How will you measure you’re life?

Do you know what employers consider when they are making hiring decisions? Yes, it can be complicated to figure out. But I do have a clue.

As you may know, I make a point of learning what employers are seeking when they are hiring. A favorite author and a wonderful book is entitled, How Will You Measure Your Life? written by Clayton M. Christensen. Professor Christensen was a Harvard professor and a world-renowned innovation expert. He learned by surveying senior leaders from a variety of companies asking this question about hiring: how do you find the “right employee?

Finding the “Right” employee for the job

Of all the people that you hired or promoted into positions of (defined) responsibility, what percentage of them turned out to be a superb choice? What percentage performed adequately? And what percentage turned out to have been the wrong person for the job they were hired or promoted to do?

By their own reckoning the leaders indicated about a third were superb choices. Approximately 40 percent were adequate choices and about 25 percent turned out to be mistakes. In other words, a typical manager gets it wrong a lot.

Companies strive for “zero-defects” quality in manufacturing or services. But by contrast a 25 percent defect rate in picking the right people to hire is somehow considered acceptable even though it’s also considered one of the biggest responsibilities of managers/leaders. 

In 1979 writer Tom Wolfe captured the public imagination with his depiction of one of the most competitive professional environments in the world: the screening of American Fighter Pilots. NASA executives decided to create a gauntlet of ever-increasing screens to identify who had been born with the ‘right stuff’.

What do employers look for in a resume?

As you are in the midst of a job search, employers are seeking to work within the ‘test’ of what a resume shows. Employers want to be able to know from a resume review whether a candidate is likely to thrive in a challenging new position.  This analysis is based on the theory that the top candidates would be identified because they have innate or inborn talents that a recruiter could search for whom is seeking the ‘right stuff’. The assumption has been that the paper trail would tell what needed to be known. In other words, those with the ‘right stuff’ moved one position to the next with increasing responsibility allowing subsequent roles to bring out even more innate skills forever. Wolfe described this process as demonstrating ‘the right stuff’.

So what does that mean? It means your resume should show that from job to job you’ve gained more responsibility and you were able to take on more difficult tasks.

But if a candidate had moved horizontally or had assignments that weren’t clear promotions, a lot of recruiters assumed that that person lacked the ‘right stuff’ and was somehow ‘limited’ with something in the career’s trajectory being wrong. This has proven to be an unreliable predictor of success. Life is messy and rarely is a career path a straight line going from one point to another but instead most careers look like scribbles without definition instead of a straight arrow shot.  

So, what are employers looking for now? 

Managers found greater success not in hiring the “right stuff”, but in hiring those with what could be considered ‘feathers and wings’. Feathers and wings implies that someone can show what they’ve accomplished in each role – even if it isn’t a straight shot. Someone who has learned from experiences and applied them in a diversity of roles or situations.

Candidates may have innate superior skills that make them the “right” hire, but they may also have honed those skills over time with experiences that taught them how to deal with the ‘stuff’ of their work – hence the feathers and wings. The conclusion is that abilities are develop and shaped by experiences in life and career. A challenging job, a failure in a project, or a new assignment in a new area – all those become ‘courses’ in the school of experience that give good candidates ‘feathers and wings’..

What that means is that you have to show on your resume your ‘school’ of experience. The “I did X for Y so that Z could accomplish…”

Accomplishments are where it’s at – you must show those reading your resume you’ve earned your feathers and wings and can fly no matter the path your career has taken.

That’s it for now. Good luck with developing your accomplishments. 

Get clear, gain confidence, make it happen – get hired sooner. Stay courageous.

As always, I wish you health and a clear path to offer your professional creativity within a job that’s truly right for you.

Success – at work, at play, every day!