A recent internet dialogue attracted my attention as a job candidate wondered aloud why he wasn’t being invited for interviews despite being a “perfect match” for the jobs he is applying to. The original post and subsequent comments led me to think back to a blog post I published in 2007 on this very topic. It appears below without edits or amendments.

[Originally published on March 1, 2007 at http:blueblanketblog.com where it was read by approximately four people.]

This morning I received a phone call from an applicant to a position I’ve been working with for one of my clients. The question she asked me is one I hear on a regular basis regarding hiring decisions. It’s always some variable of the following:

“I applied for X position and I received a no-thanks letter. I can’t understand why I’ve been eliminated because I’m highly qualified for the position. Can you tell me why the hiring managers aren’t interested in me?”

Interestingly, these questions are often coming from younger candidates, folks who have recently graduated from school or have been in the workforce for only a few years. This shouldn’t really be a surprise given a recent study that confirmed many recruiting and HR professional’s suspicions.

From the following article, ‘Gen Y's Ego Trip Takes a Nasty Turn’ as published in the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-esteem27feb27,0,716236.story) :

“An Associate Professor at S.D. State University, Jean Twenge, and four other researchers from the University of Michigan, University of Georgia and University of South Alabama, looked at the results of psychological surveys taken by more than 16,000 college students across the country over more than 25 years.

The study found that almost two-thirds of recent college students had narcissism scores that were above the average 1982 score. Thirty percent more college students showed elevated narcissism in 2006 than in 1982.

…researchers warn that a rising ego rush could cause personal and social problems for the Millennial Generation, also called Gen Y. People with an inflated sense of self tend to have less interest in emotionally intimate bonds and can lash out when rejected or insulted.”

If I could be 100% honest with the candidates that ask me that question, in most cases I’d want to say, “You’re delusional in your expectations and you over-estimate your own abilities”. Ouch.

I’m reminded of when I was speeding towards graduation from college. There was a time, thankfully a brief period, when I would answer “management” when someone asked me what I wanted to do after graduation. Somehow I had come to believe that management was something I could just do, not something I had to work my way into. I had taken a class called Leadership, which means I had all the answers, right? I wish I had someone willing to tell me I was being delusional in my aspirations just like I wish I could offer that admonishment to the candidates that call me.

The problem is that candidates all too often are forgetting that there is a 2nd side to the equation (providing further evidence that candidates are self-centered). Even if the candidate is very talented and has relevant experience, he or she must try to anticipate and understand the wants/needs/goals of the hiring team. The position description might provide clues, of course, as it will list many skills and competencies required for success in the position. Those clues provide only some of the answers.

What can you find out about the organization in the press? From people you know in the organization? Does the hiring team have time to groom someone for future success or must they hire someone who can succeed from day one? What was not included in the position posting that you think should have been?

The hiring team is looking for very specific things in their search. While you as a candidate may fit some or even many of those desires, you likely will not meet all of their needs. That’s why, for many job openings, hundreds of resumes are reviewed to fill just one position.

The bottom line – the hiring process isn’t about you. It’s about the organization, their needs, and ultimately their success. I recommend that as a candidate, you view the entire process from the point of view of the hiring team. What will they want to see on a resume? What kind of person will fit well within the organization or on that specific team? What intangibles might they be looking for in the interview process?

You may indeed be very talented. In fact, you might be the most talented person you know…really! That doesn’t mean that you’re the best FIT for the job opening. If you don’t get hired, do not be discouraged…you will be the best fit during another search.

If you have a realistic view of your own abilities, and understand that the job search process isn’t really about you, you won’t be disappointed at open doors that close….you’ll understand that some other door will open and have your name on it.

For another perspective on this study of ego within Generation Y, and the impact of this narcissistic epidemic on our society, I recommend an editorial from the Daily 49er, the student newspaper at Cal State Long Beach (http://www.daily49er.com/2.297/our-view-narcissists-get-over-yourse...).

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