Job Talk: Is that really why I didn't get the job?
Dear J.T. & Dale: Recently, I was NOT hired for a freelance PowerPoint specialist job. During a follow-up conversation, I was told that the hiring manager did not believe I could create presentations containing 60 or more slides. As an expert in all things PowerPoint, I am rankled by the slide figure excuse. I would not work up to slide 59 and suddenly crash. Should I believe the explanation? — Sam
J.T.: In today's market, there are hundreds of equally qualified applicants. This means hiring managers have to use very specific criteria to be able to choose one and set aside all the others. Think of it this way: You walk up to a display of apples in the supermarket. They all look great. Which one do you choose? You pick one. Then, if someone were to insist that you explain why you selected that particular one, you would find a way to rationalize the choice.
DALE: I'm here sadly shaking my head, envisioning the "I am not an apple" mail you are going to get. However, I understand the point and want to focus on the key phrase "rationalize the choice." What would happen if we could sit down with the hiring manager and say, "Come on, do you really believe that Sam would keel over when he tried to go past 59 slides?" He'd say: "Of course not. But we do a lot of giant presentations, and his experience didn't include those, so we went with someone whose did."
J.T.: And if we said to the manager, "Why 60?" he might chuckle and say, "I picked it out of the air as a typical long presentation." That is what it's like for hiring managers. They end up choosing in the moment, based on criteria that help them rationalize a difficult decision.
DALE: So now, Sam, you get to the next application and you're going to be tempted to emphasize that you are a long-haul expert, capable of a hundred slides, even a thousand. And there's a good chance that it will cost you the job, because the next manager might well think as I do: "Anyone who creates a PowerPoint presentation that's more than 10 slides ought to have his computer set on fire."
J.T.: Yes, there's a danger of trying to be everything to everyone. And, moreover, it's possible there were other factors about your candidacy that they didn't like. Employers don't have time to go into detail with each candidate as to why they were passed over. Not only does it take them away from their real job, but it opens a dialogue that has no happy or productive ending. So, chalk this up to an employer that you wouldn't want to work for anyway.
DALE: Agreed. If they like their PowerPoint presentations long, they've probably missed the point.
THE BEST CAREER RESOURCES
J.T.: It's time to pass along our recommendations for useful career tools, and this time we both agree on Bob Nelson's "1501 Ways to Reward Employees" (expanded from the ori ginal, with its "1001 Ways"). It's a dazzling collection of techniques that others have used to thank, inspire and delight employees. Every manager or team leader should have a copy and wear it out.
DALE: Yes. Most managers have 1,499 fewer options. All the typical manager knows to do is reward employees with money or time off. And that sounds like enough, except when the company gets pushed and there's no time and no money, or when times are good and the usual rewards become entitlements and lose motivational power. Thanks to Nelson, managers instantly have plenty of options. Some of the ideas might be too cute for some — say, the bulletin board of employee baby pictures — and some might be too expensive, like weeklong group vacation trips, but that's the beauty of the 1,501, including suggestions that always work, like a handwritten note of appreciation for a job well done.
J.T.: And speaking of appreciation, this new version features a series of helpful essays, including one on Millennials and how the "video game" mentality can be used to motivate them. Well done, Bob Nelson.
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