Empty Suited Job Hunters

Have you seen the reality TV shows that teach people how to improve their image? I am referring to old programs like Image Makeover, What Not to Wear, Queer Eye, and Ambush Makeover. This season on American Idol, Tommy Hilfiger is providing image coaching to help the contestants begin to look like music stars. For the contestants who choose to listen to Tommy, you can actually see their transformation.

Job hunters go through a more elaborate makeover process. In addition to updating your occupational skills, you learn how to update your resume, customize your cover letter, dress for success, create your personal branding, build confidence, get connected to social networks, lose weight, dress for success, make your elevator pitch, and then practice your interview skills.

Image makeovers play an important role in helping you look good, and create a favorable first impression. They can also make you feel good, as in confident, self-assured and at ease in mixed or new company.

That’s the good news about image makeovers, but here is the real reality job hunters should be aware of. While looking good and feeling good may help you qualify for consideration, what keeps your foot in the door is your ability to qualify for hire.

If you cannot perform well, your credentials and made over image are pointless. This is what recruiters describe as an empty suit. You may look good on the outside, but there is no business justification to hire you if you lack the horsepower to perform well on the inside. You need the total package that spans the following three categories:

  • Priority 1, Performance Skills – your resilient mindset, flexible attitude, and adaptable personality to regulate self-motivation, good efforts, results, and any preferred characteristics (i.e., pace, sense of urgency, confidence, honesty, commitment, etc.).
  • Priority 2, Occupational Skills – certifications, academic credentials and practical experiences that build professional, technical and administrative know how related to a specific job, career, or vocation.
  • Priority 3, Job Search Skills – career planning, company research, resume writing and distribution, polished image, personal branding, time management, cold calling, networking abilities, practiced interviewing, and negotiating.

Experts agree your priority 2 and 3 skills are essential to help you qualify for consideration. However, to get the job you must also qualify for hire by demonstrating the priority 1 performance skills. Interviewers may refer to those skills as your fit and chemistry to the job and organization. If interviewers believe you have the right fit and chemistry, you may get the job even if you don’t have the best occupational and job search skills. Your priority 1 skills can often trump your occupational and job search skills in importance to employers that are concerned about improving productivity.

Despite the importance of priority 1 skills, state governments and academic institutions are oriented to provide training related to priorities 2 and 3. You can also find thousands of Internet sites that provide free redundant training and learning resources related to priority 3. Training on those lesser priorities is more abundantly available because it is much easier to deliver, and the results are considered more tangible than attempting to improve your mindset and mental skills.

Welcome to the future, and to the next generation of job readiness training. Thanks to advancements in performance psychology, training to develop your priority 1 skills is no longer mysterious or intangible. That training is being delivered to athletes to improve their inner game, perseverance, and endurance. Workers receive similar training to improve their inner work life or engagement and productivity despite challenges posed by their difficult work conditions.

The State of Illinois has recently become the first state to begin offering Jobseeker Success Mindset Training to help the unemployed persevere until they can find jobs, and perform well to get the offer despite their difficult circumstances.