The 2 most important concepts every job hunter needs to understand

Concept 1. The hiring manager thinks in the language of risk.

When HMs are hiring they want to minimize the risk in the hiring decision. What does that mean? It means that the more information they have about the candidate, his working style, and most importantly the quality of work the candidate can deliver, the more confident they will feel about the accuracy of their hiring decision.

So, when they need to hire someone:

  • They will be looking into their immediate network first. Is there someone in their connection, who has already proven that he delivers on the job?
  • They will ask their team for a referral. “You know the job, you know the culture, you know the drill — please go and find me a solid candidate.
  • They will ask their friends and business partners. “I have a job to fill. Is there anyone you can refer?

Simultaneously, the HMs will talk to their Talent Acquisition team (TA):

  • They will have a meeting with the TA (we call it ‘intake’) in which they will discuss what a perfect candidate would look like. The TA then will go and start sourcing candidates and post a job online.
  • Sourcing phase — this is when TA will be playing detective finding the best person for the job. The mindset here is “the best people are already employed because well, this why they have a job”, The TA will then approach potential candidates with a suggestion to have a conversation.
  • It will also be the TA team to screen the candidates who have applied online.

If the HM doesn’t have an in-house recruiter team, they might engage someone on the side — an external recruiter or an agency/employment agency. There is more risk in that. The more unknown variables the HM involves in the hiring equation, the higher is the uncertainty in the quality of the outcome.

  • When we engage a third party we relinquish control over the hiring process. We don’t know what kind of candidates the third party will bring.
  • We don’t know how the third party operates. The best ones should adjust to the HMs’ working style, but you know that not everyone is the best out there.

Lastly, remember that job that the TA posted online. For the employer that is the riskiest and the least favourable option. Why?

  • Some people apply online without even reading the JD. ➡ Statistically speaking, there are more low-quality (read: unqualified) candidates.
  • Some people read the JDs, they know that they do not qualify, yet they still apply hoping to pass the screening (which is highly unlikely).
  • HMs pay money to post jobs online.
  • It takes a lot of time to screen applications. Again, time is money.

As a job hunter, if you understand this, you also understand that your effectiveness directly depends on your ability to build relationships. And that is concept #2.

Concept 2. Career Capital vs Social Capital.

Career Capital is a term coined by Cal Newport, a Harvard professor and an author of some mind-shifting books (Recommended read: everything by Cal Newport).

Essentially Career Capital is the wealth of skills and knowledge that you have accumulated over the course of your career.

Those who have a wealth of valuable Career Capital (skills that are in demand on the market), for example, software engineers, have no problems in getting a job. Headhunters find them and snatch them like hot pies.

A connection of mine has a son who started working for Amazon. Freshgrad, 2 years of exp — they took him in on crazy conditions. 25k signing bonus, 105k annual salary, and they paid for his move to Vancouver. Enough said. But not everyone is a software engineer.

If you understand that your career capital is not something you can leverage, you will have to leverage your social capital — your network.

Think about it. If there is you and there are 9 other job hunters like you who have a similar skillset, who’s going to get the job? It will be the one who networks the hardest.

Conclusion? Again, build relationships. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes energy, but I promise, it will pay off in the long run, and this strategy will make you more productive in your job hunt.

“I am not good at relationship-building!” Have you ever caught yourself saying that? Well, you won’t be with that limiting belief. You are programming your mind with your language. Stop saying what you are, instead start creating self-definitions of what you are not. And if you are not a person who settles, if you are not a person who chose stagnation over growth, you will start asking the right questions — not “why I can’t do it” but “how?”


Use these 2 concepts as a foundation for your relationship-building. Let’s sum up.

Concept 1. Understand the internal dynamics within the company and focus on befriending people who have the power to change your situation (peers, HMs, TAs).

Concept 2. Accumulate Career Capital but in the meantime grow your Social Capital. Both are equally important in building up your career.



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