The best and only strategy to remove bias from your job search
February 6th, 2019
The job market is globalizing, and competition for career jobs is following suit. Getting hired isn’t a question of qualification anymore, but of how to distinguish yourself as an applicant. Demand for talent has become more nuanced, and fit for the job is critical. Added with the increased cost of living in major tech cities, companies of all sizes are pushed to offer attractive perks and large salaries, attracting more talent from all over the US and the world. Increased overhead adds to the pressure for companies to find talent that is the right fit for the job and get it right on the first try. As a result, job applicants are more scrutinized than ever.
We as job seekers must adapt to the changing market, not just to stay competitive, but also to distinguish ourselves from the growing applicant pool. One way of doing this is adjusting our strategy from a passive “seeking” process to a proactive campaign.
Passive Job “Seeking”
The conventional job seeking process is a numbers game. On average, a corporate job attracts 250 applicants, out of which only 1 person is selected for the job offer. With heightened competition, these odds are only decreasing. Not only are jobs receiving an increasing number of candidates, on top of that, the current technology we use to apply for jobs only encourages applicants—including your competition—to use this same method, thereby further decreasing chances of success; we are all casting wide nets in the same small pond. Submitting resumes to all of the possible relevant job openings in this saturated market relies on luck and timing for success, and limits an applicant's ability to differentiate themselves from other candidates. While it may seem logical that someone with quality experience and a good resume is the natural candidate for the job, research shows that in actuality, every additional year of experience equates to an additional month of job seeking. This is because of the hiring industry’s focus on “fit.”
Every job opening is distinctive, and fit for the job is a critical component to your hiring. “Fit” is loosely tied to a combined assessment of your qualifications, ambition, and how well your personality will mesh with the team and the company culture. This leaves a lot of room for discrimination and implicit bias due to the flexible connotation of “fit”, whether in job fit, culture fit, or team fit. Although some companies are educating themselves to curb implicit bias in hiring and the workplace, traditional job seeking methods still leave your resume vulnerable to discrimination and bias.
Proactive Job “Campaigning”
Campaigning in contrast puts control back into the hands of the applicant. In fact, it’s a strategy many of us already employ when we push for a promotion in the workplace or when a political candidate runs for public office.
Unlike job “seeking,” campaigning highlights the mutual benefits you and individuals in the decision making process have to gain should you get hired. Similar to a voter’s mentality when selecting a new mayor, companies are looking for a candidate who will strengthen the company and is a good fit for a specific position. As candidates, how we present our talent and experience is vital to prove our fit for the job.
To run a successful job campaign:
- Identify your campaign goals and your constituents
- Articulate you message
- Get out the vote and secure it
Identify your campaign goals and your constituents
In order to develop a deeper understanding of your campaign strategy and how to promote yourself as a candidate, it is important to start off by setting goals and understanding the target job position. Even in traditional job seeking, your “objective” is at the very top of your resume. While it has devolved into more of a formality on the resume, determining your goals early gives you a starting point on your campaign trail.
Some questions that are important to ask yourself are:
- What industry do you want to work in?
- What business model are you interested in?
- What scale of business interests you?
- What role do you want to play?
Many people’s answers to these questions change throughout their careers. While the dynamic nature of these questions may make them difficult to answer, it is important to take the time to define what you want in your career. The better you understand your goals, the more effectively your supporters will understand how to support you.
As you develop your answers to the above questions, the next step will be to make a list of specific companies that align with your goals. These companies will be the constituents you will target.
While creating this list of companies sounds like a daunting task, there are numerous resources to help you find companies that align with your interests and career goals. You can use JobFit’s Fit Search or Crunchbase to filter for companies based on industry, business model, and scale. Once you make a list of constituents that will further your goals, the next step in your campaign is to recognize how you can help them achieve their goals.
Articulate your message
At its fundamentals, a job position is a solution to a company’s specific need; so logically, a good campaign for a job position requires a good understanding of what your constituents need. Ideally your campaign will convey why specifically you are the solution to the problem.
Your solutions are the main message of your job campaign. Like campaign promises for voters, solutions are what companies, teams, and hiring managers are looking for when they hire. They want to know that you can come up with solutions to real problems, communicate them well, and execute at the relevant levels to fix the problems.
Sometimes the needs are explicitly stated in a job description, but most of the time, you will need to do some research. On top of that, it is important to recognize that job descriptions are commonly templated and usually fail to give a precise and accurate depiction of a company or team’s needs.
Get out the vote and secure it
No one succeeds alone. In a job campaign, it’s important to find sponsors who understand your value and your campaign message, particularly at your target companies. Getting their vote of confidence and their referral will go a long way to getting the job you want: a whopping 40% of hires are from referrals.
Of course, not every employee will understand your message and the value you bring to the team and company. Because your campaign message is unique and reflects the distinct combination of experience and skill set you can bring to a specific team, it is important to find an ally who understands your background and is also close to the team you want to work for. Get the best possible support. Don’t just find any employee, but find a sponsor who understands your campaign message and your target demographic.
Many employers offer incentives to employees who refer new hires. However referral bonus programs are often complex with many stipulations and prerequisites. It’s important for you to place your supporters in the best possible position to be rewarded with a bonus. Ask your sponsors how you can help them meet those special requirements so they can receive their referral bonus. Also, make sure to apply only through your supporter, and don’t apply through job boards, recruiters, and career sites, all of which can lead human resources to question whether or not your hire was a result of a true referral.
Maximize your chances of being a successful referral by maintaining quality relationships with all your supporters. JobFit was built to help you strengthen your campaign message and connect you with employees looking to refer diverse talent like yourself.
Campaigning for Fit
Finding a great job is getting more difficult every year. The prevalence of 1-click and SMS-reply applications makes the job searching process “easy,” but in reality dilutes your chances of getting hired. Though applying by resume is standard and customary, throwing your credentials out into the job pool is no longer a sufficient strategy for success, and the increasing number of referred employees proves that direct support is pivotal.
Campaigning can especially help to circumvent unconscious or implicit bias. Traditional recruiting in its foundation struggles to remove discrimination against race, age, gender and background, and does not highlight the valuable assets an applicant brings to the table.
Rather than letting the recruiting team define how you should fit into the company, define the fit for yourself. You know better than anyone else what you are capable of; so rather than letting a timeline of your work experience speak for you, directly communicate why you are the best fit for the needs of the company. Get the job you want by campaigning for the job you want.
I built JobFit because I am fed up with how traditional hiring misses the mark when it comes to evaluating job seekers who break the mold. Rather than value-focused hiring, the current job market is motivated by hiring quotas and deadlines, and it factors in qualities that don’t relate to the job, such as race, age, gender, or even personal history. JobFit is a place where individuals looking for a job can campaign anonymously to employees who are looking to refer diverse talent.