How do people get hired in the first place?

The exciting job posting on Linkedin is only 3 days old and already has 250 applicants. I mean, what is the point of even trying? There certainly must be better ways for me to use my time than to put all my bets on the 0.4% success rate of landing this job.  I will just look for an opportunity with less than 40 applicants (a job that I do not really want).

I know, this can overwhelm and demotivate you in a big way.  However, the reality behind those piles of applications is a different story. It helps to start with understanding “why do we get hired in the first place”. The job application process gets more compelling after that. 

Two words – Upside and Risk

If you ask me, we get hired for the combination of two ingredients: Upside and Risk. Depending on the requirements and nature of the position in question, this mix can be stronger on one ingredient and weaker in the other.  For example, a librarian has a relatively fixed upside, to provide a knowledgeable service for the clients. That is a quality that is appreciated. However, the recruiter would be even more interested in the risk mitigation of the hire.  That is, how likely is it that the librarian will stay a long time, learn every corner of the library and get along with peers and clients. 

Upside means additional value

When a sales director is recruited, the upside has a  very different meaning. The KPIs of the professional is directly linked to the upside – to bring money and value to the employer. Think of strategy consultants, would there be a hire made unless the person was daily billable as soon as possible? What about a recent top graduate from a law school? For sure there is limited upside in the beginning, but in this case, the hire is made for the “development platform” for future growth and value for the company. 

Risk is lifetime value and more

Let’s take the example of the sales director again. If the learning curve for knowledge about the products to be sold is complex and takes a heavy investment, the recruiter will carefully consider the risk of losing the employee after a short period of time. On the other hand, if the product is fairly simple, say table lamps, training costs for new managers are relatively low. In that case, a recruiter can opt for a wilder, all-or-nothing sales bulldozer who will deliver great sales numbers, but has the higher risk of not staying too long (or breaking things as he goes).

Risk also has another aspect outside of the tenure of a person. Fit with the rest of the team needs to be ensured (or quick general adaptability like in consulting teams), otherwise the company risks having a boatload of employees with a wonderful upside for the company, but with a too high a risk of disintegration among the teams. Recruiters are looking for a balance, not just in a candidate for the role, but in the teams and divisions that they will be placed in. 

Matching your application for the sought after ingredients

Whenever you are preparing a job application, take your time to analyze the position beyond the job description. What is the anticipated mix of ingredients of upside and risk that the recruiter is looking for?  The first employee to a new country to open the market? Upside rules and the role is certain to keep one challenged and therefore engaged (limited risk).  A sheriff to replace the retiring law enforcer? Yes, we would like to ensure your fit with your team and community. The job is defined so the upside is less relevant in this case. 

Lets quickly go back to our 250 applicants for the Linkedin posting. Your application will have a higher rate of success when you recognize what is being sought after and how you are truly being evaluated in your application. If all of this hits the right mix, you will land an interview. 

However, the most important part comes thereafter: the interviews. Know the position you are applying for, the Upside/Risk ‘mix’ the recruiter is going after (use the job description or company insiders to find this) and practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at interviews is by doing more – and Mockmate is a great place to do exactly that. 

Lassi Albin is a Career Coach and Founder of the coaching company that offers on-demand career management programs and private coaching.


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