How Hiring Is Like Holiday Gift Shopping

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During this gift-giving season, try to understand an employer's hiring psychology by comparing it to the mindset of a holiday shopper. Job applicants can compare the successful job seeker to that perfect gift the hiring manager wants to present to his department or company.

Ask these common holiday shopping questions to understand the perspective of a hiring manager this holiday season.1. Where do you shop? Let's suppose you're looking to give a sweater to a special someone for a holiday present. Where do you think you'll locate that perfect present? Do you go online, into a big department store, to a discount shop or to a boutique that sells unique, specialty items?

If an employer is looking for that one-of-a-kind employee, chances are they will employ a recruiter to find that special candidate. If they are looking to fill a very common functional role, they might try Craigslist or look at resumes on a job board. If they are looking to find an overall strong profile, they will likely be searching for candidates on LinkedIn. And if they are looking for that needle-in-a-haystack kind of person, they will likely engage an external recruiting agency.

Tip: Make sure that you are findable in the "right" places. For example, recruiters will likely value "passive" candidates who aren't marketing themselves by placing their resumes in online databases. But they'll seek out people whose value shines through their LinkedIn profile. If you are seeking a common role, you might have a stellar resume posted on key job boards. In short, if you want to be found, go to where the hunters are!

2. What about a product makes it the perfect gift? Suppose you are looking for a size medium grey sweater for a loved one. You are at the store and see a sweater display. There aren't any grey size medium sweaters in the lot, but you could get one in white or black. Or you can pick up a grey one in either size small or large. What do you do? You prioritize. What's most important: size, color or style?

If you can't get every feature to align, where will you compromise? When will you pass on making the purchase altogether?

Candidates often have many, but not all, of the employer's "wish list" of skills and experience. They have to figure out which are the most important – and when to just keep a job open until that "perfect fit" candidate can be found.

You might think you can do the job because you have most of the skills and experience required. But if one of those skills is shaky, or if the employer believes that it isn't one of your key attributes, it just might be enough to tip the judgment against you.

Tip: Carefully tailor your resume to each job opening. Carefully match your skills to those required in a position description. Typically, employers will list the most important skills first and work their way down in levels of necessity. And they'll assume that you do the same when describing your skills or accomplishments in your resume's bullet points. Make sure, for example, that the first thing on the employer's list isn't the last thing on your resume's skill section!

3. How much do you pay? When you are looking at a variety of things you might buy as a present, chances are you'll also be looking at their relative prices. Maybe your budget is such that you'll select the cheapest option that fits the bill. Maybe you'd prefer the prestige that goes along with buying something more expensive.

Tip: If you are looking for the best possible compensation, try to hold off that discussion until late in the process. You'll likely be asked about your expectations or requirements in your first phone screen, but be steadfast about not boxing yourself in.

When the employer has lots of choices available, he will likely use acceptable salaries as a way to weed out more expensive candidates. Wait to name your price until you've sold yourself, and the employer knows you are the best of the lot rather than the cheapest of the lot. That way you can nudge the selection criteria from cheapest price to highest value and have the best possible shot at an exceptional compensation package.

Happy hunting!
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