Home » Thoughts & Ideas » Tips For The Unemployed – Who You Know Vs What You Know

Tips For The Unemployed – Who You Know Vs What You Know


I have often wondered whether ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’, helps people get on in life.

Nepotism, face fits scenario, utilising your networks and calling in favours doesn’t harm when it comes to applying for work for example.

Yet, this hidden ‘who you know’ isn’t something people are comfortable talking about openly, and I’m not surprised considering it is an unregulated form of discrimination (in my opinion).

Sometimes being intelligent, educated, experienced, interested, capable, innovative, and so on and so, isn’t enough. Well, not unless you happen to be best friends with the boss too. Cynical, maybe, but also true!

Surely I’m not the only one who has experienced an employer telling them that their application or CV has been unsuccessful………..no, I didn’t think so. It might then leave you wondering why, especially when you tick all the boxes they require. You might contact the employer and ask, why, but their response is vague and somewhat generic.

Of course we can’t all be successful in every application we make, but I know employers do favour employees they know either directly or indirectly. How do I know? I have worked in enough places, and with enough people to have witnessed this happening, albeit discreetly.

This ‘who you know’ is apparent if you look a little closer. Just because a job is advertised to the public, doesn’t mean it is available to the public. Any job is only advertised because it is considered a breech of equal opportunities otherwise. Not to forget the job vacancies that are only ever advertised internally within a company; consequently the ordinary Joe or Josephine Bloggs never has the chance to apply.

This I feel is a loss, not only for the prospective employee, but the employer, their business and their staff.

There is so much untapped, under utilised and unrealised potential going stagnant in the jobs market. Potential that could add a missing element to a company. It seems some employers aren’t willing to actually change their recruitment processes though. Refusal to take a chance, broaden their opinions and think outside of their box (which I will discuss later), might make their business less innovative in the long run. Another fact is that most employers haven’t a clue about recruitment either, and often outsource this aspect to the dreaded employment agency (which I will also discuss later).

There also remains two main hurdles which employers like to place in the way of job seekers; work experience or lack of and qualifications or a lack of. The frustration of can’t get a job because you lack experience, but can’t get experience without a job is still a parody most job seekers face. Which is bizarre in the current situation of mass unemployment! The same frustrations are also linked to qualifications. Either you need them, as on the job training is practically non existent or no sooner are you qualified, you then have to retrain to be au fait with the next big thing. In either position, need training or need retraining finding a suitable job can seem like an almost uphill struggle.

Do employers expect perfection; someone they know, all the right qualifications and experience and everything else they may require on a nice silver platter? No, I don’t think they do, but I’m not sure they always know what they want or know good job candidates when they see them! This is when the ‘who you know’ does defiantly come up trumps over any other prerequisite; it helps to have help from an insider to overcome the hurdles.

As I have mentioned already, I have worked in my fair share of places. I have gained plenty of transferable skills, expertise, experience and qualifications, including a university degree; yet I often find I struggle to really fit into the employment market. Am I a community development officer, a charity fundraiser, a volunteer manager, a PA, a tutor, a counsellor, an employment adviser, a researcher, a writer, an artist, a life coach? Well maybe! Yet in reality I don’t fit into any one of these categories 100% even though I have gained the relevant qualifications, and so on and so on to do these type of jobs.

This is where the employer and their boxes come into play. If you don’t fit into their narrow ideal and required person specification, then basically you might as well never have gained any qualifications or experience (regardless of how bright and dynamic you might be). What I mean is, there is little flexibility or thinking outside of the box! Recruitment is so staid! This is where the employment agencies fall down in their so called recruitment role too.

Employment agencies have a bank of regular temps they call upon to apply for any of the new job vacancies they have on offer. These new vacancies are passed on from businesses to the agency; most businesses want to save money by advertising work and screening potential applicants via the agency. The problem is that all agencies only deal in specific employment sectors, and deal only with specific skills for specific jobs. So for example; a secretary is required and your job title has always been business admin, and your CV reflects this, the agency can’t see how your skills, although no doubt an almost perfect match, could possibly fit with the secretary vacancy available. Also, they tend to stick to their bank of regular temp employees, limiting your chances of truly getting any work once you are signed up for work with the agency.

Again, often the ‘who you know’ comes into play when you deal with employment agencies too. They like familiar faces.

It’s complicated with an agency! I mean that too. I have found one job via an agency and that was when I was 18. After this point, they basically run out of use for me! I prefer going direct to the employer, as agencies are for me are gatekeepers who guard their vacancies and turn away good people.

So, how can you make that leap between having the qualifications, skills and everything all singing and dancing with whistles attached to actually getting a half decent job, without having to know someone who can help you step up or onto the ladder first?

Well you could try bribery, lies, deceit and of course pretence.

No, only joking – I’d never advocate such extreme and possibly illegal acts to secure a job, of any description, although it might work well for some people out there!

Regardless of the frustrations, to be forewarned is to be forearmed in any situation. So I have included a few tips that have worked for me when I have been job hunting, and have helped me overcome the hurdles that can be in place. Also, these tips helped me to not feel that ‘the job market sucks’, because I felt I was at least trying to be proactive:

1) Research the company you want to work for – before an application you need know what the company does! Yes, there are people out there who don’t do this, and fall flat very quickly. This research can also apply to speculative applications too. I’ve known people who have contacted companies on the off chance to enquire whether there are any vacancies available. Although there were no vacancies at that particular time, the people made such a good impression upon the employer via the telephone, they have been offered an interview on the spot.

2) Ask questions about the role you are applying for – often speaking to the Manager or even the admin team before you apply for a role can endear you to them. You can make an excellent first impression, which they will remember.

3) Tailor your application or CV to match their job requirements in every way possible. Generic CVs or answers to application questions won’t cut the mustard. Think about all those transferable skills you have and make them shout out at the employer! Ensure to include everything you think is relevant; if it isn’t on your application for an employer to see, don’t assume their psychic!

4) Remember that not every employer is an expert in recruitment or interview techniques. So, if an employer feels they have a rapport with you, they may feel more inclined to offer you a job. Make them feel comfortable, and show then you have everything they want and need in an employee.

5) Research possible interview questions – this helps as some questions will inevitably come up and doing your homework prior to interview makes you look like a pro. Also, know what the company does (as per my first point), they will ask what you know about them, be assured of that!

6) Don’t ask silly questions – enquiring about the fantastic salary, bonus or holidays, regardless of how tempted you might be to do so it will signify the end of your interview!

7) Rehearse – the presentation or any answers to questions, study the information you have about the company. Sounds self explanatory, maybe, but these points are often overlooked.

8) Feeling over confident – this can trip you up, so don’t ever think you’ll ace an interview, as being cocky isn’t prepared and isn’t endearing to an employer.

9) Ask to visit the company before the interview to meet staff. They might not accept this offer, but it shows willing.

10) If possible, become a volunteer – this can help you get a foot in the door, you can see first hand how the company runs, and get a feel for the place. Also, it will allow you to know whether or not you could see yourself working there. Plus, it’s added experience for your CV.

11) Ask friends and relatives if they know of any available jobs – ‘who you know’ can sometimes bring unexpected job opportunities. It isn’t always a bad thing to take some time and utilise your contacts.

12) Apply – don’t expect one or two applications a week to bring you success. The more you apply for the more chances you have in securing an interview.

13) Make an employer smile or laugh – during an interview it is OK to use humour to your advantage. Just don’t be rude or act like your high; they won’t be laughing with you in those cases.

14) Dress smart, but not too smart – this might sound like common sense, but the amount of people who don’t grasp this concept is unnerving. Tracksuits, leggings, jeans and OTT jewellery, for most types of interviews are a definite ‘no’. Also, if you are a fashionista going for an interview, which isn’t with Vogue magazine, dull down the fashion or face alienating the interview panel. You want them to remember you not your clothes. If they are left thinking ‘they were weird’, because employers will judge, as we all do; this won’t make them want to hire you.

So that’s it, and although I didn’t intend to give a ‘lecture’ on job seeking do’s and don’ts, I have somehow managed to slide off track! Anyway, I hope some of what I have included in this post can prove helpful for someone, somewhere. I hope it also highlights that although job seeking can be the most frustrating, and stressful thing to do, and the odds might seem stacked against you, you can achieve successful results. Nothing is impossible if you put the effort in, and get savvy with some of the simple rules.

Many thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Tips For The Unemployed – Who You Know Vs What You Know

  1. Brilliant, thank you. Since I moved to Texas in September 2013 I’ve been taking some time off to get accustomed to the country and all. But I’m getting about ready to throw myself back out there.
    Even though my husband gave me many tips already, it’s always good to hear/read other oppinions and clues that might be important.

  2. A recruitment agent once told me that companies prefer a “safe” candidate who will do the job ok, to an unknown with great skills, because the employment process is risky and overall it’s better to have competence that fits, than brilliance that may not (paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of it). Consequently, I’ve been self-employed for two decades.

  3. “Well you could try bribery, lies, deceit and of course pretence.”

    I imagine plenty of people find that a promising avenue to success. Consequently, if I were an employer, I would prefer to hire someone I know and trust. Wouldn’t mute out qualification, though. I’d still want the job to get done good and fast.

      • Thanks for writing! But seriously, although i’m not looking for work, when i was that point on contacting the company before submitting a CV would have been brilliant advice… and not something i’d ever seen before.

        You have a good head for this stuff. You’d make, i think, a brilliant jobs placement agent.

        • Thanks! I appreciate that, I really do. Yes, it is an important point to always consider, whenever you do look for a new job.
          It’s strange you should suggest that; I actually used to teach employment skills, and get young people placements! I still construct CVs and help people with interview techniques, on an informal basis. I’d never work into this sector again, unless I had my own business! It’s too tough, well, you have to be very tough to get people to do what they need to get a job! Thanks again 🙂

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