A Formula for Job Hunting Success

I'm a skeptic at heart. I don't believe there's a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow nor do I think that those Your Formula for Success books or tapes touted on late night weekend TV infomercials can help you make a quick fortune, either.

But "formulas" can be useful. For instance, the mortgage interest rate formula. It is a good tool to use if you want to find out how much interest you're going to pay on your home loan, depending on how long you pay and what principal you start with. This simple formula can help you make important decisions about your life and your home budget.

Is their a formula for job-hunting success? I can't say I know of any. But if there were one, this is what I would imagine it to be:

contacts + credentials + corporate culture + experience = Competition

In other words, to win a job in a competitive field of qualified candidates, the sum of a job hunter's contacts, credentials, (ability to adapt to a) corporate culture, and experience must be greater than that of the job hunter's Competition.

Sound complicated? Well, it really isn't. To understand our job-hunting formula, let's first examine it, term by term, and then to see how it can be useful in a job-hunting strategy.

Contacts: All studies agree on one thing: if you have contacts, you have a better chance of getting hired. The recommendations your contacts give a potential employer effectively give you head of the line privileges in the competitive field of candidates, making you part of the hiring manager's "to be interviewed" short list.

Credentials: University degrees, trade school diplomas, professional certifications and industry accreditations are used, not only to determine which job candidates are qualified for a particular job, but also as the initial filter in the job screening process. This basically means if you don't have contacts, credentials are the next best thing. Credentials have become more important nowadays because credential information or "skills" are being stored in searchable databases rather than in paper files in a filing cabinet. Using databases, and "credential" keywords (e.g., BSEE, Photoshop, MBA, AutoCAD etc.), a potential employer can obtain a hot list of job candidates in seconds.

Corporate Culture: The importance of corporate culture in job-hunting usually arises when a hiring manager has several equally qualified candidates to choose from. The candidate who is finally hired is the one with the best "fit" for the job and organization. This "best fit" could very well depend on the people or department the candidate will work within. It could also mean your people skills, which, for instance, are essential in direct customer contact positions. For the experienced job-hunters, it could mean that you have worked with one of a potential employer's customers, that is, you are bringing the company contacts! It also could mean you are very bright or not-so-bright, independent or dependent, etc. It could really mean just about anything! Therefore, it is clearly the most subjective term of our job-hunting formula.

Experience: An old adage says, "experience talks, everyone else walks." While this adage may not entirely ring true in every instance, it is easy to understand that experience still holds value in the job marketplace. Past experience in a position or specific knowledge of a particular piece of equipment, system or software indeed has business value. Hence, those candidates with experience are usually preferred over those who do not.

Competition: Competition is the important fact of life in today's job-hunting world. You're not simply competing against yourself, you are quite often competing against many others. In some instances, you may be one in a field of hundreds! On the face it, your competition is any job hunter who wants the same job you do. But the degree of competition depends not only on who and how big the pool of job candidates is, but also on the state of the economy you're both competing in. When an economy is booming and unemployment is low, competition is usually minor. Conversely, when an economy is bearish and unemployment is higher than usual, the degree of competition can be very high.

How can I use this formula to help me win a job?

Great question!

The short answer is: To be competitive, a job-hunter must eliminate as many job-hunting deficiencies as possible. This is the true value of our formula for job-hunting success. It helps us understand what our deficiencies are and what actions we must take to overcome them in order to be more competitive.

Here's a few things to think about to determine what your competitive deficiencies are and how to go about eliminating them:

Contacts: Contacts are the all powerful trump card of job hunting. Having contacts can overcome your competitive deficiencies in credentials and experience because the hiring manager will know about your credentials, experience and your ability to adapt to the corporate culture as a result of the personal recommendations given by your contacts.

If you do not have any contacts, this means you have not applied the power of networking in your job hunt. Networking basically means broadening your base of personal, social and professional contacts. How do you do it? Becoming a member of a church or social organization is a great place to start. Joining industry or professional societies is another way to network. For instance, if you are seeking technical writing positions, joining the Society of Technical Communication would be a useful way to network. If you are an engineer, joining the IEEE is another good place. Joining a union is another way to network.

Credentials: As mentioned previously, potential employers use credentials as a filter (a search term or keyword) to develop an initial pool of qualified job candidates from searchable databases. These databases may be private, that is, maintained by an organization or they may be public--job websites such as militaryhire.com.

If you do not have formal credentials, you may not be invited to as many interviews as you would like thereby extending your time to win a job. You may be thinking, "I may not have credentials but I have 20 years of experience!" If you have recently separated from the armed forces, your experience is your most valuable job-hunting asset. But time dilutes the strength of your military experience. You may find 3, 5, 10 years after your have departed the military that the experience you gained there may no longer be relevant in a competitive field. However, credentials always are. While it is expensive and time-consuming to get a degree, that's just what you may have to do. Consider doing it before you leave the armed forces. Take advantage of all the educational opportunities the U.S. military offers.

Culture: While contacts, credentials and experience are primary in the job screening/pre-interviewing process, your ability to adapt to a corporate culture moves centerstage during the interview and the post-interview selection process. Inexperienced job hunters have a hard time getting a handle on this term or even its relevance. Why? More often than not they are focusing all their energies on getting credentials and experience and not on how to compete successfully in a broad field of candidates. (Author's Note: If readers want to learn more about the relevance of corporate culture, I recommend them to read, "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies" by James C. Collins and Jerry I Porras.)

If you are not demonstrating your ability to adapt to a corporate culture during an interview, you'll find yourself regularly appearing on the "almost-hired" list. You'll need to improve your interviewing techniques to be more competitive. The job interview is perhaps the greatest expression of an organization's corporate culture. Job interviews come in all varieties and shapes and tell a candidate more about an organization than an organization learns about a candidate. There are many interview classes available in the marketplace. If you are feeling that you're blowing the interview, you might want to invest some money and time into one to improve your presentation techniques. Make sure the class includes lots of practice interview time.

Experience: Experience is generally the strong suit of the ex-military job-hunter. Why? As a group in a given field of work, they have probably spent more years performing tasks and supervising or managing departments than their non-military counterparts.

If your experience is a competitive deficiency, it is usually an issue of not applying that experience in the proper industry, occupation or position. You can easily correct this by performing more detailed industry and company research prior to job application. But there is one exception here: experience can work against a job hunter. Employers are reluctant to hire someone with experience due to both cost (higher salaries) and fear that these experienced pros may quit the job abruptly because they are overqualified and underchallenged. Once again, research can prevent this problem as well as avoiding to apply for positions that are beneath your skills.

Job-Hunting, Competitive-Deficiency, Action List
My Deficiency is: Action(s) I must take:
Contacts Broaden my personal and business contacts through networking.
Credentials Enroll in formal credential or degree programs.
Corporate Culture Improve my interviewing techniques.
Experience Conduct more detailed company research.

What does the job-hunting success formula tell us?

Job-hunting success is more complex than simply writing a resume and improving your interviewing techniques. Why? You are one of many competing for a job. Your success depends not only on your objective credentials and experience but their relative strength in a competitive field of qualified candidates. To be as competitive as possible requires "calculating" what your job-hunting deficiencies are and eliminating them. Use the formula to understand your situation and solve your job-hunting problems, if any. Good Luck!

All opinions, advice, statements or other information expressed in this article are solely the author's and do not necessarily express the opinions of MilitaryHire.com or the publisher.

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Copyright Randall Scasny. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.