Five Smart Moves Most Job-Seekers Are Afraid To Make

By Liz Ryan, Forbes Contributer    If I could grab job-seekers by the figurative lapels I’d tell them, “The talent market has moved. It is not where you left it. It’s a different world now!”

Many job-seekers are too docile and compliant for their own good. They think that they will shuffle through the steps in a big-company recruiting process and get a great job at the end of the process. They are mistaken. Only the people who advocate for themselves end up being valued as much as they should be.

It turns out that the size of your muscles has everything to do with your job-search and career success.

What do I mean by “muscles?” I’m talking about your intestinal fortitude—your ability to say, “I know I bring something valuable to the talent market, so I’m willing to invest the time to find the right people before I jump at a job.” That is a form of courage no different from the kind of bravery we celebrate in our heroes and heroines.

It takes courage to walk your own path.

Here are five powerful job-search approaches that most people are afraid to take. No one can push them through that door.

They have to wake up one day and say, “That’s it—I’m tired of beating my head against the wall, getting ignored in the Black Hole where online job applications go to die, and generally being treated like dirt in my job search.”

The mojo boost you feel when you get a reminder that not everyone deserves your talents is just enough fuel to get you to step outside the traditional lines and take a chance.

It’s not a big chance! You just have to try something new in your job search.

Shift the frame with a Pain Letter.

When it hits you that you will have to stand up for your value in order to be taken seriously—a realization that comes to many but not all working people over the course of their careers—you won’t feel as though you have to follow the traditional job-search rules any more.

The people who made those rules are not paying your rent or mortgage. You don’t work for them, so they have no power over you.

You don’t have to fill out online job applications. You can reach your own hiring manager (your possible next boss) with a Pain Letter that you send through the mail. You can read about Pain Letters here.

Shift the frame by starting the conversation on a human level.

It takes a teeny bit of courage to step outside the standard frame and start a job interview with a human question or observation when you first meet your hiring manager. A lot of job-seekers won’t do it, but they would be very happy if they did!

When you signal through your initial question or observation that you are smart and curious and a good conversationalist, you fundamentally shift the energy in the interview. You give your interviewer (your department manager) permission to get off the script him- or herself and have a conversation with you.

Here is an example:
Manager: Are you Todd? I’m Ralph. It’s nice to meet you.
You: (standing up and extending your hand): Yes, I’m Todd Diaz. It’s nice to meet you, Ralph.
Ralph: I’ll show you to our conference room, over here. (Turns to walk—you follow.

You: So I read this morning that your new warehouse is opening in October. Is that project high on your radar screen?
Ralph: (Chuckles) Huh! I just came from a meeting on that topic. Yes, it’s a big deal here. I can show you the plans. We are deep into construction. You ever get involved in that?
You: I did the purchasing for a new distribution center last year. It’s quite a process, doing a big warehouse renovation.

Get right into it. You will create a new frame that says, “This is going to be a conversation, not a sleep-inducing oral exam” and many (not all) hiring managers will step into that frame with you, and never get to the interview script.

Talk about pain in the job interview.

If you want to shift the energy in a job interview you have to get the manager off the line of questioning “Are you good enough for us [in a way that I couldn't articulate to you if I tried, since I don't know myself what I'm looking for]?”

That conversational topic is a bottomless pit. You have to get into the topic of the hiring manager’s pain by asking questions about what isn’t going perfectly in the department. Try questions like these:

  • So as I understand it, you get new clients from the brokers at first and then you maintain them in-house after that? How well does that process work for you?
  • It sounds like things are going terrifically well here! What new projects or fixes are on your calendar for this year?
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that [X] can be an issue for you at times. How do you approach it?
  • Just to make sure I understand how this job fits into the larger structure, how would you explain the problem this job has been created to solve?
  • Do you ever run into [a common pain point for managers like yours]? That is an issue for a lot of people in your position.

Talk about money—ask “How important is this initiative to your 2016 plan, and what is the risk if you don’t hit your goal?”

I want you to talk about money on a job interview—the first interview in which you meet your hiring manager, the person who can offer you a job.

I’m not talking about money as in payroll dollars. I’m talking about the financial impact to the organization if the person in the open position doesn’t deliver or if the position isn’t filled.

Ask your manager questions about the financial impact of the role being vacant versus being filled. What bad thing happens to the organization and what financial target isn’t met if this position remains the thorn in the manager’s side that it is right now?

Don’t sit by the phone or leave the impression that you will.

Never leave a hiring manager with the impression that you loved meeting him or her so much that you’re planning to go home and sit by the phone for as long as it takes!

That’s the worst thing you can do. Thank the manager for his or her time, shake hands and leave. Send a thank-you note a few days later and move on.

You are a person with options, although it doesn’t always feel that way. You are growing your muscles all the time, whether you are offered a particular position or not. You are learning about yourself and other people.

You are being reminded that not everyone is as sharp and capable as you are. You’ve worked hard to achieve professional success and there is no reason to grovel or beg for a job.

Remember this: If they don’t get you, they don’t deserve you!

Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace