Stacking the Deck

I’ve seen plenty of expert career advice online that claims to guarantee you aceing an interview and getting the job you want. It is all very feel good and “if you just do these things, you’re guaranteed to land the job you want!” Unfortunately none of this advice ever acknowledges one of the hardest to swallow facts of the job market – that no matter how suitable you are for a position, a certain percentage of getting it will be luck.

Speaking to people that have been on interview panels and the like, you wouldn’t believe the reasons people have for not hiring someone. They will generally say something nebulous like “you just weren’t the right fit for the company”, because it is a great sounding way to reject someone for reasons that would actually be labeled as discriminatory. They might not like you because of your hairstyle, your weight, they might perceive you as arrogant even though you are perfectly congenial. However you will always get “you just weren’t the right fit”, which essentially tells you squat. I have a close friend who is a recruitment agent. She was asked by a company to replace a worker for them because he “wasn’t the right fit”. In this case, not being the right fit meant he dressed in a suit everyday, never took sick days and was a good worker. People at his workplace just thought he was too serious about his job. He was replaced with an early twenty something female who dressed provocatively and was comparatively unreliable. Rightly so, it made her feel sick to her stomach when she had to give him the bad news.

What you have to realize is that just like in life, there are plenty of people in charge of hiring that are dicks. Odds are, you’re going to meet one of them at some stage on an interview panel. They might not want to hire you because of your sex, because they don’t perceive you as being good looking, hell it could be because you wore a colour of clothing that they don’t care for. This is the reality of the job seeker in the current market where employers have all the power. What you need to get out of your head right now is the idea that any kind of job you are going for will be fair in its outcome. The process itself might be fair, however the outcome can be anything but. This isn’t even taking into account the differing interpretations of what is fair and what isn’t when it comes to selecting applicants for a job. At the end of the day a panel or manager can pick someone that is far less qualified and experienced than other applicants because they all happen to play World of Warcraft, and when it comes time to justify it they will just say “this applicant was a better fit for the company”.

If this kind of reality has never occurred to you it may be extremely disheartening (it was for me), but keep your chin up, because once you realize this truth it is actually extremely empowering. If a certain percentage of getting any job is luck, how do you get around that? Well, you don’t. What it means is that you have to stack the deck as much as you can in your favour, which is easy to do, and then let things run their course. Think of it like a game of poker – you might have a full house, and rightly so you’d bet a lot on a hand like that. It gets to the reveal and one of the other players has a straight flush. It’s just one of those things you can’t let yourself get angry over, because it happens. So what you’re looking for when seeking a job is to stack that deck so you’re getting a full house on every single hand – sure, you’ll be beaten by the straight flush every now and then, but most of the time you’re going to be right at the top.

To stack the deck you need to first eliminate those small cards that can really ruin your hand:

Bad breath – chew gum for half an hour before interview

Being late – have the route planned out to arrive half an hour early

Body odour – make sure you are showered, deodorized and don’t put too much (or any) cologne on

Food in your teeth – have a toothbrush with you if the interview is later in the day to take care of business

Hair – For both guys and girls, a neutral hairstyle with minimal visible product

Clothes – Make sure they are immaculately ironed and that the colours work. Not too bold, but not too neutral either

Hair in your nose – ensure you’ve clipped it

Monobrow – pluck that bad boy

Fingernails – trimmed

Makeup – keep it as natural looking as possible

You probably think that list is getting nitpicky and ridiculous. After all, aren’t they just supposed to hire the best candidate? Well the best candidate might not have anything to do with job performance.  To look at it from another angle, when you have 700 people going for a single position, every small thing counts. People are petty enough to recall a bit of dirt under your nails and hire someone else that was equal to you but had spotless nails. The job market is just that brutal at the moment. It pays to be mentally prepared for what you are going to face.

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