Book excerpt

What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get A Job Around Here?

44 Insider Secrets That Will Get You Hired

Cynthia Shapiro, M.B.A., E.L.C., P.H.R.

St. Martin's Press

What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get A Job Around Here?
1YOU ARE BEING ELIMINATEDDO YOU THINK THE HIRING PROCESS IS ONE OF SCREEN-ing and interviewing applicants to determine the best fit for a job opening?It's not. Not anymore.In the last several years, what used to be a standard process of candidate consideration and placement has changed dramatically, and not in your favor.The new tactics employed by today's hiring mangers are enough to make us all yearn for the days when sweaty palms and nervous interview answers were the worst of our worries. Most people have felt a shift in our hiring practices but can't quite pinpoint why things feel so much more stressful than they used to. It's not your imagination.If it seems tougher out there than it used to be, that's because it is. Interviewing and hiring has gone from being a merely stressful process to a full-scale gauntlet that most candidates are finding themselves unprepared for.The new hiring and interviewing practices have morphed into a barrage of trick questions, hidden discriminations, psychologicaltraps, secret criteria, and unfair barriers that are actually designed to make you fall apart during the process. Some are even designed to make you eliminate yourself.The real question is not why things feel so much more stressful; it's how are people handling what's going on out there. Sadly, many are not handling the job market well at all. Today, according to reported data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 37 percent of America's unemployed have been without work for up to six months or more. That's the highest percentage in twenty years. Right now, for every job opening in the United States there are three unemployed workers waiting to take it. To make matters worse, it's estimated that only 1 percent of résumés are effective enough to make it to an interview and almost 95 percent of all interviews will end with unreturned phone calls or the dreaded form letter. In the midst of all this, there is no way for candidates to find out the real reason that they didn't make it. That is, until now. It is imperative that candidates learn how to read the signs, get the insider secrets, and protect themselves in this new hiring environment.This chapter will give you an unparalleled glimpse into the true motivations of hiring managers, what they're up against, and what tactics they've been trained to use to get what the company wants. You'll learn how closet discriminations, secret criteria, and interviewer tactics play a part in the candidate screening process and how to protect yourself so you can move forward.I will not be discussing some of the more obvious aspects of résumé and interview preparation you may have seen or read elsewhere. I am going where no other job seeker guide has dared to go before--into the taboo aspects of the job search process and into the world the hiring managers don't want you to see. You will uncover where their best-kept secrets are hidden and finally achieve a unique and powerful advantage in the hiring process.I'm going to show you how to work the system from an insider's perspective so you'll never have to worry about what's expected,what they really want to hear, what to avoid, or how to look like their top candidate. Some of these secrets are indicative of issues that cannot be changed but are still critically important to understand. Many secrets represent issues absolutely within your control, so you can use this information to make the decisions that are best for you throughout the process.It's time to learn the truth about what candidates today are truly up against.INSIDER SECRET 1You're not being hired; you're being excluded."I HAD ALL THE QUALIFICATIONS THEY WERE LOOKING FOR. This would be such a perfect fit. Why didn't I get a phone call?""I'm the one with exactly what they said they were looking for. Why couldn't they see that?"We'd all like to think that hiring managers are paid solely to look for the perfect fit for each position. Don't they read every résumé and cover letter, actively looking for anything that might signify a good match? If you have the right qualifications, you'll certainly be up for consideration, right? As many of you may have already guessed, that's not how the process really works.Imagine instead teetering stacks of résumés, directors and vice presidents screaming at harried hiring managers to hire for that open position "or else," and the phone ringing off the hook with unwanted calls from candidates wanting to know "the status of my résumé." Hiring managers don't exactly have a leisurely job and don't have the time or energy to care about your résumé or your desire to work for the company the way you'd like them to. Everyone who submits a résumé wants to work there, and that means hiring managers aresqueezed from all sides. They are pressured to make placements as soon as possible, but the people hired have to be the perfect candidates with all the right skills, have to be a good fit with the manager and team, and above all have to be a safe bet for success, or that hiring manager could soon find him- or herself out of a job.And what if the manager for the position is doing the hiring rather than someone from human resources? That can be even worse. A busy manager leading a team and meeting deadlines has even less time to deal with résumés and interviews, no matter how much he or she wants or needs that position filled.So what does all this mean? It means that when you submit your résumé, you aren't being considered for hire. From the first moment the process starts to the very end, you are being excluded from hire. There's a big difference.Those in charge of hiring for a company are not like recruiters. They aren't trying to find the best fit. They are not looking to place you in a position. They are looking to eliminate 98 percent of the candidates as quickly as possible.It's a common misconception that the hiring process is one of inclusion, carefully looking at each candidate to find the right match. The harsh truth is that until you have an offer letter in hand, you are in a system of elimination. Thinking the opposite will hurt your chances for making it to that coveted 2 percent.Today's candidate-screening process consists of a brutal three-phase elimination that begins as soon as you submit your résumé. Most hiring managers don't have the time or resources to go through every résumé carefully looking for qualifications that match the position. In fact, they most likely aren't even reading them. They are scanning and quickly separating résumés into piles labeled "maybe" and "no."The typical hiring manager spends only three seconds on your résumé. That's it, three seconds. That means if it doesn't stand out immediately, it's in the "no" pile before the hiring manager has finisheda sip of his coffee. Some résumés don't even get that three-second courtesy. If the cover letter is too long or seems boring, the hiring manager may not even bother to look at your résumé. That also goes for résumé submissions that are several pages long. Unless you're applying for a high-level executive position, résumés that are longer than one page may not be considered at all.That's if your résumé even gets to a real person. Having a total stranger do a quick scan on your résumé to decide your future is actually the best-case scenario. Many companies now use scanning software tools that look for certain key words to determine if you're a viable candidate. If you don't have enough of those secret key words, your résumé will never be seen by a human being. It will be screened out as soon as you hit that "submit" button on the company's online résumé submission site.The truth is: It's estimated that only 1 percent of résumés capture the attention of a busy hiring manager. The rest end up in the "no" pile. And none ever come back from that pile.I know this sounds brutal, but you have to understand that résumé screening is quite tedious. It's not that hiring managers don't care; it's just that after the first hundred résumés, every submission starts to look the same and their instinct to narrow the field kicks in. Thus the fast and furious exclusion process begins.If you craft your résumé imagining it will be carefully screened and analyzed by everyone who reads it, burying your key attributes in the details of your entire career history, you'll ensure that it looks like everyone else's résumé in the pile and you won't have a chance of standing out in the crowd.What if you get a phone call? You know, the one that says the company you'd love to work for likes your résumé and wants to ask you some questions or determine your availability for an in-person interview. This would certainly mean you're moving up, right? You'll be included now, right? Well, sort of. It is definitely an accomplishment when you can escape the stack of résumés and graduate to the level ofa phone call, but it's not time to let your guard down. You will be moving up, but you will also be moving into phase two, a much tougher aspect of the elimination process.Most people believe that if they've managed to get that coveted phone call from the hiring manager, they're in. They're now being actively considered. Well maybe, but only if they survive this next phase of the elimination process that more than half of participants won't. This introductory phone call is known in human-resources and recruiting circles as "the phone screening." And it's called that for a reason.Phone screening is not designed to get to know you and is not focused on hearing more about your skills. It's designed to look for secret red flags that will remove you from consideration before money and time are spent on a face-to-face interview. In fact, if you don't know what they're specifically looking for, you will find out that these phone screenings are often the last time you hear from the company. The phone screening is so heavily fraught with trick questions and traps that there's less than a 50 percent chance a candidate who gets one of these calls will move on to an actual interview.If you're one of the lucky few to survive the first few elimination phases and move on to an interview, certainly you'll be close to being considered for hire, right? Sorry, not yet. You can certainly feel very proud that you've made it this far, out of the stacks of literally hundreds of hopeful résumés. But you will still be in that process of heavy elimination. In fact, you'll be in phase three. The person or people interviewing you won't be looking for reasons to make you an offer. They will be actively looking for reasons to show you the door.Companies simply have too much at stake every time they hire someone. So, instead of looking for the best candidates, they will be much more concerned with actively looking for any red flags or danger signs that this hire may not work out. They do this because an unsuccessful hire can cost the company a great deal of money and time in both removal and replacement. Depending on the industry, a companycan spend as much as 150 man-hours on hiring-related tasks and cost-per-hire can be as high as almost half a new employee's first-year salary. The fear of making a hiring mistake that could cost the company double its hiring costs or become a contested removal creating a legal liability has morphed the hiring process into the gauntlet we see today. And the interview itself has the highest stakes in the process.Once you've made it to an interview, the company believes you have the skills and talent to do the job. That's the good news. The bad news? They will be screening for other things in this face-to-face meeting, secret things. They will be looking for company fit, appearance, personality, and, yes, danger signs that can best be discovered while talking to someone in person. No company will admit to this, but they all do it. The interview is an in-person high-stakes elimination process filled with trick questions, personality profiling, Internet screenings, background checks, and even psychological testing: "The last time you took illegal drugs at work, did it adversely affect your performance? True or false." (Yes, that's a question on an actual employment test!)Again, this is all designed to eliminate potentially undesirable candidates so the hiring manager can determine the safest bet for hire. Because a hiring manger's job is on the line with every recommendation for hire, the safest bet is the one who will receive the offer, not necessarily the one with the best qualifications. Explains quite a bit, doesn't it?This is what you're truly up against in the process. You will be actively eliminated right up until you get a formal offer in writing from the company. If you approach the process thinking that they are looking for all the reasons they should hire you, you won't be at the top of your game and you won't be able to stand out from the crowd of other hopefuls.If I've scared you with all this talk of exclusion, elimination, and your résumé in the trash bin, don't worry. These are all things that can easily be overcome if you know the insider secrets I'm about toshare with you. I'll give you all the best insider tips on how to create a résumé that goes right to the top of the pile, how to protect yourself in that initial phone screening, and exactly how to work the interview system to your advantage for survival and success. I'll give you the secrets to get around each of these elimination processes so you'll find yourself way ahead of the standard pack of hopefuls.First, a few more secrets about what you're truly up against in this process and a closer look at the secret criteria companies are using against you ... .INSIDER SECRET 2You don't fit their secret criteria.MOST PEOPLE WHO SUBMIT FOR OPEN POSITIONS HAVE THE skills, talent, and qualifications to get the job. But they won't. Why would a candidate who matches exactly what the company is looking for not get a chance at the opportunity? There's clearly something else going on in the selection process that's excluding you from the jobs you desire. The truth is: Skills and talent won't get you the job. When a company has several candidates with equal skill sets, something else comes into play, something secret and unique to each company. The number one hidden factor in the exclusion of qualified candidates is a company's secret criteria.Every single company, whether tiny or gigantic, has its own set of secret screening criteria that it requires its hiring personnel to follow. These criteria are never written down anywhere and go way beyond the standard requirements for the position. Some are things you've heard about such as: We don't hire anyone with a prior termination, or who doesn't have at least three stellar references. But there are many others that we don't hear about such as: We don't hire anyone who has been out of work longer than three months, has not workedfor one of our competitors, or doesn't appear to match our company's ideal image. Then there are the ones that a company never wants you to find out about: We don't hire anyone of a certain religion, ethnicity, background, appearance, lifestyle, health level, or parental status. That final tier in the secret criteria list is largely based on the personal preferences of the key decision makers at each company, and often these criteria fall squarely into the realm of discrimination.Yes, discrimination during the hiring and interview process is illegal, but companies still do it every day. How do they get around the laws designed to protect us? By making it part of their secret criteria that's never written down and never openly discussed.Most job candidates know it's illegal to discriminate against them for reasons based on age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, marital status, or medical issues, so they feel comfortable sharing these issues during the hiring process. I've heard countless times: "What does it matter if I tell them what religion I am or that I'm a recovering cancer patient? They aren't allowed to discriminate, right?" Yes, that's true; they aren't legally allowed to discriminate or exclude you because of these things, but they do. This type of information regularly causes candidates to be secretly eliminated from consideration. The company will never tell you the real reason that you weren't offered the position and won't even openly talk about it themselves. You'll be given the standard lines as to why the job went to someone else, such as "Your skills weren't the ideal match for the position" or "We decided to go in a different direction." Maybe you won't get any explanation at all.It's important to understand that anything you choose to share with a potential employer, whether in a formal interview scenario or informal chat, may be used against you.There's always a written and public list of qualifications for each position. Those will match the requirements of the law exactly: "Equal Opportunity Employer" and "all candidates considered." They are all prominently displayed in a job posting and on the wallsof a hiring manager's office. But what is legally or ethically required doesn't always match what's really going on behind the scenes.Behind closed doors, many companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get the perfect profile they desire. A CEO will walk into a hiring manager's office and say something like "Make sure the next person we hire is a black female so we can get our affirmative action numbers up." Or "We have too many working parents here who traipse off to soccer games during deadlines, so make sure the next person you hire doesn't have any kids." Or even "We've had too many people going out on medical leave this year and it has really hurt us, so make sure the next person you hire is in excellent health." For obvious reasons, these kinds of criteria will never have a paper trail and will never be openly spoken about. Everything from physical characteristics to health and marital status is secretly screened for. From long legs for the new vice president's assistant, to an attractive male to head up the marketing department whom potential clients will find appealing, to an older woman to work with the executive who has a jealous wife, you name it, it's been secretly specified and screened for, and no hiring manager will ever admit to it."Jason" was in the final stages for a job offer when he happened to mention that he wouldn't be able to start work until his responsibilities with the local gay pride parade were completed. He had agreed to manage certain aspects of this detailed parade and wanted to delay his start date until those requirements were complete. He didn't think anything of it, and the interviewer didn't say anything to show that this could be an issue.Jason was therefore shocked when, instead of the offer that was promised to arrive via fax the very next morning, he received a dry "no thank you" letter. When he called the interviewer (whom he had met with several times in person and who had always been highly responsive during the hiring process), he got no response. No phone calls were returned, and even his e-mail inquiries met with no reply.He later discovered that the president of the company was a religious individual who had issues with the local gay community. Jason had been told on several occasions that he was the top candidate for the job, and during the last meeting a full offer had been discussed and negotiations had taken place, with a start date determined. All that was left in the process was the formal offer to be faxed over and signed. Jason realized what had happened to his new job, but it was too late. No discrimination could be proven because nothing was done in writing and it became an issue of "who verbally said what when."In the end, Jason may not have wanted to work for a company whose president supported such discriminatory behavior, but this was his dream job, and he would never have intentionally jeopardized such a prized opportunity. Had he a better understanding of the levels of discrimination that can go on behind closed doors within the hiring processes of Corporate America, he could have better protected his dream job. His only mistake was assuming that because the law protects against discrimination, his disclosure of involvement in gay pride would have no bearing on a job offer. Living in a city that was accepting of his lifestyle had numbed him to unfortunate and necessary cautions.It's important to understand that candidates are regularly screened out based on criteria that have nothing to do with skills or talent but have everything to do with preferences. There are some companies that make a concerted effort not to tread on illegality, trying very hard to create genuinely fair and equal hiring practices. However, many companies are not so careful."Dan" had been through several interviews with a firm that was his first choice to join. He was extremely well qualified and was now meeting with a high-level executive for his final interview before the ultimate decision was to be made. To Dan's shock, at the end of this interview the executive said, "Well, you really are the perfect candidate. If you only had boobs, there would be an offer letter in your hands right now." He did not get the job.He was understandably outraged and even attempted to file a discrimination claim. But the executive denied the conversation had ever taken place and pointed to a particular skill in the job description Dan didn't have that suddenly became the "deciding factor" in the decision-making process.This is one of the more blatant examples of the secret criteria at work, and chances are you will never encounter an executive or hiring manager dense enough to come right out and say something like what was said to Dan (unless the executive really enjoys inviting potential lawsuits). In Dan's case, he was able to count himself lucky that the company exposed its true nature before he started working there and he was able to move on to work for a company that didn't employ such distasteful tactics. But in most cases, when secret criteria discrimination occurs, the response Jason received is the norm--sudden uninterest followed by the cold shoulder. The truth is: Once it's determined that a candidate doesn't fit within a company's secret hiring criteria, the opportunity is closed, and it's not coming back.Whether the screening specifications include illegal discriminatory practices or not, in every hiring and interview scenario there will always be some form of unwritten screening process.Countless jobs have been lost due to a lack of understanding that this level of screening occurs every day, and it is imperative we learn how to protect ourselves. The law cannot do it for us. (These steps to protection will be discussed in detail in chapter 3.)Don't make the mistake of believing the law will protect you during a discriminatory event. It cannot. Companies have become very skilled at putting their secret criteria deep underground where it's not easily seen and no proof or paper trail exists. If a company wants their next executive to have boobs, they will make sure that's what they get, even if that kind of screening is illegal. If a company wants to screen out a certain group, ethnicity, or status, it will do it.If you find that you are suddenly out of the running for a job you are well qualified for, most likely you've run up against one of thesesecret criteria discriminations. And unfortunately, that opportunity is now over for you.The next logical question is "Why?" Why have hiring practices become so harsh, secretive, discriminatory, and unforgiving? That's in Secret 3 ... .INSIDER SECRET 3You only get one shot.AT EVERY POINT ALONG THE WAY, YOU ARE BEING SCRUTINIZED and judged within an unforgiving system. The stakes are high and you only get one shot at each phase of the process. One three-second shot at wowing them with your résumé, one phone screening, and usually only one interview with each key member of the group. Why such scrutiny with no room for error?Because companies are running scared. It's expensive and risky to hire a new person. And they've got the added factor of bringing an unknown into the company dynamic. There is more at stake than you realize. Just one imprudent hire can cost, at the very least, money and, at the most, the momentum and positive attitude of an entire team. A company also knows it runs the risk of letting in a potentially litigious individual who doesn't have the best interest of the company at heart. Or someone who is just pretending to be an ideal employee only to cause great grief and managerial headaches once employed. Companies know it's much easier to get someone hired than to get a bad placement removed.Companies have all experienced the horror stories of employees who are hired only to immediately go on workers' comp or disability leave or to trump up a lawsuit that threatens the company's profits for the year. They've also experienced hiring an employee with seemingly great promise who turns negative almost immediately afterbeing hired and takes an entire department down in the process. All too soon a positive and well-motivated team is complaining about everything from management style to compensation and no work is being done.These risks are in the back of a hiring manager's mind throughout the entire interview and screening process. The severity of the screening process is based on fear: fear of making a bad recommendation for hire that will cost the company time, money, and productivity; a bad recommendation that could lead to the end of the hiring manager's job as well. There really is no leeway for the hiring managers.A hiring manager knows that candidates will put on their best act as a prime employee throughout the process. They'll try to look their best, say the right things, hide undesirable issues from their past, and say what they think the interviewer wants to hear. Hiring managers know it's relatively easy to act like the perfect candidate for an hour or two. So they are trained to scrutinize everything so closely that they read "potential danger" into everything they see and hear from an applicant.You may be an ideal candidate, with no intent to harm or take advantage of your potential new employer, but the hiring manager does not know that. So any red flag raised, whether accidental or even inaccurate, will stop the process immediately.In this high-stakes game, you will only get one shot at each phase of the process. There won't be any "He didn't do very well in the phone screening, but maybe he'll do better in the interview." The truth is: Once you've hit a snag in the process, you are immediately moved into the "no" pile. And you will never get a truthful explanation as to why.During this intense screening process, they won't ever allude to the fact that you've just made a critical mistake. In fact, they may even encourage you to say more now that you're on a roll, and make youfeel like this disclosure won't be an issue in the decision-making process. They won't ever want you to know that you've made a mistake that could cost you the job. Why? That's in Secret 4 ... .INSIDER SECRET 4No one will tell you when you've made a mistake.SHOULDN'T SOMEONE TELL YOU WHEN YOU'VE JUST MADE A mistake that cost you the job you wanted? Wouldn't that be a nice thing to do, at least for future reference? It would. But I wouldn't count on seeing it happen any time soon.In fact, a company representative will never tell you what happened that landed your résumé or interview on the "outs."No one will tell you that your résumé wasn't up to par; it will simply land in the trash and you'll never get a phone call. No one will tell you that you said something that scared the interviewer during a phone screen; you'll just never be able to get that person on the phone again. And no one will tell you if you did or said something wrong during your interview; you'll just get that dreaded form letter weeks later, if you get anything at all.Which all leads, again, to the inevitable question of "Why?" Why do companies treat their candidates this way?"Karen" had submitted her résumé to an interesting company on the recommendation of a friend who worked there. She was called immediately after submitting her résumé and then had a very successful in-person interview with the head of the department. Karen was feeling better and better about this opportunity as the process progressed and began to imagine herself happily working there. As she met with others through a series of interviews, she was soon notified that herreferences had been contacted and that there was just one last meeting before an offer would be made. The human-resources person asked Karen about potential start dates and told her what the offer would consist of in compensation and benefits. Karen showed up for her final interview in high spirits. She met with each member of the team she'd be working with, was shown where her office would be, where her parking spot would be, and was given a tour of the entire facility. She was even given the book of employee benefits information to take home and peruse while waiting for the formal offer to arrive. When she e-mailed in her thank-you note to the key person who had organized the meetings throughout the day, Karen was told that an offer would be arriving within the next few days.But when she received a rather thin envelope with the company's letterhead on it, she became suspicious. Shouldn't an offer be a little thicker than this? It wasn't an offer. It was an insultingly brief letter thanking her for her time and letting her know that they had determined her "skills may not be the best overall fit for the current needs of the position at this time." When she e-mailed the head of the department to ask what had happened, she got no response.Think a company wouldn't be allowed to get away with this kind of behavior? They can, and they do. It happens to candidates every day, candidates who accidentally say or do something that spooks the company into dropping the offer. The truth is: Until a formal written offer has been extended and signed, you are still in the screening process. Even this late in the process, any red flags can cause a company to pull their verbally "promised" offer and exchange it for the form letter.Ever wonder why so many companies send that dreaded form letter? That horrible little piece of paper that blandly states you are no longer a candidate and then adds insult to injury by saying they'll keep your résumé on file for future opportunities and they wish you well in your job search.It says nothing of any value to a job seeker. And they do that for a very specific reason.The truth is: They aren't allowed to give you any information whatsoever about why you weren't hired. Any information they disclose about the actual decision-making process could open the company to a potential lawsuit. No hiring manager will risk his or her job for that. It's a much more defensible position to say "Your skills don't match the position" or "We've decided to go in a different direction" or some other such company line. Those lines are rarely the truth.A hiring manager or other company representative will never tell you that you mentioned money too many times, or that they were worried about the upcoming surgery you casually mentioned, or that you didn't have the right "look" they wanted, or that one of the interviewers thought you were a little bit negative in your answers. This kind of honest disclosure could cause a prior candidate to run straight to a lawyer. And even if that candidate didn't have a strong case, it would take time and money that the company doesn't want to spend to fight it. All companies know that even one lawsuit threat could pull them off their game or even cost their profits for the year. It's something companies are very afraid of and won't risk.The truth is: Most companies are more afraid of being sued or having their secret hiring criteria made public than they are of lying to a candidate.If they took the time to call you on the phone or interview you in person, you had the skills they were looking for. Your skills matched the position when you were called, so what happened? Secret criteria, interviewing tricks, and screening happened.If you get one of these letters or, worse yet, get nothing at all and suddenly can't get anyone to return your phone calls, chances are you activated one of the secret elimination flags or hit a snare you weren't even aware existed. You stepped on the wrong side of the invisible line even for a moment. And there will be no second chance.People are called or interviewed because the hiring manager thinks they're a good match, but people are excluded from continuing in the process because of red flags and secret criteria they don't know about.Don't make the mistake of believing that just because no one has told you that you aren't interviewing well, or are doing or saying something that's costing you opportunities, that everything is fine. If you aren't getting calls after qualified résumé submissions and aren't getting offers after interviewing, things are not fine.The truth is: Because companies are unable or unwilling to tell candidates when they've done something wrong, most candidates are unknowingly carrying multiple mistake patterns throughout the job search process that continue to cost them one opportunity after another.No company will tell you the truth about how you're doing in the process, so candidates don't know what to fix or improve, let alone that there is something that needs fixing.If you aren't getting the responses you'd like from your job search, you need to look for the hidden mistake patterns that could be costing you jobs ... .INSIDER SECRET 5Hidden patterns cost you jobs."MARK" HAD BEEN GOING ON JOB INTERVIEWS FOR OVER A year. He'd always had trouble finding a job when he needed one, and this time had proven to be no exception. He had begun to wonder if he was blacklisted within his industry. How could it be that someone with his qualifications would find it so hard to turn an interview into an offer? He assumed that someone in his employment past must be giving bad references or saying negative thingsabout him, but that wasn't the case. After checking, we found that his references were saying wonderful things about him. What was really going on was that Mark was carrying a mistake pattern that had accidentally cost him job after job. His only mistake? Answering two common questions in a way that was raising a red flag for interviewers.The two questions were: Why such a long job search? And why did you leave your previous employer?When asked why he'd been out of work so long, he never wanted an interviewer to think it was because he was doing something wrong or not a good catch, so he would talk about how bad the economy seemed to be and how difficult it was for everyone to find a job in the industry these days.When asked why he'd left his former employer, he didn't want it to seem like he'd done anything wrong, so he talked about how unhappy he was there, how unfair the boss was, how bad the work environment was, and how he wanted to find something better, where he'd be happier. These seem like pretty harmless answers, don't they?Mark had no idea now negative these comments made him seem in the eyes of an interviewer. But no interviewer ever told Mark what was wrong. The interviewer would simply end the interview and move on to the next candidate, leaving Mark without any helpful information for his next interview opportunity.No one ever told Mark that talking about his previous workplace or boss in a negative way would make him look like an unsuccessful or unlucky hire. And no one ever told him that complaining about a bad job market would have the same effect. Hiring managers know there's always a high demand for good candidates no matter the state of the economy or market. Mark would have done much better talking about getting some additional credentials, doing some personal projects, looking for just the right job during this period. Anything other than complaining about how tough it was to get ajob or commenting negatively on his previous employment circumstances. Once he discovered what he'd been doing wrong, he was able to easily correct his answers. He soon received two job offers in a row and was able to leverage the two against each other to achieve a nice jump in salary. He was amazed to find that what had been plaguing his job search his entire career was suddenly no longer an issue with one small correction."Maria" was looking for a job that paid at least $60,000 per year. She had no interest in considering anything less than that. She had determined that amount was what she needed to pay her bills and didn't want to waste anyone's time if that wasn't going to be the compensation offered. So she made her salary requirement known on cover letters and during phone screenings. But she began to wonder why she never got any callbacks. She was puzzled.What no one ever told her was that stating her compensation requirements up front made it look like money was all she cared about. That kind of thing makes interviewers nervous and tends to knock candidates out of the running. Maria was shocked to hear this. She thought she was doing these companies and interviewers a favor by not wasting anyone's time. What she didn't realize was the name of the game is to move through the hiring process until you reach the point where you can negotiate these kinds of things from a solid foundation.Even when a company tries to corner you by directly asking for your "desired salary" during an initial interview or requiring you state your "compensation requirements" in a cover letter, don't bite the hook. In these situations it's always best to state what you're currently making and say that you are flexible and open to consider any offer. This leaves you with a solid foundation for effective negotiation down the line without knocking you out of the running. (More on the secret to negotiating top dollar in Secret 28.)Once I taught Maria the right way to go after the money she was looking to make, her next interview turned into an offer. An offer thatnot only met her monetary goal but also ended up being $10,000 more than the top compensation level specified in the job ad.These are just two stories, but these kinds of simple mistake patterns cost people the jobs they desire every day. A hidden mistake pattern can knock a candidate out of the running the moment they submit their résumé, with one wrong word during a phone screening, or with an inappropriate story during an in-person interview. That's all it takes for an opportunity to turn into a dead end.Even though I've been telling you the harsh truth about the current hiring processes you're about to go up against, you don't need to have a single sleepless night worrying about it. I'll show you how to protect yourself by telling you precisely what these hiring managers are screening for at every stage of the process. We'll be going through each of the most prevalent mistake patterns in the following chapters, how to neutralize each one, and how to turn them to your highest advantage in the job search process.This is what you're truly up against. Now I'll show you the secrets and insider tips that will turn it all in your favor.Are you ready? Here we go.YOU ARE BEING ELIMINATED KEY POINTS TO REMEMBERSECRET 1: YOU'RE NOT BEING HIRED. You are actively being excluded from hire. Understanding that this process is one of elimination rather than inclusion will help you stay at the top of your game and help you differentiate yourself from the competition at each step of the process. As you move up, you are not being included; you are moving through more stringent processes of elimination. 
SECRET 2: YOU'RE BEING SCREENED OUT. The truth is, even though it is unethical, unfair, or illegal, companies are eliminating and discriminating against candidates for a wide variety of reasons: age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, sexual preference, looks, social standing, even parenthood. 
SECRET 3: NO SECOND CHANCES. The current system is one that does not allow for second chances. If your résumé is not in the best format, if you don't know what to say when they surprise you with a phone call, or if you make a mistake during the in-person interview, that opportunity will be over and it's not coming back. There are no second chances. 
SECRET 4: WHAT MISTAKE? No interviewer and no company will ever tell you when you've made a mistake that cost you the offer. It's too much of a risk. That means most candidates are carrying multiple mistake patterns throughout their job search that cost them job after job, without ever being told. 
SECRET 5: WHAT'S HIDING IN YOUR JOB SEARCH? If you aren't getting a high level of responses for the résumés you're sending out or you aren't getting offers after interviewing, chances are you're carrying one of the common mistake patterns no company will tell you about.WHAT DOES SOMEBODY HAVE TO DO TO GET A JOB AROUND HERE? Copyright © 2008 by Cynthia Shapiro. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. Cynthia Shapiro, a former Human Resources V.P., left her position because she grew disillusioned with how most corporations are forced to do business today. She is now a well-known employee advocate and workplace consultant for Fortune 100 and 500 firms, regularly lecturing and writing on the most critical topics affecting employees today. She is the author of Corporate Confidential, and has been featured on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, PBS, in The Wall Street Journal, FortuneGlamour, Self, Details, Essence, Real Simple, and major newspapers across the U.S. She lives in Southern California.