Why Being the Best Won’t Get You the Job

Picture of young woman fired from work

A recent conversation reminded me of an often-overlooked hiring fact. In talking with a highly qualified candidate who kept hitting roadblocks when it came to the job offer, I saw the familiar signs.

In the final decision rounds, hiring managers will always choose the less risky candidate over the “best” (smartest, best-educated, most experienced) one. Why?

During the interview, candidates typically compete for “best” status in hopes of landing the offer. Yet at the end of the day, it’s impossible for hiring managers to know for sure which candidate really is the best assuming they have comparable qualifications.

Alternatively, it’s very easy to see which candidate is the riskiest hire. One who has been out of the workforce, or has job-hopped, or is entering a new industry. Even when said candidate can point to past experience that renders them well-qualified, doubting voices like “She sounds confident, but what if she’s not up to speed? How will I explain my decision?” seep in.

So given the options hiring managers are faced with, it’s often better to be safe than to bet on selecting the best candidate.

Does that mean you can’t overcome these risk hurdles? That you’ll never be hired because your resume is less than perfect? No! It means you need to reduce the risk by addressing any unanswered questions.

Beyond referencing your transferable skills, you need to paint a very clear picture of your process, with proof of past success with endorsements, achievements or testimonials.

Before the interview:

Work that referral network! If you know someone in the organization, ask them to pass along your resume to the hiring manager (and provide contact information if you have it).

Support your brand with third party endorsements. What do your former colleagues say about you? Add these testimonials to your LinkedIn profile to let the hiring team know what it will be like to work with you, reducing that risk factor.

Learn the major pain points for the organization you’re interviewing with ahead of time if you can. Where you understand their challenges as well as their priorities, you can focus the conversation around high impact ways you’ll make a difference.

Side note: If you think your connections will be hesitant to refer you, stop right here. How can you update your LinkedIn profile to show you’re a great fit for the role? When connections will be happy to refer you!

During the interview:

Come equipped a separate story for any of the elephants in your room. If there are unanswered questions around why you left your last job, how your qualifications fit a new role, or why there’s a gap on your resume, you’ll need to frame an explanation in the form of a story to address each one of them.

Learn the company’s current processes for implementing new solutions and change management. What’s working and what isn’t? What success stories can you share to speak to your abilities to successfully solve similar problems? What would your first 30-60 and 90 days in that role look like? The more clearly you can explain how you work and how you’ll effect change, the less risky a new hire you are.

When you paint a clear picture of how you’ll fit into the organization based on what others have said about your work, a roadmap for integrating into the new role and a examples of how you’ll tackle pressing problems, you’re poised to overcome the risk factors and win the offer, with or without the perfect resume.

 

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Author

Elizabeth Borelli

Elizabeth Borelli

Elizabeth Borelli is a certified career coach with a proven track record of helping mid-career clients to aim high and reach their goals. Beginning with mind-set, clients gain the clarity and self-belief to find work that's both meaningful and rewarding.

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