Thursday, January 16, 2014

Misreading the Job Search Situation

So, my 13-year old son starts yelling yesterday morning as he is getting ready for school.  The current fashion style where we live is for kids to wear pants that have holes in them.  They buy them that way, and from what I can see, it seems that the more holes they have, and the bigger the holes are, the more expensive the pants actually are.  I would think that since they require less material, the cost would be lower, but that is not the way it works.

Anyway, the problem my son had on this fine morning was that his pants were wrinkled.  Yes, it’s true, a kid that is happily wearing pants that have holes in them for some reason does not like it if they are wrinkled.  I naively assumed that once he had passed the point of preferring a defect in his clothes, another imperfection would be considered even more of a positive.  In fact, I even started to hope that if our kids liked wrinkles in their clothes, the amount of time spent ironing in our house would go down.  Apparently though, not all faults are the same.

We make assumptions all the time when searching for a job, and sometimes we are wrong.  Generally though, we don’t have someone so vocally telling us when this happens.

There have been a few times over the past couple of weeks that I have heard complaints from job seekers, and I am not sure they are justified.

These particular complaints all revolved around the concept of what is correct for a company to require when seeking a new employee.  Someone complained about a company looking for telephone sales people with the requirement that candidates can’t have a foreign accent for the targeted region.  Another protested that an employer had a requirement for specific citizenship of candidates.  Someone else didn’t agree that a university degree should be required.  Or, that candidates must live in the center of the country in order to be considered for the job in Tel Aviv.

Yes, there are laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace and recruitment process.  But such rules are not mutually exclusive with allowing a company the flexibility to decide for themselves what the suitable profile is for its candidates. 

I think job seekers would do themselves a favor by trying to imagine themselves in the HR manager’s shoes, in Israel in the year 2014.  Today it is still a buyer’s market – companies have confidence that if they wait, they will find the person that they seek, and generally don’t feel the need to be flexible in a big way.  And from what I have seen, they are correct.  Employers that have strong feelings about specific characteristics that it takes to succeed in their environment, and have the patience to wait until they find someone that matches, usually get what they want.  I have seen companies with job openings for many months, waiting for the right person to come to their attention.

If you were the HR manager of the company, I believe that you would demand to have this ability to decide.   And the chances of a job seeker changing the minds of an employer is much smaller than finding a different company that you are more suitable for, or possibly changing the way that you approach the company.

To me, the task of the job seeker when something happens that you are not expecting is to try to infer the real world situation in the market, and then take action to improve your chances, rather than ignoring the signs and continuing to rely upon faulty assumptions.

For instance:

 ·         If you looking for a job in telephone sales and mother tongue accent is an issue, identify companies that sell in your native language, and target them.  Don’t wait for them to advertise – send them your CV and use LinkedIn or other resources to start conversations with people working in the company.
·         University degrees are often times used as filters, even if they are not the most critical element in predicting the success of a candidate.  If the company has many job seekers that seem similar, and some have degrees and others don’t, then it can be a factor.  One option is to find something (truthful) to put in your education section which is meaningful.  Or, use networking to get introduced by someone trusted by the company, a way to mitigate the importance of something like a university degree.  Another approach is to focus more on job openings where a university degree is not critical.  A longer term solution, if appropriate, is to make efforts to get a degree.  There are even online options that allow the studying to be done from home.
·         The majority of jobs are in the center of the country.  No matter what your attitude is about commuting, or how far you commuted before moving to Israel, many Israeli companies want their employees to live close to the office.  They have encountered bad experiences previously with people living further away that burn out from the traveling, and as long as they have confidence that they will find someone close by that is qualified, they will stop reading a CV if the candidate lives too far away in their opinion.   Roles that are more senior are less sensitive to location, but not always immune from such considerations.  So, your options are to be open to relocating (and make sure this is clear on your CV) and/or focusing on jobs near your home (something that can be very limiting if you don’t live in the center of the country).

When you are looking for a job, you have to constantly evaluate the responses (or lack thereof) and consider whether your job target(s) and way of searching is the most appropriate for you.  If you are not making as much progress as you would like, it is a good idea to speak with others and consider new ways to move forward.

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