“I Can Do Lots of Things!” Uhmm, no.

If you are looking for a suitable vacancy to fill (especially online), and you’re a normal human being, there are two unexamined thoughts that likely are holding you back. Today’s post is about one of them. We’ll get to the other one shortly.

Here’s the thought: “I can do lots of things!”

Here’s the irony: it’s true, you can do lots of things. You have a set of skills and abilities that can be used in a large variety of ways. By skills and abilities, I mean basic skills, not just job-related skills. You may be an accountant, but it’s your abilities to analyze and organize things that makes you a good accountant.

These are skills that apply to many jobs other than accounting. But how does this show up in a job search? You see an ad online and think to yourself, “I can do that!” And you may be right. But if the ad isn’t for an accountant, abandon hope of getting an interview.

When you are looking at vacancies, the idea that you can do lots of things works only when jobs are coming at you, and your only task is to pick one. I would be surprised if that’s happening to you right now.

Let’s take time out to look at the dismal hiring process that many organizations conduct.

In an interview there are three critical factors: chemistry, ability, and experience. They’re important in that order. If I don’t like you, I won’t hire you. But if I do like you, and I believe you have the ability to do the work, how much do I care that you don’t have experience doing it? I don’t. Besides in my career journey leading me to this role of hiring manager, I’ve worked with those who have plenty of experience, but no ability!

That makes experience the least important of the three factors. But what do I advertise? Experience! Why? Because experience is a standard, it can be reduced to numbers, which makes it easier to evaluate candidates. But it’s not how I hire!

If my ad requires three years of experience, and you have two and a half truly excellent years of experience, will you get an interview? No. If you have no degree or one other than the one required, but have three years of success in the role being advertised, will you get an interview? No. You don’t meet the position requirements. And if I go to HR and say I want to hire someone who doesn’t meet the position requirements, they won’t let me, because that would be inviting a lawsuit!

Here’s the point: you can’t do a lot of things. You have to do something. As the hiring manager, I’m trying to rule you out, because I’m at risk. This is human nature; If I make a bad hiring decision, bad things will happen to me! When I’m at risk, I play defense, not offense. “Kill’em all and let God sort it out! I’ll hire the survivor!”. Maybe I need a forensic accounting specialist. Can you show me experience in forensic accounting?  No. Will I bring you in for an interview? No. So your prime abilities in analysis and organization don’t help you.

So you have to do something. The idea that “being open”—you can do lots of things, only works against you in a job search. The smaller and more specific the target, the shorter the search.

The last time I looked for a job, the search took 10 days. I knew specifically what I wanted to do, and the kind of company I wanted. There were few companies in the Washington, DC area, that did what I wanted to do. Within 10 days I had a choice. I could do what I didn’t want to do in the hope that what I did want would materialize, or I could relocate, and do what I wanted to do. If you have had a family and lived in the DC area, you’ll know how easy that decision was!

The client record for the shortest job search from a cold start is three days, beating the old record of four days. These two clients, working with me, knew exactly what they wanted to look for.

If you can’t find what you want, re-calibrate specifically and go after the new goal.

You can do this. But that unexamined thought driving your search——“I can do lots of things!”— may keep you from success!

Looking at the larger picture, though, you need to be aware of the three serious problems associated with trying to find a vacancy, especially in the online job search:

You’re missing about two thirds of the job market.

You have maximum competition.

You have to look exactly like the job. The one who does that best, wins!