Stop blaming yourself: Hiring practices are inconsistent
- Sunday December 4th, 2016
Most job seekers blame themselves when they can’t find a job. Repeated rejection leads them to go the distance to find new ways to get a job. They invest time and money in new skills, upgraded education, resume writing, even a professional photograph. All of these attempts to improve your chances are commendable and useful. Especially to find an academic job, it is difficult to have too many qualifications. Still, sometimes, even the most professional submission and an absolute match of the skills required does not bring success. What happened?
A significant reason that is often overlooked is that the hiring decision is strongly influenced by:
1. A screening process designed to efficiently cover hundreds, or, even, thousands of applications.
Focused on making it easy to eliminate less qualified applicants, it looks only at matching narrowly defined skills, certifications and experience. Unless the employer has deliberately made provision for certifications from abroad, this approach often eliminates applicants whose credentials are not local. It also almost always eliminates a candidate whose profile misses a few boxes, but, taken in collectively, makes that person one of the best potential employees,
2. A confusion and an unclear idea of the job requirements and hence the very qualifications and experience needed. Most job seekers incorrectly assume that universities or other organizations know exactly the work involved in positions they are trying to fill. Universities are known for their decentralization and sometimes unusual governance models, that can lead to peculiar jobs in some divisions. In many cases, Deans, Chairs and hiring managers have only a broad and hazy idea of some work that needs to be done, which may even show in the language used in the job description being advertised. In other instances, a new position may be created to circumvent a political situation with another employee who is now a deadwood, but can’t be easily displaced. When a job position is unclear, the hiring will reflect that confusion.
3. A preset idea of who the group is going to hire. Many positions are posted just because institutions are required to do so; but, the administrators already ‘know’ who they intend to hire. In many cases, thisis an insider and the natural successor to the person being replaced. So you need to understand job posting in Canadian colleges and universities, as well as in employment practices in public institutions in Canada general.
4. The very human nature of the hiring manager or panel. If your competitor went to the same school as the hiring manager, his or her ranking subtly, but, definitely moves up. If, on the other hand, your name is the same as someone who picked on the hiring person in school, your ranking subtly drops down and, you will never know anything about it. Even the person doing the hiring may not be aware it is happening.
People like to hire other people who are like themselves; whatever that may mean.
Have you heard how some institutions keep hiring and firing for certain positions? This is a clear sign that there is something amiss with how the job is defined, the hiring process or internal politics that are all part of inconsistent practices that impact your job search.
Does that mean you should just give up? Absolutely not!
Everyone will tell you that looking for a job is a full time job. Well, then, let’s put your best effort into that task, and, boost your chances to be hired.
Here are some things you should always do:
- Read the job description.
Now, that may sound self-evident; but, many job-seekers just skim the contents to see if they generally fit the criteria. Yet, buried in the fifth paragraph may be a reference to needing to have spent three years on an archaeological dig in the Amazon Basin. Without that background, your application is a total waste of your time.
- Make sure your credentials actually match those requested.
The academic community, even more than others, is unforgiving in its demand for specific qualifications. If the requirement is for a “PhD or PhD Candidate” and you are still at the Masters level, give this job a pass because the screening process will eliminate you immediately.
- If your credentials are from somewhere other than Canada, immediately go to a Canadian authority in your field; and, have that person provide you with an equivalency document which you will attach to all applications. What that means is that you can get through the screening elimination by entering Canadian equivalents of your certifications. It also means that you have a better chance to get through the final hiring process since the panel doesn’t have to do any research to figure out whether your qualifications actually meet Canadian standards.
- Try to find and list some ‘extra’ attribute you have that gives you an edge over the competition. In order to do this, you will need to do some research into the actual group to whom you are applying.
- Keep upgrading your qualifications: academic, teaching and research.
Here are some things you should do if you can:
- Learn a little about the institution to which you are applying. What is it most proud of? Who are its icons? Especially, learn about the specific department which is offering the job. What are its success stories? Is it attempting to go in a new direction?
- If the hiring person is specified, find out what he or she has published. What student or community activity does he or she support? Is there any possible connection you can make to these thing without being ultra obvious.
Above all, keep trying. Apply more often, and, always put your best effort into each one. There is an employer out there who will
recognize your worth.
Erin Bailo, Career Advisor
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