I hear this every single day. It’s usually followed by, “Look Tony, a ‘professional’ (salesperson, accountant, engineer, professional, ‘whatever they need’) is a professional (salesperson, accountant, engineer, professional, ‘whatever they need’) and I can do it. Just get me the interview!” Every candidate just absolutely knows they can do just about any job opportunity I have if they just get the chance to get the interview. This is especially true the longer the person goes without a job.
I suspect that 50% of the candidates we see can probably do 50% of the jobs we see. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but probably isn’t too far off. I’m convinced that lots of people could probably do lots of the jobs that we have…if they got the chance. And I tell people, “If it’s your father-in-law, cousin, brother, relative, close friend, etc., you may get the chance to do the job.” But, when it comes to comparing an individual’s experience to other individuals’ experience, getting a job is a totally different issue.
Most people see their ability to perform a job in the light of their own experience and ability. Now unless it’s a ridiculous comparison like a salesperson becoming an accountant, most people think that no matter what they’ve sold, they could sell just about anything… No matter what kind of accounting they’ve done, they can account for just about anything… No matter what kind of ‘whatever’ they’ve been, they can probably do just about ‘whatever.’
I know that, often, these people are desperate to find a job and really need to go to work and they can’t understand why they don’t even get a shot at some of the opportunities. This is especially true when they want to blame me, or any recruiter, for not getting them the interview that they know they can “nail” even without the exact experience that a hiring authority likes to find. They compare themselves to themselves, regardless of the other candidates that might be available.
The problem is that a hiring authority is trying to find the best qualified candidate who is the least risk. He or she is going to try to find the best experience they can that most closely aligns with the job they want done. They are not interested in “potential.” They are interested in a proven track record in what they do so they can be sure that whatever they want done, gets done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
On top of this, the hiring authority is being evaluated based on who they hire. Think of the risk a hiring authority runs in the image of themselves they portray if they hire, say, a salesperson to do an accounting job. Even if the salesperson was a great accountant, when they haven’t recently been doing accounting and they make an even minor, let alone gross accounting mistake, someone is going to ask the hiring authority why they hired that person to do the job. Imagine what an accounting manager is going to feel like when somebody asked him why, after his new hire fails, he hired a salesperson to do an accounting job. He’s going to look like a fool.
It would be like hiring Clayton Kershaw to play football. He’s a tremendous athlete but his track record is in baseball, not football. Now Clayton could sit there all he wants and say, “But I’m a good athlete, and I just know I can play football,” but when he doesn’t perform very well, somebody’s going to ask, “Why did you hire a baseball player to play football?” And the hiring authority is going to have a very hard time answering that question. There’s really no excuse he can give other than saying, “Well, I thought since he was a good athlete he could do the job.”
When companies go to hire, they try to hire the candidate with the most qualified experience that will indicate that the candidate is going to be successful. If an accounting manager has plenty of accountants to choose from (with documentable track records in what they do) there is no reason for him or her to hire a salesperson even if the salesperson can convince them that they are the best accountant that ever came along. This salesperson has absolutely no documentable experience as an accountant even if he or she could do the work. The hiring authority would look foolish hiring a salesperson when accountants are available.
The challenge that candidates have, for the most part, is that they don’t comprehend the vast numbers of candidates in just about every discipline and category that are available to most any hiring authority. If these companies want a candidate with one blue eye and one green eye, if they wait long enough, they can find him or her.
Remember, hiring is a comparative issue. Companies, and the people in them, want to hire the most qualified, experienced candidate they can with as little “risk” as possible.