Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Employer's Perspective: Minimize Risk in Hiring

It's important to understand the employers' perspective while you're doing your job search or making your career change.

While ultimately the employer's goal is to fill the position, their decision making is all about minimizing risk. A whole system and set of practices has grown up around risk avoidance in making employment decisions. Understanding this can give you a significant advantage in finding the job you want.

Simply stated, the major risk is that the employer will hire someone who can't or won't do the job in a satisfactory way, and then the employer will be in a position of having to either live with an unsatisfactory employee or go through the pain of having to fire the new employee. No hiring manager wants to be in the position of having made the decision to hire someone that turns out to be a major mistake for the company.

There are several ways that employers try to avoid this risk. Employers follow a heirarchy that looks something like this:

1. They look to hire someone they know. Employers always prefer to fill positions from within because they know the person and they know something about the person's performance. In the minds of employers, this has the least risk because there is proof concerning the person's character and ability.

2. If they can't hire someone they know, they look to hire a person that someone they know and trust knows. This has the next least risk, because there is trusted testimony about the person's character and ability.

3. If neither of these avenues fill the need, then employers look to hire someone that can present proof of their character and ability. This proof generally takes the form of a proven track record. The potential employees have completed the educational and training programs that have been shown to produce people with the right abilities, they have a number of years of satisfactory performance in a similar position with another company that offers proof that they can do the job, and they can give specific examples of times they have effectively done the tasks that the position requires. The hiring process that most employers follow is designed to gather this proof -- and to quickly eliminate any applicant whose information suggests that they might not meet one or more of the criteria.

Understanding the employer perspective makes understanding why some job search strategies are effective and why other strategies are not straightforward.

1. Strategies that rely on submitting resumes through internet search engines and matching services, responses to want ads and professional journal ads, mailing resumes at random, and using employment and search firms are statistically the least effective ways to find a job. They all present the most risk to the employer, and entail the most work for the employer in trying to develop some level of proof that the applicant will be a satisfactory employee. These are the strategies for which employers have set up an intricate set of screening stages which are all aimed at determining why an applicant is NOT qualified for a position. Experienced resume screeners spend less than 15 SECONDS looking at a resume before making a decision -- and that decision is made with a bias of eliminating the applicant from consideration.

2. Strategies that include the testimony of someone who the employer knows and trusts produce much higher success. This is why networking is so valuable. Just having someone inside the company hand your resume to the hiring manager makes all the difference in the world, even if they don't have first hand knowledge of your work.

3. Strategies in which you make personal contact with the employer at your initiative are even more successful -- because then the employer has a level of first-hand knowledge about you. (It's interesting that the employer's feeling of risk goes down as your perceived level of personal risk increases! It feels personally less risky to toss resumes over the wall than to have to risk rejection by making calls and personal visits.)

Summary? Effective job search strategies require personal interaction with the employer and the presentation of proof that you can do the job.


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