Sitting On The Couch Eating Cheetos

Nov 5 2012 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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This is the first impression you give employers when you tell them your job is looking for a job.

Let’s assume this is true, that you’ve been spending 40+ hours/week looking for a job. You know how tough it is, how time consuming, how mentally challenging.

But all employers see is that you’re sitting on the couch eating Cheetos.

No … this isn’t a fair perception of most of you, but fair doesn’t matter. What matters is that in job search, perception is reality, fair or not.

To an employer, if you’re not working, even during today’s terrible job market, either you’re not trying or there’s something wrong with you, keeping you from getting hired. These are perceptions that are held over from markets with candidate shortages, where employers were so desperate for skilled employees that anyone with a pulse could find a job.

In a job market with candidate shortages, employers may still have had the perception that if you were unemployed for a long time you were damaged goods. But even with that perception, you could still find a job because there was such a shortage of skilled candidates – you’d eventually find an employer to hire you despite the perception.

The realities of today’s job market are much different. Finding a good job today requires a combination of using today’s best practice job search strategies, effectively differentiating yourself from competitors, hard work, necessary job skills and luck.

Even employers who are more empathetic, even hiring managers who may have had tough job search challenges before finding their current job are still biased against the unemployed. Because when you describe what you’ve done during a job search transition, another perception works against you … you’ve let your skills go stale.

When you’re in career transition it’s challenging to change hiring manager perception that you’ve kept your skills sharp. How will you show a hiring manager that you can make the same immediate impact as someone who is currently doing the same job and using the same skills day-in, day-out?

Just because you remember what you did six months ago doesn’t mean you’ll remember it as clearly as someone using those skills now. Today’s hiring managers are being tasked with doing more with less as continued productivity increases drive corporate profitability (not increased demand). Hiring managers have goals that can only be achieved by doing more with less and hiring talent that can hit the ground running without training or ramp-up time.

When your business and technical skills aren’t kept sharp by using them every day, you give the perception (and feed the fear) that you’ll take a while to get up to the productivity levels of the rest of the team. Remember, new employees are being hired to increase team productivity, not lower it, or even keep it constant. For hiring managers to meet their goals, get their bonuses, continue their career track, even keep their jobs, they have to choose new hires who will better their teams, not keep the status quo.

So rather than complain about what’s fair and what’s not, why not learn how to change that perception?

The first step to change is recognition of how you are perceived by hiring managers.

Now that you recognize how your career transition is seen by employers, how can you change what they see?

I’ve listed some ideas of how to change this perception in an earlier article. See Filling Resume Gaps: Part 4 – Describing your job search at to learn more about how to change perceptions about your job search.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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