The job-hunting client phoned Jim Beqaj expecting to be congratulated for having landed a lucrative new position. Instead, the veteran career adviser warned the man to reconsider.
"I told him flat out, 'I don't think that's the right fit for you,'" said the president of Toronto-based career consulting firm Beqaj International Inc. and author of How to Hire the Perfect Employer
The client was an executive had worked for 15 years with a company that gave him carte blanche, provided great support, let him make decisions on his own and hire as many people as he needed. By contrast, the new organization was very bureaucratic and didn't absorb outsiders well, and he would have to go through a chain of approvals even to hire a secretary.
"I warned him, 'You'll be made ineffective and you will fail because you are not able in this new job to use the tools that made you successful in your last job,'" Mr. Beqaj said
It proved a prescient statement: The executive decided to throw in the towel and leave the new post a few months later.
"It's truly remarkable how many people ... interview for jobs that are 100 per cent wrong for them. If they are hired, they struggle to make themselves fit into organizations at jobs they are unlikely to be satisfied doing," Mr. Beqaj said.
Even in the most competitive job market, even if it would feel better to get on any payroll, he advises job seekers to hire on only at a company that matches their work style and personality. "Otherwise they risk being back on the market soon."
While it may seem counterintuitive, Mr. Beqaj said the best strategy is to limit your options right from the start. "Conventional wisdom says that when you are looking for a new job, you should network widely and get your CV seen by as many eyes as possible. But that shotgun approach is often a complete waste of time."
The options become clearer if, rather than looking for any possible job, you target only employers who are likely to have an affinity for you, Mr. Beqaj advises. To do this, take it step by step:
Be as specific as possible in answering these questions: What are you really good at? What do you most enjoy doing? What kinds of people do you like to work with?
Choose your targets
Make a list of companies, whether in your region or elsewhere in the country (or even the world), who might need someone like you. Narrow the list to about three or four top prospects by doing serious homework on the Internet and through networking contacts. Aim to find out how these companies tick and why they might need to add your specific skills to their teams.
Create an infomercial
From your results, write an elevator speech with statements that define the skills that make you unique and why they matter to the employer. For example: "If you need a good judge of character who has hired more than 900 people and has 20 years experience, I'm the person to do the job." In a single sentence, people can see what value you provide. Mr. Beqaj said.
Look at people as much as product
The job may be right, but are the people and their work styles compatible with the way you like to work? "Many job candidates are often too focused on the potential job to notice that the place is micromanaged, or that the team has habits that irritate them. But look around; you can feel it in your stomach if something doesn't seem right," he said.
You shouldn't only be interviewing for a job you should be looking for a personal fit. "No matter how good the job is, you are just not going to function well and grow in a poor environment."
Don't fool yourself
You may find yourself being tempted by a company that has a particular problem or challenge on its hands. You can fool yourself into thinking you can turn around a situation that is a mess, but keep in mind that it's often just wishful thinking, Mr. Beqaj said. "There are times when an organization is looking for someone who is different enough to be a game changer. But you have to make sure that they will give you the support and resources you need to actually make the changes."
Trust your gut
"Don't be afraid to tell them exactly who you are," Mr. Beqaj said. And if you have concerns, don't let anyone else persuade you that a job is great. "It has to be your decision that it's right, otherwise you'll always be doing something that is not you," he said.
"If you are trying to win a job by contorting yourself into something you're not, to become what you think they are looking for, you are soon going to find yourself unhappy and not likely to be very successful.
The first step to finding the perfect employer is to be sure you understand your own work style and goals. Do a thorough interview with yourself:
What makes you unique? Write out not only what you think you are really good at, but evidence from experience that backs up your beliefs.
What's your best day? Look back at what you were doing on days in your work life when you felt most enthusiastic and came home and said, "If I could just do this every day of my life I'd be happy." What are the worst experiences you want to avoid at all costs?
Who works with you? Create a list of people in your life who have worked effectively with you. What were the common characteristics of these people in terms of mindset, background, habits and personality traits?
How do you resolve conflicts? Do you compromise, accommodate, compete with or hide from people? Organizations can have a variety of way of sorting out issues and if you have a different style, you're unlikely to be seen as a team player.
What's your work style? Do you like juggling multiple problems or the ability to complete one task before moving on to the next? Would you like to be on the road or in an office? Compromise in this area and every day could become a nightmare or a slog.
Who needs you? Build a list of employers that have the kinds of jobs and work that are most compatible with your work style. These should not only need your skills but also be likely to want you as a person. Make them your priority targets.