7 Ways to Up the Odds of Job-Hunting Success

Feel the odds are stacked against you?

As recruiters, we often encounter job-hunters who have come to doubt the prospect of ever getting back into employment.

But do your feelings really reflect the reality of your situation?

If it’s all so bad, how can we explain the success of that ‘lucky’ set of people who always seem to land on their feet? Who drop out of work and find themselves back on a payroll within a few weeks, a few months at most? Is it really ‘luck’ that sets these people against the flow? And more importantly, is there any way to share their good fortune?

How do the odds for success really stack up?

Professor Richard Wiseman, of The Luck Factor fame, has spent years researching and debunking myths about luck. And good news is, the key to it all – as ever – appears to be pretty simple: observe the behaviour of ‘lucky’ people – then copy it. According to Professor Wiseman, lucky people generate their own good fortune via just four basic principles:

  • Creating and noticing chance opportunities
  • Making lucky decisions by listening to gut feelings
  • Creating self-fulfilling prophesies by fostering positive attitudes
  • Bouncing back after failure or bad events

7 Behaviours to re-stack the odds of success in your favour…

Let’s just be clear here: this stuff is based on years of research and science that this little post can’t possibly do justice to, so if you want to delve into the detail – and we’d recommend you do so – grab the book or catch up with him on YouTube.

What we have done here, in no particular order mind, and taking into account the research of the experts and our own experience recruiting folks, is provide some food for thought by way of listing just a few  of the behaviours (this list is by no means exhaustive!) that could help you steer your job-hunt closer towards success.

So, without further ado, we can say that in most cases, the ‘lucky’ folks who get back into work sooner…

#1 Don’t actually believe in luck or fate.

Out-of-work job-hunters indulging in negative and fatalistic thinking rarely manage to change their situation.

What you can do: If you’re guilty of sitting around waiting for people to call you and not taking action or trying anything new because you think the outcome – failure – has been decided already, or that the right opportunity will simply present itself in good time, take a few minutes to read and chew over the contents of this brief article on The Luck Factor

#2 Recognise what they can – and can’t – influence.

‘Lucky’ job-hunters maximise the time they spend on useful activity and thought by sifting out all the ‘big stuff’ – like sliding world economies and other things they have no control over – and focus instead on all the little things they can influence.

What you can do: If you’ve got a lot on your mind right now, grab a copy Covey’s 7 Habits and work through Habit 1: Be Proactive and/or take a peek at Are You Procrastinating, a rather useful post by Che, to kick start the sifting process.

#3 Actually DO something to tackle the stuff they CAN influence.

Knowing what you could be doing to help yourself and doing it are two very different things. Fear of trying new things and managing time effectively are often the two obstacles that stop folks taking action.

What you can do: Read Do You Eat Frogs - then get a plan.

#4 Know that a ‘pound of pluck is worth a tonne of luck.’

Albert Einstein is reported to have said something about how insanity is continuing to do something that isn’t working. It’s important then, when things aren’t working, to switch things around and try something new.

Fear of failure or rejection stops many folks in their tracks when it comes to actively seeking out meetings with new people or trying out new job search strategies, but having a bit of nerve and being open to taking a punt from time to time will pay dividends.

What you can do: In any situation where you’re feeling a distinct lack of courage, asking yourself the following four questions can help spur you on into action:

  • What is the worst thing that could happen here?
  • What is the best possible outcome here?
  • Is the worst thing that could happen going to be any worse than remaining unemployed for another 12 months?

#5 Build and maintain a strong a network of luck….

Lucky people tend to build and maintain a strong ‘networks of luck’ as Professor Wiseman terms it. In basic terms, they have large social networks, are known as connectors, and keep in touch with people. Applied to a job-hunt, this means getting out and about developing effective job-search strategies; reaching out to and keeping in touch with people who might want to employ you; following up on new contacts or job leads; putting that extra bit of thought into creating a CV that people will notice – then getting it (and preferably you) in front of them…

What you can do: If you find yourself spending long hours each day firing generic CVs off into the ether or filling out impersonal application forms destined to be filtered out of the process by a machine in a totally arbitrary fashion – and without your CV ever reaching the attention of a human being – STOP! Get away from the computer, look out all your current contacts and take the time to find and engage with new ones – be it through work, voluntary work, social activities or existing contacts…

#5 Move on and upwards when success eludes them.

According to Professor Wiseman, luck follows folk who react to life’s set backs in the follow ways:

  • always look for the positives in ‘bad’ situations
  • take time to consider how their experiences could have been worse
  • think about how their situation could compare more favourably than that of others
  • work out how to do things differently to reach a more favourable outcome in future

What you can do: Find out about and the significance of ‘explanatory style’ in this blog by Richard, consider what yours looks like, whether the way you reflect on set backs is helping or harming your job hunt – and if so, what you can do to modify it…

#7 Relax enough to see other opportunities…

For most people, clear thinking and the ability to spot opportunities and solutions to problems come more easily when not consumed by stress and anxiety.

What you can do: Find out how a workout can help you find work - then clear off outside to clear your head with fresh air and exercise.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?


Tips For Building a Laser-Guided CV in 2012

Every week recruiters are faced with hundreds of CVs piled on their desks. Most people use their CV like a fire-and-forget missile – so is it any wonder that most CVs end up in the recruiter’s bin?

Get the fundamentals right…

If one of your first tasks this year is sitting down to revise your CV, your challenge is to create a resume that won’t get buried or binned, and the tips below will help you succeed…

1. Make sure your CV is tightly aimed.

You are the product; your CV is a tool, and needs to earn you a phone call leading to an interview. If it’s not, consider whether you need to improve it, or whether it’s just a case of sending it to the right people.

2. Learn how to sell yourself.

Would you buy a big-ticket product from a sales-person who didn’t know that product? Make sure that you know what you have to offer an employer, and learn how to communicate the same on the phone and face-to-face.

3. Find better ways to get your CV looked at.

Don’t rely on one or two job search methods, especially if they’re not yielding results. Why not consider:

  • Phoning ahead of sending your CV, asking the person for feedback.
  • Asking your network of contacts to help you finesse it your CV.
  • Putting in personal appearances to places you want to work, taking your CV to leave behind.

4. Make your CV clear and concise.

Make sure you buck the trend amongst job-hunters who all too often forget or ignore the following basic advice:

Your contact info is paramount so put it at the top. Put your name, phone, email, and location at the top of page one. Remember that your personal data is valuable – so only give what they need. And double-check that everything is correct, especially your phone and email details.

Aim for 2 pages, keeping it short and to the point. One page is too short and three pages starts feeling too long.

Focus on selling your core achievements and leave anything extra for the interview.

Cut out any unsubstantiated claim, waffle, buzzword, or half-truth.

5. Use a structure but avoid the templates.

Beware of fitting your CV into a standard template – many recruiters simply bin them. Demonstrate that you can write your own CV by making it your own, building it around your personal profile, education, career achievements, and active interests.

6. Give the recruiter what they really want.

Actually, most recruiters don’t know what they really want. 80% of the decision at interview is really, “Do I like you?” People screen by exclusion, not by inclusion, so make sure your CV answers their first question, “Why should I interview you?”

7. You need a CV targeted to each specific audience you aim at.

Job applications rarely succeed when made with CVs that haven’t been tailored to the specific needs of the employer and the role they are recruiting for. Each audience has different needs for you to meet, so more time spent on research and less firing off applications for jobs posted online can often cut short a job search.

8. Make your CV personal because people hire people.

Make sure that your CV genuinely reflects who you are. Write it yourself, in your own language and style. Assuming you don’t make your CV too whacky or zany, you shouldn’t be afraid to add touches of personality or individuality – and in fact, it may be what draws a potential employer to you.

More help with creating a winning CV…

What Does Your CV Really Say? 

Is this really YOUR resume? 

23 Reasons Why Your Job Application Won’t Get You Hired 

I Do Not Want Anybody Who Cannot Write Their Own CV 

How To get Screened In For An Interview  

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

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Is Your Job Written in the STARs?

4 seconds to engage the STAR drive.

Last year Richard wrote a blog 4 Seconds to Change Your World in which he claimed it takes that long for interviewers – or anyone else you happen to meet along the way to finding a job – to form a first impression of you.

Whatever the exact length of time might be, you can be sure it is seconds not minutes, and definitely not the amount of time it takes to get to get to the end of an interview. Employers simply don’t have time to hang about thinking about whether you might be suitable for jobs they are hiring for - and nor do many of the recruitment consultants and assorted other gatekeepers you may have to deal with along the way.

So, how can you be sure you have furnished them with the information that will demonstrate you are best for the job, and have done so by the quickest possible means?

Talk less to convince the interviewer to hire you.

Employers will thank you for being brief and to the point. Make it easy for them to make a decision about you by delivering the information they need as concisely as possible.

Take yourself off transmit and focus your communications.

Ever heard of the STAR technique?

“The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format is a job interview technique used by interviewers to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that the job requires. This interview format is said to have a higher degree of predictability of future on-the-job performance than the traditional interview.” Wikipedia

If interviewers are using this format (or similar) to gather information about you, why not structure your answers along the same lines?

Work out your STAR profile.

This week, take some time to think about your previous work and achievements. Use the STAR format to write about those achievements, and do so in the context of jobs that you might be applying for or want to apply for.

S – Situation

T – Task

A – Action

R – Result

Note, there are many alternatives to the STAR format and you can read about another one here, but all will enable to package and deliver information to employers as concisely as possible.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

Do You (And Your Staff) Hate Turning Up For Work?

Today’s blog follows on from a previous post See Greener Grass Elsewhere? Don’t Vault The Fence Yet! and offers some further insight, courtesy of senior manager and guest blogger John Donoghue, into why job-hunters should always explore the possibility of getting the job they want without quitting or lumping the one they have.

An employer’s perspective…

“Well it’s another Friday and I expect many people are glad that another week has passed and POETS day has arrived again. But does work really have to be like this? Another day of drudgery and boredom, avoiding the boss and the work we need to complete?

As a manager, it may surprise you to learn that most people (your staff included) outside of work are capable, motivated and self-managing individuals. They get organized and get done what needs doing. Yet when these very same people turn up for work we tend to over control every aspect of what they do, and how and when they do it. Treating people in this manner, is it any wonder that they are not keen on turning up for work?

It’s strange that most managers want happy, motivated and productive staff, but we will put up with and even create work systems and process that deliver the opposite. So why is it that so many managers create or perpetuate a stifling work environment that controls and limits their employees’ capacity to contribute to the full?

Sorry, but there is not a simple answer, and the reasons vary for each of us. However, I believe there are some common causes that I’ll list:

  • It’s what we’ve been trained to do.
  • It’s often the only work environment we have experienced ourselves.
  • Doing it differently is scary.
  • Doing it differently is perceived as potentially dangerous, even career limiting.
  • We have productivity / output targets to meet and our people can’t be trusted to achieve them.
  • We believe that if staff are not monitored they will ‘bunk off’.

Enough of lists, you can create your own if you want. But if you want happy, motivated and productive staff, you need to focus on what you can do differently.

Somehow you need to get these great, capable, creative, motivated people to turn up at work and not just keep it all for their home lives.

So how about giving your people some trust and freedom? Do you really need to specify how they carry out their tasks and in what order? If they know what’s needed and when it’s due, can’t they can be trusted to deliver? Do they need training because they are technically deficient and are struggling? Is someone hoarding the technical know-how and need to be encouraged to share?

The bottom line is it’s about you. You control the work environment, and you can help it change or leave it as it is and have your staff hate turning up to work.”

One thing to do before you vault the fence…

Unhappy employees don’t always consider the possibility that their employer simply doesn’t realise staff are dissatisfied. Ask yourself:

  • Does your employer know you’re unhappy?
  • Do you know what aspects of your job you are unhappy with?
  • Is there a way your work could be organized differently address those issues?
  • If so, how could organizing it differently benefit you?
  • How could it benefit your employer?

If you can answer all of those questions you have the basis of a case to put to your employer.

Want to explore this further?

John recommends the following two books to read and (ideally) get your employer to read…

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

See Greener Grass Elsewhere? Don’t Vault the Fence Yet!

Better the devil you know?

Just a few weeks ago I heard how one job-hunter had moved across the country - and at considerable expense to himself and his family - to take up new employment. And I listened as he told me how - just a couple of months after and at absolutely no fault of his own - it had all gone to pot…

This character was left without a job and an income, and probably rueing the day he’d ever taken the plunge and handed in his notice to his previous employer. You could put this unhappy development in his life down to an unlucky one-off, but it was the third such story I had heard this year.

No wonder then that many people are ultra-cautious about changing jobs, even when the one they have is driving them bonkers, and even when they can spy greener grass elsewhere and have somebody offering a way to get to it.

At what cost do you stay in a job you don’t enjoy?

One of my friends took a different approach when she became dissatisfied with her job; she stayed put, stuck at it, kept her head down; tried to ignore her problems and convinced herself she had to because she was lucky to be in a job at all at such a difficult time.

She took no other action. The problems didn’t go away. The stress built, and eventually she cracked and walked out.

This was a hard-working, mentally robust and sensible woman, who had been subjected to colleagues whose behavior and attitudes probably wouldn’t amount to a case of constructive dismissal, but who had made her working day sufficiently hellish to make her opt to walk rather than lose her sanity. She did so at great financial cost…

Not so many people know this, but the Powers That Be at JobCentre+ can deny or delay any financial support if they deem you to have voluntarily quit your job without good reason. And they did so in this case.

Before you are tempted to do similar then, consider how you might cope if you had no income and limited support from anywhere else.

Get the job you want without quitting.

Do you always need to look for a new employer to get the job you want? 

Do you always need to take the outcome of a redundancy consultancy process lying down?

Plenty of job-hunters have used their initiative in recent months to minimise the risk of moving jobs or staying in a job they hated by carving out or creating the role they really wanted at their existing workplace.

There’s no big secret about how they managed it: the ‘haves’ worked out why they weren’t happy and how they could be useful, then negotiated with their employers to change that situation. They also gave their employers sufficiently good reasons to do so.

Experts estimate that replacing an employee is likely to cost twice the departee’s annual salary, so there’s no harm in adopting a similar approach; it’s in your boss’ interests to know that you’re unhappy and be given the opportunity to do something about it.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your employer know you’re unhappy?
  • Do you know what aspects of your job you are unhappy with?
  • Is there a way your work could be organized differently address those issues?
  • If so, how could organizing it differently benefit you?
  • How could it benefit your employer?

If you can answer all of those questions you have the basis of a case to put to your employer.

Don’t think that’s possible with your employer?

We reckon you’ll be more convinced if you get to view things from the perspective of a successful employer, so we asked one to put down his thoughts on the matter. We’ll post them next week, but until then, we challenge you to ponder the questions above.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

Can ‘Tigger-Happy’ Positive Ruin Your Job-Hunt?

What is a ‘Tigger’?

Tigger is a fictional tiger-like character from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

He lives a happy life, moving around the Hundred Acre Wood in ebullient fashion, bouncing everywhere he goes, full of energy, optimism and confidence. He is enthusiastic about everything, and always looks on the bright side of life.

Great attributes to have, you might think, but would they really stand you in good stead to tackle a job-hunt in difficult times?  

A ‘Tigger-happy’ job-hunter might exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Displaying vast amounts of energy and enthusiasm, apparent upon first making contact over the telephone, in everything that they say, and no matter the subject of conversation.
  • Talking very quickly, trying to cram in information about every achievement and good thing they have done.
  • Cheerfully running through all the set-backs they have had to overcome during their life and career, insisting that no problems exist for them and that whatever happens, everything will turn out just fine.
  • Citing examples of how things turned out well in the past, and using this to reassure themselves and predict that things will turn out okay in the future.  
  • Not assigning any blame to their actions for anything that’s happened, being very un-self-critical and focusing entirely on their strengths.

So what’s so bad about being positive?

Believe it or not, there is downside to Tigger’s positive nature, that becomes apparent upon reading about any of his adventures in the Winni-the-Pooh stories.

His over-optimism and enthusaism frequently land him in trouble, and saddle him with a rep for being chaotic and a bit unreliable, a creature prone to opening his mouth without thinking first, and one who over-estimates his own abilities.

He bounces around everywhere he goes, and with such ‘largeness’ and energy that it often leaves his companions mentally and physically worn out as they try to keep up, and to the point where one, Piglet, actually feels nervous in his company.

Being positive isn’t all that good then.

3 Ways being Tigger-happy harms a job-hunt…

Below are just some of the ways in which Tigger-like optimism could be harming your chances of getting a job. Have a read and see what you think:

#1 Wearing rose-coloured glasses makes you lazy.

I recently spoke to a job-hunter who said he was confident of getting a job, but he couldn’t articulate the reasons why he ought to be so confident or what his strategy was for getting the job he wanted.

Are your eyes too much on the big picture and not on the details? In his very interesting book :59 Seconds Richard Wiseman cites research carried out by academics who discovered that university students who spent more time visualising getting their dream job had made fewer job applications, received fewer job applications and had claimed lower salaries than their classmates when their progress was compared over a two-year period.

Job-hunters who simply visualise the end dream result, or believe that everything will somehow turn out okay, are indulging in a form of escapism that makes them ill-prepared to deal with set-backs and unable to focus on doing what is necessary to achieve their goals.

#2 Too much optimism unnerves employers.

Tigger is so enthusiastic on occasion that he makes other characters like Piglet nervous in his company and mentally exhausted after every encounter.

Are you an energy vampire?

Over-enthusiastic job-hunters risk having the same effect as Tigger on potential employers and interviewers, who will think twice about hiring somebody they thought would wear them out and do the same with fellow employees and customers

#3 Not confronting reality destroys trust others have in you.

Tigger-happiness is not real optimism. It’s blind optimism. It’s the kind of optimism that makes him climb trees without knowing how to get down, or as Stein and Book describe it in their book EQ Edge, the kind of optimism that “puts us in a state of denial, prevents us confronting problems and doing what’s necessary to overcome them” and causing us to “skate around the cost of failure”.

Job-hunters will lose others’ trust in them because of it:

“whenever you fail to deal with the real issues for whatever reason, people tend to see you in one of two ways: They see you as lacking in character (you’re not being open or honest, not being transparent, not talking straight) or lacking in competence (you’re clueless, naïve, incompetent; you don’t even know what the real issues are). Either way, it doesn’t inspire trust.” Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust

3 Ways to guard against Tigger-happy positive…

Temper Tigger-happy optimism with a healthy dose of reality. Aim for ‘grounded-in-real-world’ optimism by:

1. Being objective

2. Not fearing the worst

3. Taking off those rose-coloured specs

3 Books that will teach you more…

Want to find out more? Check out the three books below, recommended reading for any job-hunter.

The EQ Edge by Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book

The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

:59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

Are You the Challenger or the Title-Holder?

Anyone remember David Haye?

Haye was a world-class champ boxer and the WBA world title-holder until July this year when he flopped to an embarrassing defeat by Wladimir Klitschko in their big unification fight in Hamburg, Germany.

It was a blue-ribbon event years in the making, the sort of opportunity that doesn’t come around so often in a professional boxing career.

Haye had all the time in the world to prepare.

He could have won.

But he blew it.

Don’t put your career on the ropes.

Haye was in his prime, the top man in his particular line of work, and bettered by an opponent in a professional bout only once before he met Klitschko.

Haye just didn’t believe he could ever be beaten.

He told everybody else the same.

He had been telling them so for years.

So he cut a sorry figure when defeat came. 

The verdict?

David had gotten complacent, they said.

He’d ignored the experiences of all those boxers who had fought Klitschko in the years before, all those able boxers who’d had emerged dazed and confused from bouts with the Ukrainian to declare that they hadn’t encountered an opponent quite like it before.

He had failed to respect his opponent, or take into account the fact that somebody out there could be better than him.

The generally held view is that his preparation for the fight – and his career – had suffered because of it.  

Did you get dumped out of the ring?

Losing a job can feel as painful and disorientating as getting clobbered by one of David’s ‘Haye-makers’.

All the more so if you never saw it coming.

And even worse if you thought yourself so well-qualified that nobody else could ever beat you in the jobs race.

Don’t believe “That’ll just never happen to me”  

The JobCentre just isn’t the place it used to be. Last week I heard one job-seeker tell how you are more and more likely to encounter unemployed MDs and senior executives signing on there.

And I bet there are many high-flying MDs and senior executives out there right now who have been reading this and the latest jobless stats in the news, and are thinking “That’ll just never happen to me.”

But it did happen to Haye.

And just like Haye, many high-flying job-hunters are leaving themselves open to getting floored by their redundancy notice or rejection letters by failing to realise that there are lots of worthy challengers out there all wanting a job.

And they’re hungry.

Perfect preparation prevents poor performance.  

Would Haye have won his big fight had he trained more?

There’s no guarantee, but he would have given himself more than a fighting chance had he entered the ring better prepared.

5 tips to help you in a round of interviews:

#1 Beware complacency.

If you have been put on notice and asked to re-apply for a job you’ve been doing for the last 20 years and could for another 20 with your hands tied behind your back, don’t assume you’ll be the one that gets it.

You might well think there’s no justice in such a system, but the system is there, and it happens.

Remember that there are lots of great people out there wanting jobs and well able to demonstrate to your boss how they could do yours.

#2 Keep in training.

Contrary to popular belief, not all recruiting managers demand candidates have the paper qualifications to prove they can do the job, but more and more companies are going down that route to help them filter vast numbers of job applications.

Other companies don’t get hung up on qualifications but increasingly look for your ability to plug any gaps in your skill set with training once you join them.

Buy into continuous learning and professional development and you will increase your chance of satisfying both types of employer – either by gaining those all important bits of paper or demonstrating that you are somebody who has the ability and drive to pick up new skills.

#2 Keep in mind what you want and why.

#3 Know your weaknesses and how to counter them.

Haye just didn’t seem to have much of a reply to his towering opponent’s left jab.

Further into the fight, it looked as though he’d worked out how to overcome it, but it was too little, too late.

Recruitment is an expensive investment, no candidate is perfect, and employers increasingly want to explore your weaknesses at interview to help them weigh up the risks of hiring you.

Waiting until interview time to properly consider your weak points and how you might overcome them will only lead to embarrassment.

#4 Don’t beat yourself up if you lose.  

You might not win job first time around.

Or the second.

Or the tenth.

The confidence of high-flying job-hunters can shrink upon defeat the first time they experience it, let alone the tenth, and create a self-perpetuating problem.

But there are 2.5 people out there looking for work and lots of star performers in amongst them.

If they’re getting jobs ahead of you, it’s probably because they’re more persistent and using a better strategy, not necessarily because they’re better than you.

#5 Don’t make excuses.

Several days after the fight with Klitschko, Haye released a statement citing a broken toe as the reason for his defeat.

But few believed that such a high-profile event would have gone ahead had he not been 100% for the fight.

Failure to confront reality will stop you doing what is necessary to achieve your goals, and for job-hunters, that could mean an unnecessarily prolonged period of joblessness.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

Is Your Gender Stopping You Getting a Job?

Have we really moved away from the Dark Ages?

I’m a gal in my late 20’s. Just a few years ago I visited the offices of a leading Nottingham law firm to meet with the head honcho about a job.

Informal a meeting as it was, it was still an interview, and, to my surprise, it began with a quick-fire Q&A session about my age, income, marital status, baby count, and the jobs held down by my siblings and parents.

The middle-aged man in a pin-stripe suit sitting opposite asked if I was happy to answer such questions and I had acquiesced. Why wouldn’t I? I needed a job, and I felt I would look a bit of a twit if I refused. But still…

I didn’t end up on the payroll. And though my brain was trying to convince me the hiring decisions of the top guy at a well-known law firm with its very own employment law department could not possibly be swayed by things like gender or age, his manner and line of questioning inevitably left a niggling feeling of doubt.

Discrimination exists – but not as you know it…

We’re living in 2011, not 1911, and, thankfully, many employers these days adopt a far more enlightened approach to recruitment.

So what kind of gender discrimination could still exist, is widespread, unintentional, and could be stopping you – man or woman – getting a job?

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

Professor of Linguistics Deborah Tannen has been studying the different ways we speak and how that can influence conversations and human relationships since 1974. She has made some startling discoveries along the way… 

Girls, she says: 

  • Play with a single best friend or in small groups
  • Spend a lot of time talking
  • Use language to negotiate how close they are
  • Downplay ways in which one is better than the other
  • Will not ’own’ their ideas like boys do
  • Will ostracise a girl who draws attention to her superiority
  • Emphasize similarities rather than differences
  • Ask questions when they want / need more information
  • Are more likely to talk in terms of ‘we’ than ‘I’

 And boys:

  • Play in larger groups than girls
  • Tend to emphasize not downplay their status in the group
  • Will often pick out or acknowledge a group leader
  • Negotiate status in the group by displaying abilities and knowledge
  • Are more likely to challenge others and give orders
  • Will take centre stage by telling stories or jokes
  • Are less likely to ask questions

And research has shown that most of us carry the same linguistic styles – tone of voice, pitch, pacing and pausing, word choice, directness, use of figures of speech, stories, questions and apologies – into adulthood and on into the workplace.

So who gets heard and why?

Ladies, do you think you lack confidence if you downplay your certainty and ask as many questions as you need to get the information you want?

No. And it probably helps you strike up a rapport with other women who are happy and accustomed to collaborating on an equal footing for the benefit of a group.

But have you considered that a male interviewer programmed during childhood to hide uncertainty, ask no questions, ‘big up’ their ideas and achievements  and ‘blag’ a way through conversations on subjects they are not 100% certain could reach a different conclusion?

And guys, the linguistic style you acquired during childhood may help you avoid looking weak and indecisive in the eyes of other the males, but think about the universally scornful response of women who find themselves in the company of males who get lost and refuse point-blank to ask for directions…

Could the same sort of behaviour in a workplace mark you out as arrogant and lacking team and problem-solving skills in the eyes of a female interviewer?

According to Professor Tannen, both women and men risk suffering career-wise because of such misunderstandings, the degree to which things get lost in translation dependent on the situation; the culture of the company; the seniority of those present; their gender and their linguistic styles.

Can you overcome (unintentional) discrimination?

A difficult question with no short answer, but x3 things you should bear in mind are:

#1 Simply being aware of the different linguistic styles programmed into men and women will help you communicate more effectively.

#2People are more likely to respond positively to those who adopt linguistic styles similar to their own, so spending time observing and mirroring the way people around you speak is a helpful excercise if you’re on a serious job-hunt.

#3 Though we go on a lot about body language, researchers have concluded that 38% of the impact of your message is governed by the way it sounds and 7% by the actual words used. Since 45% of your communication depends on linguistic style, you can’t really afford to ignore this aspect of your presentation.

Find out more.

You can read all about Professor Tannen’s research in her Harvard Business Review article ‘The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why’ .

What do you think?

Do you feel like your gender – male or female – is holding back your job-hunt?

And if you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?

10 Tips to Get Employers to Invest in You

Job-hunting is just a numbers game, right?

It’s a view that’s expressed time and time again in posts on LinkedIn discussion groups – but I’ll go out on a limb and venture that it’s not one I particularly agree with…

To paraphrase what Dan Pink of Drive fame discovered about economics during his university days in that very same book: Economics has everything to do with human behavior and little to do with the numbers. So long as you are dealing with people, you’ll have far greater power to influence their decisions…

Job-hunting is no different: It’s a people game; not a numbers game.

10 tips to help you crack the market…

What follows are 10 insights that will help you develop a far more effective job-search strategy than the 300+ application a month scatter-gun approach that so often ends in frustration and failure…

#1 “The first lesson of economics is scarcity”

Or is it? Fact: 80% of jobs existing at any one time aren’t advertised. There are lots of jobs to be found if you look in the right places. Employers will cut out as many middle men as possible – recruitment agencies and even their own HR managers - to hire known contacts. Leave the CV spatter gun to one side and focus most of your efforts getting known to employers through mutual contacts and networking.

#2 Know your portfolio inside and out

Who are you? What can you do? How will you add value to an employer’s business? What more can you do? And where’s the proof?

Every new hire represents a big investment for the employer. Your chance of getting hired depends on how well you sell yourself to employers and they will only hire you if they are certain you can solve their problems. Invest time thinking about your skills and weaknesses – then get your friends and colleagues to tell you what they really are. We all have blind spots. Don’t allow yours and your pride to ruin your sale. Get feedback. Use it.

#3 Evaluate your values

Re-read ‘Values Statements: Mumbo Jumbo or Interview Winner’ to find out why being able to articulate your values could make the difference between getting hired and coming second.

#4 Investors want stock that will increase in value

Past form is all employers have to go on. Guide their decision by running through an EACH matrix and make sure you can articulate relevant achievements and how you realised them on your CV and applications, at interviews and when talking to potential employers.

#5 Make timely investments

Marty Allen said “a study of economics usually reveals that the best time to buy anything is last year.” That also applies to job-hunters who want to build a useful network of contacts. Avoid accusations of cupboard love by investing in long-term relationships – requests for help will be better received when the time comes to ask.

#6 Get a strategy

Don’t quite know where you’re going but determined to set a speed record getting there? It won’t work. Successful job-hunters often have goals in mind and work to a plan. They figure out who they need to speak to and where they will be found.

#7 Investors are cautious – be patient

Choppy times make employers risk averse and even more inclined to recruit only those people who are known quantities. Part-time, temporary and voluntary employment are excellent ways to get a foot planted firmly in door of a potential employer’s business, but even then, don’t expect a permanent job to be forthcoming. Increase the chances of it happening though by using what time you have to showcase what you can do.

#8 You are your company’s greatest asset

It may not feel like it when the P60 lands on your doormat, but remember: when a company loses you it loses all your skills and experience too.  Redundancy and the upheaval caused by company restructures can lead to many a bad feeling, but keep in touch with colleagues and bosses and you’ll keep doors open to people who know what you can do.

#9 Talk up the benefits of the investment

Employers won’t hire anyone who sounds negative and talks themself down. Ensure they have complete confidence in you by making sure you enter an interview room with complete confidence in yourself.

#10 Sell at the right price

Joel Greenblatt, author and founder of Gotham Capital, says in his latest book that the key to successful investing is ‘to figure out the value of something and then pay a lot less’. Whether or not you believe a potential employer has adopted the same approach you will always need to :

  • Justify the amount you’re negotiating for;
  • Be prepared to compromise: getting into a foot through the door is the most difficult step and provision can always be made for a salary provision once you’re in and have justified a rise;
  • Make the effort to understand the employer’s situation, work out what is realistic and avoid accusations of being greedy.

What do you think?

If you’re open to sharing your experiences and thoughts, or want to share what you’ve learnt with other job-hunters, why not get in touch or post your thoughts in the comments box below?