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Don't be a ‘Pretty little Flower’, You won't get picked... 'teach them' how to select you for the Role

Updated: Jun 26

Breaking through the distraction and reaching the decision-maker will change the game of job-search significantly to your advantage.

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where following all the ‘so-called rules’ got us the results that we were seeking. It would be much simpler to sit back; see job postings; click submit; and find the choices of opportunity that we have worked so hard for in our career. But after many years as a headhunter on the desk, and now many years as a top New York career coach, I can share with you something you already know: that approach does not work in a system that is quite broken.


We can choose to keep the ‘horse blinders’ on, and hope that someone will throw us a life-preserver as we fight for attention in a sea of candidates all struggling to pull focus toward themselves. 


Or, we can choose to change the rules of this game that are structured in a similar way to the rules of a casino. A very few might expect to walk out of the casino with the financial outcome that they had dreamed about. Yet, so many participate in this job search system that is designed with the all the odds stacked against them.

Is this system really broken?

There is only one answer: yes. I don't really believe in laying any blame on any certain department or individual, as it's a systemic failure across the vast majority of organizations. Think of it as the unsolvable.

Part of why the system is so badly broken comes out of how ‘job postings’ are sold, or purchased, by companies of any significant size. I'm not talking about the office of 10 people, nor am I talking about the bodega on the corner. 


For a company of any ‘real’ size, job postings are purchased just 1 time-per-year!


It’s the only way companies ever get a good deal, or price, on job postings. Once you sign that contract, after negotiating the best price for that volume of job postings that you are buying, those postings become ‘use them’ or ‘lose them’ in 12 months. 

They had little idea 6-months, or up to a year ago, about what they'd need to hire today.

It's very much like a bowl of M&Ms sitting on a desk that we may pass several times a day. It's not going to do those M&Ms any good to just sit in that bowl! So, before long we start grabbing handfuls –so that they don't go to waste. Though, they end up there anyway! Something very similar happens to this virtual bowl full of potential job postings, as we know they will expire in 12 months. If we don't use them up, they'll simply evaporate and we will have lost the value that we invested. 

As the VP of a 100-office recruiting chain, I did all the national contracts. That's how those contracts work. 

And it's very easy to fall in the trap of posting jobs, or types of jobs rather, that you may hire for some day. But that day is often not today.

Nobody wants to lose the value that they invested in those postings, and so they get used up to help build potential pools of candidates for the future. Yes, it's true the ‘rules’ say they cannot post jobs that they're not ready to hire for, only ones that are genuine. But you can imagine the pressure to get your value out of that investment, and what habits that may lead to in the use of those postings.

Let's look at why the system fails (on a regular basis) to deliver the right job candidates for the right job opportunities that are represented by valid postings. 

From all my years on a desk as a headhunter, the problem itself became very clear. 


There is an extreme disconnect between what is being advertised, or look for, in a job posting, and what they actually are trying to hire. 


No, I'm not talking about the obvious things. The job titles tended to be more or less correct, if often off by one level. The very rudimentary duties and responsibilities tended to be in the general ballpark. But what I'm describing with those words above is a target the size of the ‘side of a barn’, rather than a traditional bull's-eye that’s in focus that we might have imagined. 

It comes down to an inability to truly develop a correct, or optimized, job posting. 

That's a job posting that specifically delivers and speaks to the ‘problems’ that the manager is looking to solve with this hire. To be clear, the problem they are looking to solve is not a ‘warm body’ in an open spot. If it were that simple, just a job title and a few duties and responsibilities would likely produce the most advantageous candidates. But instead, what often starts out with a fill-in-the-blank form to create a new job posting or new job requisition, simply ends up producing a sketch of the ‘side of the barn’.


Without a true and clear target, which is much more than simply a title and a few responsibilities, the entire process starts off with a deep fault that can rarely be overcome. 


Yes it's true, companies still do hire, and many of them by using this process. But this process itself produces an excess number of candidates that are simply not the ones likely to be chosen. This is part of the frustration that develops with managers feeling that their internal process is just not 'working for them'. That’s also why so many headhunters can exist.

It may seem like I'm laying the blame on the Human Resources / HR department, but that's not actually the case. There's plenty of blame to go around in all directions. By the time that fill-in-the-blank form or requisition reaches the HR department, those fill-in-the-blank items become ‘carved in stone’. I have a very different name for those ‘job postings’.

The List of the ‘Irrelevants’

Yes, that is a new word, with a ’t’ and ’s’ on the end. Almost everything on that list represented by the job posting is often (somewhat) irrelevant to the job. Oh, the title may be close. Those duties and responsibilities are certainly tangentially connected to the role. But, they are not a ‘picture’ of the day-to-day work of this job. Very rarely do they contain the items that represent the ‘true problems’ the manager would like to solve with this hire.


Without a deep understanding of the actual problems they’re looking to solve, beyond the irrelevant items, it’s very difficult to ever hit the target and produce the very best candidate. 


To add clarity, let's analyze the reason this position might be open. 

There are 4 basic reasons a position is open:

1) Someone got Promoted

2) Someone got Fired

3) Someone Left on their own for new opportunity

4) It’s a New Position, through an expansion or a newly identified need

Each of these scenarios indicates a potentially different problem that needs to be solved. And yet, very little discussion or focus tends to come out of these scenarios. That discussion, which rarely takes place, is critical to understanding the true ‘hidden problems’ that the manager is looking to solve with this hire.


Fantastic. This typically means the individual was quite likely doing a very good job in the role. If we think a few layers deeper, this individual also likely has a number of ongoing projects and initiatives. The manager would love to see that momentum continue. And yet, most job postings stick with duties and responsibilities without ever delving into the layered projects that the new-hire would be expected to carry forward.


Ouch. But this means it's quite likely that's some ‘expected’ deliverables were not delivered. What is the current state of those projects and initiatives? Has the ‘train’ for these projects and initiatives already derailed and is it in flames? A status such as that would require a certain skill set and ability, and very likely a history of being able to step deep into a mess; pick it up; and get it back on the rails moving forward. And yet again, it’s a rarity that a job posting would lay out this need for those skills.

Left on Their Own

Always exciting to be off to a new opportunity. Think of the last time that you changed jobs, having found your new job before departing your old job. How long did that job-search take you? Or a different way to ask might be: exactly when did you stop doing your old job, before you left your old job? How many people around you, including your manager, were either aware or unaware of your work product quality dropping off? In this case, all may look quite ‘okay’ on the surface. But here it's quite likely that it is simply the ‘calm before the storm’, as one of those trains might just be headed right off the tracks at the next curve. This situation requires someone with very quick analytical skills to be able to get in and assess each project and initiative, shoring each up before a derailment can happen. And you guessed it, that's rarely a skill set that they specifically advertise for in their posting.

It's a New Role

Fantastic. Thrilling to be initiating a new role, but there is still likely baggage from the past. New roles and expansions tend to be decided upon because the manager is experiencing problems they'd like to have solved. Who was previously doing the workload that will be taken over by this new role? How successful or unsuccessful were they in those projects and initiatives? Again, it's easy to see that without the proper analysis of the problems themselves, this train may not successfully leave the station.

Summation of the Problem

If you want to be really great recruiter or headhunter, it's not possible to do so without this level of analysis. And the vast majority of recruiters only work through HR contacts, with extremely limited exposure to the direct hiring manager. If the HR department never had this level of deep discussion with the hiring individual, and if that individual is not perceptive enough to go after, identify and solve the problem areas, the hiring target will stay the size of the ‘side of the barn’. It's an endless cycle.

Leveraging the Problem to Your Advantage

This is why good recruiters, the relatively small percentage that are successful in developing a close relationship directly with the decision-makers, have such a strategic advantage over the rest of the recruiting industry.

Become a Self-Recruiter®

Across my many public lectures, and in my sessions with my coaching clients, I teach individuals how to ‘take the control back for themselves’ in the hiring process.

You need to become the manager of your job search, not simply an individual that continually hits 'submit'. 

Begin to think a little bit like Sherlock Holmes, a little bit like a detective working in reverse. Analyze the companies, departments and situations that you are attracted to, those that may be represented by job postings. 


Do what is necessary to create direct contact between yourself and the decision-maker. 


Hitting the Bull's-eye

When you achieve an opportunity for conversation (that’s an interview!), you will now understand how to pick the manager’s brain for the true problems that they are looking to solve. Once you understand those true problems, you can then correctly talk about the ‘matching pieces’ from your own background where you previously had solved similar problems –and you will it hit the bull's-eye.

Getting to the Decision-maker

It's quite easy in the age of the Internet to understand who the decision-maker may be, and to figure out how to reach them directly.

Most job candidates are approaching companies that are similar to companies that they have worked for in the past. Apply a little bit of your Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning; personal understanding of how these organizational charts might be typically structured; and combine that with a reverse-search of the company on LinkedIn. 


It becomes very easy to identify the potential 3, 4 or 5 individuals that would likely be involved in discussion process to hire a person like you for a role represented by the job posting that you see.


Don't be afraid of Top-down Selling

Consider starting your outreach even 2 or 3-levels above the actual decision-maker. 

Those individuals are not threatened by you, and see you as a potential strategic asset for their team. Are you engaging; do you understand your value; and are you ready to ‘position’ that value (exactly how you can help their team) inside the mind of this manager? That message is typically very well received. 

Remember that companies are struggling with a large percentage of the workforce that is typically only mediocre. If you can bring those qualities that I just mentioned to the conversation, and demonstrate it in discussion with a higher-level manager, quite frequently you will find yourself being introduced down-the-food-chain to the direct decision-maker.

Those individual decision-makers often have far too much on their plate already, but one of the first things they do react to is a recommendation from their boss, or their boss’s boss. That's the secret of top-down selling, even of 'you' as a job candidate. It’s very effective.

Additional Steps to Sell You into the ‘Mind’ of the Company


Get into the minds of 25 to 30 people behind the firewall of the company, while you are reverse-searching your target company and re-building the organizational chart.


1) Open 25 to 30 profiles of individuals at the company that somehow surround the job, which triggers a ‘marketing event’ with you showing up as recently ‘looking at them’. Up, up, up the food chain; down, down, down all the way to admin; left and right into surrounding departments. Chose a nice healthy mix.

2) Ask all 25 to 30 to connect with you. A great message might be, “I like to connect with other professionals in our niche, and of course, I'd love to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

3) Select the 3, 4 or 5 individuals that would somehow be involved in the conversation to hire a candidate such as yourself. Now step outside of LinkedIn, and email each as if they were the ‘only person in the world’. Stroke their ego about your interest in the company and its endeavors, creatively connecting your value that could be leveraged toward helping those endeavors –and pitch for a meeting.

Job Search is a Sales Process

You don't need permission from anyone except yourself. Often times we do need that from ourselves to get out of the ‘little tiny box’ that we have built as a cage for our career. That cage is entirely self-imposed. 

Learn how to change the rules that don't apply to you. 

You control your destiny. There is not a salesperson of any worth in the world that needs ‘permission’ to call on a potential client.

Take back the control in your process. 

Be sure your Career Branding and career materials, that's your resume and your LinkedIn profile, represent you as the very best product. After all, even going this very direct route, you are still going to be competing with a handful of the very best-of-the-best.

Don't leave your future simply to fate, or to the poor reaction generated by a less-than-stellar telling of your career story. 

Your resume has 3 to 5 seconds to make the decision maker 'jump out of their chair'. And that's viewing it in relation to a stack of resumes that may be on their desk.

Your LinkedIn profile has to outmaneuver your very toughest competitors. In order to do that, it should become the polar opposite to resume, fulfilling its destiny to become a ‘3-dimensional Sales Brochure’, all about you, that naturally drives the reader to a singular conclusion: “If I hire this individual, it'll be the best business decision that I make today!”

Need help overcoming challenges, and positioning your Career Branding to be its very best across your resume and your LinkedIn profile? I know a very good career coach that's a wizard with those who'd be happy to help.

Now, let’s get out there!


John Crant

Author, Career Coach & Speaker on Job Search and Career Management

Featured Speaker for

The New York Public Library's JOB SEARCH CENTRAL


In the Media: As Seen As Featured in 

amNY, Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal (and its, CRAIN'S New York BusinessForbes, CNNBBC, FOX News (on Social Media Marketing), AriseTV, New York PostThe Huffington PostEssence magazine, CareerBuilder and The Ladders

On the Radio: As Guest: WHCR 90.3 FM "The Voice of Harlem"


As an industry manager, executive recruiter, recruiting & sales trainer, event speaker, and as VP of a nationwide system of recruitment offices, I have seen most every aspect of the hiring process and this varied insight is what provides the clarity you will find in this book.


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