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Got a Missing Ingredient? Check Your Assumptions at the Door: A Thought Experiment for Job Seekers

Imagine the following scenario: A hiring manager is conferring with his staff regarding two finalists for a position. He asks them which one would be the better fit for their department. One by one they give their opinions. Then the hiring manager says: “It’s clear that either one of them could do a good job. Both of them could do the job in their sleep, but we need someone who can represent the department in a favorable light, someone who is calm and diplomatic.”


Now imagine yourself a fly on the wall during this meeting. What’s on your mind? The key observation here is the personal quality the manager says will be the distinguishing feature of the new hire: representing the department with tact and diplomacy.


Now step away from this scenario for a moment. What have you learned? How many times have you read a job description and thought: “I have 90% of what they’re looking for.” Then perhaps you decided that missing 10% was too much of an obstacle. You couldn’t get past it because of “X”.


Remember the X factor is your story about what you know of the employer’s needs, and how well you meet those needs. If that sketchy 10% is listed under the preferred or desired area of the description, and your experience covers all the requirements, you may feel justified in applying for the job.


As the previous thought experiment reveals, so often the hiring manager has a very specific quality he is looking for that won’t necessarily show up in the job description. If you know someone close to the situation, your networking skills will certainly help you gain this insight. Without this knowledge your own best judgment becomes your guide. Don’t stretch the truth of your skills or experience level, but do make the most of your “soft skills”, those innate qualities you use during a sensitive conversation or a highly visible planning meeting. What works just below the surface can easily slip by unnoticed and yet make all the difference in the final analysis.

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