevigny is a 24-year-old single gal living, loving and learning in St. Louis, Missouri. She writes about friendship, books, self awareness and daily life on her blog All Things E and wholeheartedly believes in long hugs, cold coffee and handwritten letters. Say hello on Twitter @ErikaSevigny or at erika [at] allthingseblog.com.

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Comments

  1. This is very true – the jobs I’ve acquired have been the most comfortable and complimentary interview processes. There was limited awkwardness, if any, and the employer and I connected right away. The jobs I have not landed I knew I didn’t before the interview was over. Sometimes you just know you aren’t a good fit and even if I thought it went well (it happened once) – I knew it just wasn’t meant to be. 🙂 Definitely never take it personal but I think when people become desperate it does become personal and that’s when you need to take a step back. Great post Erika! Have a great one ladies! -Iva

  2. Such great advice! It’s often been the job interviews I walked away from worrying that I let my guard down and my sense of humour show too much, that turned out to be successful in the end. Granted you do need to find a way to appear capable of being professional and competent, but I think your advice about being yourself is spot on!

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Yeah, you definitely have to find the right balance. There have been times during interviews I felt so comfortable with the person I almost let out a super-sarcastic joke slip out but stopped short, haha.

  3. I used to work in Human Resources and these all hit the nail on the head. The biggest piece of advice to people interviewing is to make your interview count. Don’t make your “bad qualities” actually bad, instead make them positive – such as “I spend a lot of time organizing things, but I like to think it helps everyone in the end” or “I hate leaving project incomplete, so I tend to stay late to finish them”.
    I also interviewed many people who never had any questions at the end of an interview which gave me an uneasy feeling. Research the company and come up with a few questions ahead of time.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Questions at the end are so important! When I was more inexperienced, I’d forget to have questions prepared and feel silly when the employer would ask me what I wanted to know. (On the flipside, now that I’m comfortable with the process, I’ve had people who have NOT asked me whether I have questions for them and it’s a bit… off-putting.)

  4. Questions and being yourself are two of the qualities I find myself forgetting. I should really drill these two points in my head before my next interview, whenever they may be…Great reminders! I appreciate that insider’s insight. 🙂

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