Ask 100 people in a room, “Who here actually enjoys job-hunting?” and I suspect that not too many hands will be raised. Drill down on that for a moment – why does the prospect of going out there and landing a better job, in a better company, with better pay and conditions not appeal to people? The three most common answers I get to that question are:
  1. “I hate having to go, cap in hand, and essentially beg for a job – it’s so demeaning.”
  2. “I hate having to give an account of myself and answer all those questions – it’s so intrusive.”
  3. “I hate not being in charge. All the power resides with the hirer.”

In essence, this boils down to a control issue. Let’s examine that. Who holds the cards in the hiring process? That varies according to what stage you are at in your hunt. Here are the nine stages, broken out on the X axis:

Most people have a perception that they are effectively impotent in the job-hunting process. Not so. Here, in yellow is the degree of control exerted by an average candidate in a selection process. You have 100 per cent control over (1) whether you apply at all, (2) the quality of your written representation of yourself, (3) the breadth and depth of your research and preparation for the interview and (4) the outward appearance that you present on the day. You have virtually total control over your (5) punctuality for the interview (acts of God notwithstanding) and it is only at this juncture that your degree of control starts to drop and the pendulum swings over to the employer’s side.

I have arbitrarily assigned 40% control to the candidate in the (6) interview room here, zero for the (7) deliberation process [when you leave the room and they talk about you behind your back] and a similar 45% control over the (8) negotiation of terms and conditions in your contract. Finally, you again have total control over whether you say “Yes” or “No” when they (9) offer your the job at the end of the process.

Now, looking at a very well-prepared candidate (in red) on the same graph, they have a much higher degree of control in the interview room and in the negotiation – this may be due to it being a headhunt with just one candidate being talked to or the very rare situation where one candidate is simply head and shoulders above the competition for the job – but otherwise the pattern looks similar:

Overlay a badly prepared candidate (in blue) and we see that he/she might have as little as 10-20 per cent control in the interview room, while a very well prepared player can be up to 80 per cent in charge. If they do make you an offer and you enter into a period of negotiation over remuneration, terms and conditions, you once again, no matter how badly off you are you do have a degree of control: 10% to you, 90% to them if the salary is set in stone and you are the one-amongst-many supplicant, and 90/10 or even 100/0 to you if you are a Messiah figure and they desperately need you. You almost always have some wiggle room – you just have to be willing to identify and exert your control.

The one place where all the charts look the same is at the talking-about-you-behind-your-back moment. You have no control whatsoever over their deliberation process once you have left the room – you don’t know what guidelines they have been issued (“No one under thirty.” “Let’s get more females than males if possible – our gender balance isn’t right at the moment.” “The last Chinese / Irish / Hispanic / green-eyed / left-handed / red-haired guy didn’t work out – avoid them this time if you can.”)

More importantly, you don’t know what calibre of candidates you are up against. You may be perfectly competent and have a solid track record of success, and you may have prepared very strongly and talked really well in the interview room; but you ended up in competition with a Messianic figure in the final interview … Bummer!

I just Googled the words it’s all about control and got 291,000,000 hits – apparently I’m not alone in my thinking here … So no matter how hard you have been finding the hunt, don’t despair. You really can exert a lot of control over this process, and hopefully our discussions here at Fortify Your Oasis will equip you with the tools and techniques to leverage that control to your maximum benefit.