One of the kindest things I do every now and then is tell someone I’ve just met that they don’t have a realistic shot at getting an interview for the job they want to apply to.
On the surface, that would appear to go against one of my key goals which is establishing and nurturing a partnership between myself as an Employment Counsellor and them as a job seeker. I mean, at a first meeting, you’d think I’d be going out of my way to have them see me as a nice fellow who leaves them feeling inspired and full of confidence. That would be nice, and for a lot of people I meet for the first time, this is exactly how they perceive me when they walk away.
Here’s the thing though; I’d rather a jobseeker come to see me as authentic, helpful and sincere in my desire to see them ultimately succeed. That ultimate success means taking the time to find the right job, the right employer, the right match for their skills, experience, interests and their needs. And in fairness to the employers I am working with to find talent, it also means sending them job applicants who are qualified; of the right character fit with authentic skills and experience.
Recently I was introduced to a person looking to make a career shift from the job they have now to another. On the upside, I give credit to this job seeker for several things: 1) seeking out the professional services of an employment agency 2) realizing the need for a better resume and 3) having the resiliency and courage to move from a position they are performing at well to a new position where there will be a steep learning curve.
However, on the downside, the person not only lacks a specific software knowledge the employer has described as a strong asset, they lack required experience in basic computer skills. Further, they have no experience in the environment which the employer has stated is expected.
It was evident to me within 5 minutes of meeting them that there was a gulf between the employers stated needs and this applicants experience and skills. It wasn’t going to be fair to send them off with a shiny new resume, full of false confidence and have them compete against applicants with years of experience and education to match. In the field they were considering, it is well-known that the labour market is flooded with highly-qualified candidates.
What I did do was gently but nonetheless clearly, tell them that without the mandatory skills required, they didn’t have a shot at the position. Had I stopped talking and left things there, it wouldn’t have been a good conclusion. They walked in for help after all, and I was determined to provide it; albeit different from what they had expected.
Well, we constructed a resume together that promoted the transferable skills they have, focused on their character and personal qualities that would be a desirable fit, and printed it off. The wording on the resume had them sitting up straighter, feeling really good at how they came across on paper, promoting skills and qualities they hadn’t verbalized but yet I had discerned and labeled from listening to them describe their current and past work.
But what really has them feeling better is a promise I made to them which they hadn’t expected when they came in the door. While I provided a resume for them to take to the job fair they were heading out to, I told them that I or one of my colleagues would like to work with them to better explore their skills and abilities and find a position for which they would compete as a strong candidate.
This offer of unexpected help to better get to know them and find the right fit, more than anything else, had this job seeker leave expressing gratitude for the honesty and willingness to help. They remarked as they left that they didn’t expect to get the job anymore and if they did somehow it would be a nice surprise. But this person wasn’t disappointed and thanked me for sharing the truth.
Employment Counsellors are good at what we do. We read people and do our best to meet people where they are in life and support them on their career journey with the goal of setting them up for success. We recognize that you as the job seeker are the expert of you; you know yourself better than we ever will. The key is to work in true partnership together; you knowing you and we knowing how to draw out your accomplishments, rich experiences, achievements and then marketing these in language that not only appeals to employers, it just makes you feel empowered.
It’s a risk to tell a person you’ve just met that they aren’t in the running for a job when you know the needs of an employer and what an applicant lacks. However, the risk/reward almost always pays off with a relationship they can trust in; knowing they’ve partnered with an Employment Counsellor who has their best interests in mind. The goal therefore is to deliver honesty with kindness out of a deep set respect for the person, rather than only telling someone what you believe they wish to hear.