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A Dog, Cinderella, and Your Job Search

Have you heard the joke about the dog that walked down the street and saw this sign in the office window:






The dog applies for the position, but is quickly refused.

“I can’t hire a dog,” says the office manager.

The dog points to the line “equal opportunity employer.”

The office manager sighs and asks if the dog can type. The dog walks over to a typewriter and flawlessly bangs out a letter.

“Can you operate a computer?” asks the manager.

The dog sits down at a terminal, writes a program and runs it perfectly.

“Look, you have fine skills, but I still can’t hire a dog,” says the exasperated office manager. “I need someone who’s bilingual. It says so right in the ad.”

The dog looks up at the manager and says, “Meow.”

–Don Weinstein

* * * *

Smart dog! And why is this relevant to your job search process? Because in the loyalty-free workplace, you cannot be a dog who might learn new tricks. If you are granted an interview, you must show the prospective employer right then and there that you know all of the “tricks” necessary to excel at the job. How do you show a prospective employer that you are the perfect fit? By identifying precisely what the employer is looking for and providing it.

And, what accounts for this change? Back in the days when employers had plenty of staff, they could afford to hire a candidate who was a close fit (as far as qualifications go), but not a perfect one. In some cases, they might even hire people who were clearly not qualified for the position, but had enough potential that they would “find a spot for them.” In the loyalty-free workplace, however, that luxury no longer exists. “Pretty good” or “close enough” will not cut it anymore. With more people than ever competing for fewer jobs, companies have to be more selective. Like Prince Charming, prospective employers are looking for the one person who is the perfect fit for that glass slipper—and if it doesn’t fit (or if you say something during the interview that suggests you would be a bad fit)—they almost always have stack of other qualified candidates to consider instead of you. I refer to this as the Cinderella fit, and this is precisely where you need to be if you want to land that coveted new job.

This is an incredibly important point for older job seekers. One comment I regularly hear is that applicants do not understand why they are not interviewed for all of the jobs for which they are overqualified, and for which they could clearly perform with their eyes closed. And, the longer you are in the workforce, the more experience you will likely acquire, and the greater the likelihood you will find yourself in this situation. The problem is that while we may see an incredible value in every year of experience we get under our belts, prospective employers may see it differently.

Why would a company reject a candidate who can offer more than what they are looking for? There really is truth to the statement that there is too much of a good thing. If a hiring manager is looking for a candidate with five years of experience, then a candidate with one year of experience is just as unqualified as a candidate with twenty.   Further, the more experienced candidate may not move forward in the process because of the likelihood that they will (understandably) expect a salary that is commensurate with that expertise. In other words, while the hiring manager may appreciate the level of experience and all that it offers, it is quite possible that they either cannot afford or simply do not want to offer a compensation package that is commensurate with it. In this case, the extra years of experience, even though valuable, are not valuable to them.

So what is the takeaway? When looking for a job find out exactly what the hiring manager wants, which you can usually pinpoint from the job posting or description.   Then, illustrate why you are the perfect fit, the Cinderella fit—and be sure that you are nothing more and nothing less.


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