Job Search – Working without a paycheck


We are not comfortable with uncertainty or the unknown. Companies are faced with hiring people to the massive numbers shed from their payrolls. People employed are thinking about worst case scenarios in the event they lose their job. Some are changing their life styles to build a nest egg just in case they need a cushion or safety net.

Companies have a larger more diversified candidate pool to compete for any of their vacancies. There are exponentially more applicants than available positions. This makes it extremely daunting and competitive. Candidates feel as if they have lottery type odds to be selected. Unlike the lottery, they have to work harder than ever to win a position.

Companies are also demanding extensive preparation for the interview. These requests exceed what was expected a few years ago. They are requesting 100 day plans, marketing proposals and live or video presentations. These interview assignments require exhaustive amounts of time and research. Ironically, employers must bear in mind that the project may not have been researched or developed by the person being interviewed.

Some companies have gone as far as to have the applicants perform the companies’ job for them. They elicit information which should have been performed by a salaried employee. For example, my son interviewed for a job where he was assigned a project of prospecting and developing a potential client list. He researched the potential client base as if he were one of their sales representatives. These potential targets were collected at the beginning of the interview. He did not get the job, but they kept the list. The 100 day plans, marketing proposal and presentation also contain content useful to the interviewing organization.

Companies are making requests because they can.  Our companies were challenged about our educational requirements for hiring employees. It was an arbitrary standard which allowed us to hire top talent and to exclude those we did not want. These projects use to be within the realm of request for internal candidates vying for a promotion. It was an incentive to make more money and an opportunity to demonstrate and showcase skills and development.

When job seekers prepare a special assignment, it should immediately become a part of their brag file to show others the extent they will perform to land a job. What do they do with these projects if they don’t land the job? Learn from the research and grow their skills from the investigations, analysis and the practice and actual presentations and feedback. Ask the potential employer for feedback, because the audition will prepare them for the next job.

Many employment experts suggest candidate’s volunteer time to gain experience which could help them later. Suggest internships in organizations that may not be able to afford their services. They may be impressed with their ingenuity and initiative to bring them on board in an assignment that may grow from pro bono to fee for service.

When interviewing outside of their industry be aware of the challenge of going against inertia. People enjoy replicating the past. They are comfortable with the known quantities. They like the tried and true techniques. Therefore they hire people who are grounded in their profession

I often like to remind people of the value of diversity of skills and experiences as contributors to innovation. Joel Barker said much innovation and challenges to the status quo is initiated by outsiders. These persons are not confined by the same blinders and mental barriers as those who grew up in a system. He uses the example of the jet engine technology influencing advancement in the automobile engine.

Candidates should thank the company when they don’t land the job. Ask for feedback that is constructive, especially if they have put in an inordinate amount of preparation. Ask to be considered for other jobs down the road and to keep their information on file. “I would like to contact you in the future. Do you think that is a good idea?” How the company answers this question may give the applicant some insight into their prospects for future employment.

Since it is a buyer’s market many companies do not send out “rejection” or “no interest” letters. The mindset is, “If you don’t hear from us, we are probably not interested.” Granted, it would be costly, but the more professional companies continue to contact people directly, to inform them of their status in the recruitment pipeline. They achieve common courtesy by contacting all candidates electronically or through the mail.  

Companies are using their knowledge of human nature to extract as much from candidates as possible. They pit people against each other, gladiator style, to see who wants the job more. Some companies take advantage of the needs of applicants to help their organizations obtain vital services and much-needed information. Applicants should ensure that the interview process is beneficial for all parties involved. Since they may be working without a paycheck, they should gain valuable skills and feedback to pave the way for a productive future.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser

2 thoughts on “Job Search – Working without a paycheck

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