Get to Know the Person Making the Hiring Decision
I met Noah Ferdinand while I was the drama coordinator in our church. What struck me about Noah was that he is wonderfully creative. I realized that he knew more than me, so I encouraged him to seek jobs in creative skills, like CBC broadcasting, and to take over my job as drama coordinator.
However, getting a job wasn’t something that was going well for Noah. He had just moved to Canada from the Philippines, and even though he was very educated with all kinds of experience, “It wouldn’t transfer,” he lamented.
From a coaching perspective, he represented so many immigrants coming to Canada and the U.S. – highly qualified, trained and experienced people who have made a mark in their country of origin. However, they can’t get anything but “Joe Jobs” here – minimum wage jobs that high school graduates and dropouts get. North America has doctors from other countries working as cleaners and cab drivers.
What a waste! What a tragedy! Noah was already in his mid-30s. He had a master’s degree and was working on another master’s degree. How many master’s degrees did he need?
He told me about a job where the employer was looking for someone who not only had policy training, analysis and development experience, but creative skills – someone who could think innovatively.
Noah had two hurdles to overcome. The first was getting a job in a new culture. The second was a problem all people looking for jobs face, but is magnified for immigrants; employers tend to hire the least threatening candidate, not the best candidate.
There are a myriad of assumptions and beliefs that come with an immigrant that is not appropriate to our hiring process. They attach special significance to everything that happens to them when they come from a culture where paranoia is appropriate, where there is bribery, corruption and graft. Undoubtedly, employees get caught up in it.
They may have reason to be paranoid in their country of origin, but that doesn’t translate well into the North American culture.
They read too much into things such as the reasons why an employer isn’t taking their phone calls or reading their email. There could be legitimate reasons, like the employer is out of town.
Immigrants have to learn the hiring process. It helps when they understand that employers always have fears. The assumption is that employers know what they’re doing. The reality is often the opposite. They don’t always know what they’re doing. The hiring process is driven by human nature, not by technology or management techniques.
Employers are often afraid that the candidate will have a personality fault and won’t get along with them; that they have a secret addiction and will fall to pieces as soon as they have a deadline and are under pressure; that they’re a social agitator and will create a violent crusade in their organization.
Merely sending out résumés doesn’t do anything to eliminate the fear employers have about candidates. It doesn’t work well because employers, like everyone else, fear those they don’t know.
Noah saw a job vacancy that appeared to fit his education and experience. I encouraged him to identify the hiring manager, the person who would actually make the hiring decision. This person would likely be Noah’s immediate supervisor. It is imperative to establish a rapport with that person because people tend to hire those they know. To his credit, Noah was able to speak with several people in the organization, including the supervisor. After learning about his background and experience, they encouraged him to submit his résumé.
In Noah’s process they short-listed 30 résumés to review, then selected 10 people to interview by phone or in person. They reduced this list to 3, gave each of them a real assignment and then interviewed each person. When they hired Noah they were confident they had the best candidate.
Noah is an apprentice consultant with the company. He takes complex policy-related processes and translates them into simple graphics. He makes it possible for people to understand complex policies without going through thick manuals, reports and policy and issues papers. At one glance they see the entire process.
Noah says, “I’ve never been a fit like this in other jobs, which have been purely artistic, purely public policy or purely business. The beauty of this job is it synthesizes all three.”
“I never thought something like this would happen. I had a résumé for media and the arts and another résumé for business. The beauty of this is that I just submitted a résumé for who I am.”
Noah probably wouldn’t have been hired if I hadn’t coached him. I just can’t imagine how many trained and qualified immigrants are out there with their talents being wasted.
Immigrants need to learn how to leverage their experience and talents and familiarize themselves with the hiring culture in North America. However, everyone has to learn how to establish rapport with the people who really make the actual hiring decision.