One of the more basic questions I always get asked is “whether or not qualifications is the most important aspect of hiring or finding a “job-fit””. For the most part, senior managers would tell you that “attitude is more important than qualifications”; this however is a rather shortsighted answer as we all know that only qualified applicants make it the top of the heap especially when it comes to mission-critical posts. The quick answer is to say that you need both the qualifications and the right attitude to get the job. Qualifications are almost always one of the barest requirements. However, with that said, you cannot get hired on the basis of your CV alone, nor can you get hired where all you can bring is your positive attitude. You obviously need both, and it gets a bit more complex than that. Nonetheless, you must have a strategy to punch your way to the top.
At the higher levels where the supposed crème de la crème gets vetted for positions, the supply side (applicants) would have already been strategically positioned for the post and there are strategies on how to get there. Here are a few factors that I’ve seen come into play when shopping for the best talents:
Being connected with the right people and networks is the best way to get a leg-up on a career.
• Network: It is often said that a “break” is attributed to being at “The Right Place at the Right Time”. But there’s more to it than just “luck”. What is more important is being with the right people under the right circumstances and it sometimes takes a strategy to get there. Find a mentor that could show you the ropes and perhaps even offer some introductions and recommendations.
• Birds of the Same Feather: Surround yourself with performance driven people and not the opposite. We are often also known according to our associations. If you want to make a career in a specific domain, then you also have to be within those circles that matter.
• Flirting with the Secretary: I am not saying this literally at all, but you also need to be street smart when your CV is just one among the huge pile of resumes. Come in early to get acquainted with your surroundings. Get some background information about the company and your possible boss before the interview and make sure the interviewer knows that you have arrived. Yes, be friendly but also be authentic.
YOUR REPUTATION PRECEDES YOU. BUILD YOUR BRAND!
• Put your name on it: More than where you’ve worked and where you went to school, employers are much more interested in what you’ve actually accomplished. Publications and awards help.
• Enlarge your digital footprint: Use internet to your advantage. Associate yourself based on things that could improve your reputation and career. Let people know what you believe in, and what your values stand for. It’s common knowledge that employers will search for you on the internet to get some background, so you might as well use it to your advantage. I once got a shock when someone practically revealed that he stalked my accounts when I gave a talk on Strategic Planning. He started a conversation by talking about my hobbies only to reveal that he saw one of my online posts on cycling. Creepy, but I guess people do it all the time (including employers).
CLOSING THE DEAL (Negotiating)
• Find a subtle leverage: Give your prospective employer an idea that they are one of your options. Give them a clue as to who you have been speaking to, ideally an important account where you have connections or perhaps even competition. Give them an impression that you want to be significant in your industry. Be ethical! Leverage your value by knowing the talent market but never divulge confidential information!
• Solve a Problem: Be familiar with the industry and where their company is positioned and trade your possible contribution to the enterprise.
THE GLASS SHOE!
As I said, the question is more often more complex than just a matter of qualifications versus attitudes. You simply need to have both when you’re trying to move up in the game. What matters most is not just having the skill and the attitude for the job but rather the right mindset and acumen to fit into an organisation.
But even with the right skills, attitude and strategies to get into the organisation, if you are not a fit into their culture and strategy, then you shouldn’t really force it. Doing so might make yourself less marketable. Do your research and ask around! It is never all about you to begin with.
These factors come fresh in my mind as I have just finished doing an interview with someone who according to the resume could be the perfect fit. Only to find out after numerous exchanges over email that his communication skills need work and his attitude needs a bit of adjustment. Between him and a more personable and respectful candidate with similar qualifications, it’s easy to think that I’d go for the latter. Come to think of it, there are others like him in the pile and employers shouldn’t make decisions in a rush to fill out a post. The commitment entails both a legal and social contract.
It may seem too basic at this point but finding the “right-fit” given all the prerequisites just boils down to the question of whether or not I could work with this person or with my team? How well could this candidate relate with the rest of our stakeholders? Every employer has a mental model of that perfect someone who can fit into the glass shoe. Could you actually be that cinderella remains to be seen. In the meantime it pays to do some research, get grounded and play your cards well. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in that moment of truth in which case, if the shoe fits, then wear it! Congratulations!