May 23, 2018

Career Advice

Lessons from Professional Wrestling: 5 Tips to Bodyslam Your Competition During the Hiring Process

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

Have you ever watched professional wrestling?

Yeah, neither have I.

But based on the three-second clips I’ve seen over the years, it reminds me of the hiring process. (Without all of the scripted moves, fake tans, neon-colored lycra, and exposed body parts, of course.)

One minute you’re watching an organization deliver an atomic leg drop on a candidate for making a careless mistake, and the next you’re witnessing a candidate proffer a collective suplex to his competitors and surge ahead of the pack.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the wrestling-inspired lessons I’ve learned during the hiring process to help you bodyslam the competition during your next job hunt.

This month we’ll focus on the things that will help get your foot in the door in order to land an interview. Next month we’ll talk about ways to get an edge during and after the interview.

Personalize Your Cover Letter
Want to deliver a little Sweet Chin Music to your competitors? Personalize your cover letter with a story that illustrates your passion for the organization’s mission. I regularly receive cover letters from very accomplished individuals who can’t muster the energy to mention the name of the hiring organization, let alone articulate why its mission matters. My clients are passionate about their work, and they want to hire people who feel the same. That’s why I’ve seen many candidates stand out from the crowd by writing compelling cover letters/personal stories that detail why they want to be a part of the organization.

Tailor Your Resumé
If the job for which you are applying requires X, Y, and Z experience, and if you have said experience, make sure it’s included in your resumé! I can’t tell you how many times a client has declined a candidate because he lacked specific experience; however, when I relayed this news to the candidate, the response was, “Oh, I do have that experience. I just didn’t put it on my resumé.” Unfortunately for the candidate, he already clotheslined himself and likely won’t be reconsidered.

Follow up and Reiterate Your Interest
If a week or two has passed since you applied for a job and you haven’t heard back yet, follow up with an email reiterating your interest and asking if the organization needs any additional materials. This is a good double-check in case your application got caught in spam or the hiring manager missed it, and it also lets the employer know that you are sincerely interested and care enough to follow up. Whatever you do, do not pick up the phone and pester the hiring manager. Likewise, don’t neglect to follow up. Either of these two scenarios will land you a diving elbow drop instead of an interview.

Be Smart About Who Puts in a Good Word for You
In these early stages, some candidates are tempted to have others put in a good word for them. This can be a risky move if not executed properly (which, mind you, is the same reason WWE banned the Piledriver). For instance, it’s risky to send a blanket letter of reference from the senator for whom you worked, even if it’s written on that fancy letterhead. Not only does it reek of desperation, but its generic content fails to provide information relevant to the hiring manager. And, let’s face it, politicians are controversial. Depending on the employer’s view of the senator, you might actually undermine your success with this tactic. A less risky (and potentially very productive) move is asking someone who is known and trusted by the hiring manager to put in a good word for you. If you don’t have this kind of connection, it’s probably best to let your application stand on its own.

Make the Hiring Manager’s Life Easier—not More Difficult
Throughout the hiring process, candidates should seek to make the hiring manager’s life easier — not more difficult. You don’t want to be the candidate who fails to follow application instructions multiple times, becomes fussy about providing additional information, arrives late for the interview, or generally seems high maintenance. From the hiring manager’s perspective, if you’re difficult now, you’ll be a real PITA as a staff member. Stated another way, if the hiring manager is tempted to call John Cena to give you an “Attitude Adjustment,” you probably won’t make it to the next round.

Tune in next month when we’ll cover ways to get an edge during and after the interview. Until then, I’m tapping out.

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