Get To First Base

By Jack Newcombe

May 9, 2012 5 min read

Job seekers, what is your goal?

If you said that your goal is to get a job, you answered incorrectly. That's like an author sitting down to write the great American novel; the goal is too lofty and too nebulous and can seem daunting and cause anxiety.

Speaking of authors, in 2003, author Michael Lewis wrote "Moneyball," which chronicled the unconventional player-evaluation techniques of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the rise of using detailed statistical analysis to evaluate baseball players, a technique known as sabermetrics.

Lewis details sabermetricians' attempts to debunk the myth that certain widely accepted statistical evaluation methods are the be-all and end-all of player evaluation (e.g., runs batted in, stolen bases and batting average). Instead, the argument is made that scouts should focus on other, nonconventional statistics, such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage, to be better predictors of a player's success.

In fact, in 2011, "Moneyball" was made into an Academy Award-nominated film, starring Brad Pitt as Beane. In the film, there is a scene in which Beane is talking to his statistics guy (a fictionalized version of real-life statistics guru Paul DePodesta, played by Jonah Hill) and the dialogue attempts to explain the concept of the book. Hill's character explains that given that a team's objective is to produce wins -- and that the only way a team can do that is by scoring runs and that the only way a team can score runs is by getting players on base -- a team's goal should be to get as many people on base (on-base percentage) and to produce as few outs as possible on the basepaths (i.e., to stop attempting to steal bases).

Just like the folks trying to win baseball games, a job seeker should break down the process of getting a job into small steps that ultimately will get you to reach your goal of getting a job. If your goal is to get a job, what is step one in that process? What is your on-base percentage?

Your goal should be defined by what stage you are in in the hiring process, starting with your r?sum?. The goal of a r?sum? is to get an interview. That's it. Once you have the interview, the r?sum? is worthless.

Given that's the case, your r?sum? is your opportunity to put up a billboard that grabs attention and makes the reader interested in the product, i.e., you. As a result, think about the brands (e.g., education and previous employers) that people have heard of that will grab their attention.

If you don't have any, that's fine; just find something that people who don't know you can understand, such as a high GPA, speaking a second language or the fact that you lived in another country for an extended period of time. If you still don't have anything to highlight, you should reconsider applying to any job that requires a r?sum?.

Let's assume we highlighted our brands and were able to get an interview. So, what is the goal of an interview? This one is tricky.

In a lot of ways, all interviews are the same. You say how great you are, that you're a hard worker and that your biggest weakness is that you're a perfectionist. (By the way, never say that's your biggest weakness; it shows a lack of self-reflection and can come across as pompous or fake.)

The goal of the interview is to make it to the next step in the process, which is another interview or even an offer. What's important is that you keep the ball rolling. Keep your personal brand moving forward throughout the process; just get on base.

Assuming that the brands you highlighted on your r?sum? made the potential employer think you're moderately competent, in an interview you need to connect with the person on the other side of the table.

As president of a company, I have combed through thousands of r?sum?s and done hundreds of interviews. I look for fire; does this person have a motor, a drive to succeed? I look for attitude; does this person think positively and have the ability to come up with solutions? I look for work ethic; is this person going to be willing to put in the time and have the dedication it takes to be extraordinary?

Every interviewer is different, and every job is different. Once you have the interview, find the connection and exploit it as a mother does to her daughter on "Toddlers & Tiaras."

Finally, good bosses and companies can see through canned answers and fluff. Be authentic; be honest; and be yourself. If you put yourself out there and you don't get the offer, then the job was not the right fit for you. Just keep swinging for the fences.

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