Adventures in Recruiting: I Told You I’m Qualified! What More Do You Want?

It’s been a little bit since we were actively recruiting, but in all the commotion from putting our firefighting crew together at the end of August, I completely forgot to pull one of our ads from a popular job board. You guessed it. We got flooded with e-mails from people wanting a job that was no longer open. Whoops.

It’s never pleasant to waste your time applying for a job where you have literally no chance, so under the circumstances, I recently opted to send out a mass response informing everybody who had applied through that medium that the job was no longer available. Most understood, or at least knew well enough to let it alone.  But there’s always that one guy.

This particular guy had already caught my attention earlier in the process, and not in a good way. He hadn’t made it onto the short list simply because he didn’t live in the area.  Since we had been running shorthanded, I wasn’t particularly big on waiting around for somebody to relocate right then. He claimed to have decades of experience, but was unprepared to submit a resume and references. He even volunteered a future date (now long past) when his resume would be completed, but he never followed up. Instead, he took the familiar tactic of forcefully insisting that he was fully qualified for the job while providing no verifiable details. On hearing that the position had been filled, he shot off a brief response arguing that since he was “one of the most qualified” people I could possibly have spoken to, he really needed to “question” my hiring procedures.

Right. That’s a quick way to the bottom of a recruiter’s “Big Fat NO” pile. 

The Office Aussie is not impressed.

Let’s get something straight. Whenever we have a job posting up, I’m getting e-mails and faxes from would-be workers every single day. All of those people think they’re qualified, too (or, at the very least, they’re taking shots in the dark and hoping something hits). Vociferously announcing that you are the most qualified person ever to walk this earth is never going to result in an employer’s dropping everything and rushing to the phone to offer you a position (or a gigantic salary bump. It’s a fantasy either way.) Here are three reasons you should never tell a prospective employer you’re the most qualified person for the job:

1. You don’t know the company. I work here. You don’t. I know the culture, the business model, the managers you’ll be dealing with, and the current project lineup in a way that no outsider is going to immediately understand. I’m in touch with the hiring manager every day, getting updates on precisely what s/he wants for that role. A couple paragraphs’ worth of job posting and the 10 minutes of online research you may or may not have done to prepare for your application cannot even come close to the amount of internal information and management criteria we’re working with. So, frankly, proclaiming “I am qualified” isn’t convincing. It just makes you sound arrogant, and nobody wants a self-absorbed co-worker.

2. You don’t know the competition. Sure, you might have clues—you may have outright asked certain individuals whether they planned to apply, or bumped into somebody you recognized coming out of an interview space or talking to the big boss. You might be a significant player in a small industry, hedging your bets. You might even have some kind of “inside scoop” from a buddy who works for the company. You could be right about your place in my candidate hierarchy. But you don’t know everything. I could have gotten 10 more candidates in the last five minutes. We might be thinking about promoting an internal candidate. My supervisor might be debating whether to pull the opening and make do with the existing team. We might even have started interviewing people who got their applications in ahead of you and found someone we liked. You just don’t know, and you won’t unless you get called back for the next step.

3. You don’t know the job. Yes, you may have completed similar assignments for other companies, but you haven’t worked with our specific equipment, colleagues, clients, org chart, deadline structure, schedule, or facilities before. You’ll have no way of knowing how our management wants you to do things until you start work and start training. Job descriptions frequently evolve based on individual hires’ talents, as well as companies’ needs. There’s no guarantee you’ll be doing the exact same thing in two months. New assignments might come your way, or you might find yourself doing a particular task less often. Don’t call yourself a perfect fit when you cannot poss

ibly know precisely what you’re trying to fit into, yet.

The best candidates don’t tell employers they are highly qualified. They show us. They prove their abilities through resumes, terminology, mannerisms, portfolios, references, skills testing, on-site behavior. Once hired, they pay careful attention to their trainers and focus on learning how the company expects them to perform, rather than trying to take over or do everything  their own way. And they quickly become well-nigh indispensable, not because they told us they were amazing, but because they consistently do great work.


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