Chances are, you’re mediocre.
You haven’t made yourself good enough to be hired, but you also aren’t bad enough to be completely ignored.
If you are offended by that statement, I’m sorry, I truly am, but we’re dealing in a cold, harsh world and if you’re going to break your own personal mold you need some cold, harsh reality.
Be frustrated, it’s OK. Confused is OK too.
Interviewing without an offer, or even a meaningful follow-up, is like having someone break up with you when you thought things were going really well. You wonder, you examine, but usually don’t get closure.
If you aren’t quite sure exactly where you are going wrong, examine this list and see how many of these mistakes are in your repeat offender file.16 ways to be just another mediocre job seeker Click To Tweet
1: Lack hard skills
Employers hire based on hard skills – What can you do?!
I’ve read all these industry blogs lately touting charisma as the new job requirement. Hogwash.
Every job seeker needs technical skills, even if they are only loosely related to your specific industry. If you don’t have actual skills that represent how you can improve on this particular business you’ll never get to the point of showing off how witty and cute you are.
2: Blend in
Conducting interviews has always been an enjoyable experience for me…until I get to my fifth or sixth interview subject, then it gets boring and repetitive.
If you are just going through the tactics written down in some free “50 steps to master every job interview” ebook, you are doing exactly what everyone else interviewing is and you are boring your interviewer.
Be slightly disruptive.
If someone asks you a question you think you can demonstrate on a wipe board, stand up, ask permission to use their board and start drawing it out. Maybe it’s your core structure for a marketing plan, or an editing workflow, or social media blueprint – start showing what you know rather than just talking about it. It shows confidence and command.
Don’t go nuts, you can just as easily become annoying, just be slightly different and memorable.Be slightly disruptive in your job interview or you're just going to blend in with the pack Click To Tweet
3: Out of touch
If you have a lot of job experience on your resume, immediately hiring managers think you are out of touch with the current world. They imagine you walking in and trying to sound hip by using words like “Facebooking” and “InstantGram”.
Learn what is current – you are not above it – and make sure your resume, reel or portfolio shows, near the beginning, that you aren’t some stodgy old curmudgeon yelling at kids to stay off your lawn.
4: Too current
Guess what – businesses actually made lots of money and functioned just fine before social media was ever considered. Social media isn’t a job; it’s a responsibility of a job.
Get too narrow in your focus and become irrelevant before you were even relevant.
5: Weak demo reel/portfolio
The entertainment industry is a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ business. Put time into your demo reel and/or portfolio, get other people to critique it, be open to new ideas, listen to feedback and really, really make it pop.
It’s your first impression and shows what you can actually accomplish if a company hires you.
I once had an aspiring reporter send me a demo reel that had their name misspelled on their opening slate. Their name!The #entertainmentbiz is a show me world, you must have a great demo reel and portfolio Click To Tweet
6: Think small
During an interview most job seekers focus only on the tasks and responsibilities of the role. While this is smart and makes a lot of sense, find time to show you can think bigger.
Businesses are about making money, if you don’t know exactly how the company you are interviewing with becomes profitable, and think really hard about how you can help toward that goal in your role, you’re missing the big picture.
Every job can contribute to the bottom line, whether it’s by increasing ratings, brainstorming ideas with the sales team, operational efficiencies etc etc.
If you can speak to how you will help impact revenue, instead of just saying, “I’m a really hard worker” people will listen.
7: Demonstrate how clever you are
Stop trying to be clever, it’s hard to be funny, even most paid comedians don’t get laughs a lot of the time.
Face it – you are probably not funny in a global sense, more in just a ‘when I’m at my family reunion people think I’m hilarious’ kind of way.
Stop the kooky icebreakers, the non-sensical banter, the fish ties or the unique headline on your resume, you are making people uncomfortable.Stop trying to be clever or funny in a job interview, you are making people uncomfortable Click To Tweet
8: Use cliché’s
“I just want to work hard” = you don’t actually have any skill
“I’m a team player” = can’t do much yourself
“I’m probably too loyal” = Bulls**t
“I’ll do anything, I just really want to be here” = you have maxed out your credit cards and are desperate
The job process stinks. You will be rejected without cause, ignored when you are a perfect candidate and told you just don’t have “it”. Pick yourself up, realize they weren’t your right match and you probably wouldn’t have been happy there anyway.
Negative self-talk isn’t going to make anything better; it won’t change things or make you more attractive to the next hiring manager.
10: Follow all the rules
Before you break the rules you have to follow the rules.
If a job application says no phone calls please, nothing is more annoying that getting phone calls. Don’t be that person.
At the same time, don’t think that relegates you to sending in your resume and just sitting back because that’s what the rules say. Get creative, find someone else in the company that can speak on your behalf, send a creative letter, buy some Google ad space targeting their company name and why you are a great candidate.
I’m not here to give you all the ideas, but just sending in a blind resume and waiting is a little too passive for this scribe.
11: Think time is on your side
Young people tend to imagine there is always time, guess what, nobody can beat father time…nobody.
The more lackadaisical you take your job search the more distant you become from you last relevant experience. Don’t make the mistake of getting comfortable either in a dead end job, or in your parents basement, keep pushing, the longer you wait the harder it gets.
12: Use the same strategy for each interview
Every interview needs a completely new approach; there is no one size fits all when it comes to interviewing.
Study. Research. Know the business inside and out and why this particular position is important to their future.Each job interview you have requires a new approach, there is no one size its all Click To Tweet
13: Think you are in control
Near the end of the movie Se7en (one of my all-time favs) Morgan Freeman sprints toward Brad Pitt while screaming into a walkie-talkie “Whatever you hear, stay away! John Doe has the upper hand!”
While your job application process isn’t quite as grotesque and pain-felt as the ending to Se7en, the same thing basically applies – someone else has the upper hand.
You have no semblance of control over who responds, what it means or doesn’t mean or how you are being perceived.
You also have no control over the questions that are asked, the direction an interview takes or the personality of the person across the table from you. Be flexible, roll with the punches and think on your feet.
14: Talk too much
Nervous talk is one thing – being infatuated with your own voice is yet another.
Interviewers know that you are in the position of doing the most talking, but that doesn’t mean they want you to blather on. If you take 10 minutes to answer a two minute question, interviewers start to imagine you as the person they dread approaching their office because they know you will waste their time.
Get to the point, be smart about it, support it with your current skill profile and how you would best execute and then STOP.
15: Lack a mentor
We all need mentors, whether we are 21, 38, or 52. Mentors don’t always have to be someone older, wiser and look like Yoda, they just need to be a sounding board from within your industry that can help provide advice.
Mentors should be able to be brutally honest with you, the last thing you want is a mentor that just tells you how great you are (Hi Mom!) . You need someone that knows you well and is still willing to point out your shortcomings and guide you towards fixing them.
16: Say stupid things on social media
I’m still amazed that people think deleting a tweet makes it go away, or removing a picture on Facebook vanishes it from existence. Companies will research you on social media, so make sure your LinkedIn is spotless, your tweets are relevant and appropriate and your Facebook posts aren’t drunk stumbles while flipping off a passing policeman.
Sorry to be the chairman of the ‘no fun club’ – but you are being watched, more now than ever, so be on your best and make smart choices.
Generally speaking I’m a slow writer, I ponder, I delete, I recreate. This article took me 45 minutes to write – a record for me – and it’s because I’ve made every one of these mistakes as a job seeker.
But I pushed through, I learned, I tried new strategies.
The message here isn’t ‘look at me I’ve got this figured out and you’re mediocre’ – quite the opposite – it’s to not give up.
If you’ve made these errors then learn, move forward, change. And hopefully be a mentor to someone else a few years down the road.