Miranda Nash, president of recruitment software company Jobscience, agrees with most Americans that “politics today are not exactly the example we all want to follow.” But that hasn’t stopped Nash, a self-professed “political junkie,” from finding uses for the inspiration she draws from watching the political world.
Recently, Nash turned lessons she learned from watching politicians into five tips to help job seekers maximize their chances of getting hired. “I actually think that politicians can give applicants some good tips,” Nash explains. “Politicians are forced to master these techniques to get any attention at all — certainly to get elected. It’s a positive thing. It’s about being genuine with who you are and thinking about the needs of your constituents. Frankly, the company and the interviewers should be thought of as your constituents when you’re coming in as an applicant.”
Five Political Tips for Job Seekers
1. Do Your Opposition Research
In politics, candidates often conduct research into their opponents’ lives and histories, looking to understand the enemy they are up against. According to Nash, when it comes to job seeking, candidates conduct “opposition research” in order to figure out what other people think of them. In essence, it’s the act of managing your reputation in the eyes of potential employers.
“The point is to research how you appear online,” Nash says. “Understand what it is that other people are perceiving about you as an applicant.”
Nash suggests that job seekers keep close tabs on their social media appearances, but she always encourages them to look “anywhere else that [they] may have contributed where [they] might be able to enhance [their] positive impression.” Sites like Quora and Stack Overflow are good examples of easily overlooked places where candidates can build positive images in the eyes of potential employers.
2. Shake Hands and Kiss Babies
We all know the iconic image of the baby-kissing politicians, looking to ingratiate himself with the crowd that could either make or break him. For job seekers, the crowd that needs wooing is the company at which you are applying.
“This is about showing interest in your interviewer and all the other people in the company that you’re talking to,” Nash says. Don’t be self-centered, and don’t view potential employers as nothing more than pathways to jobs. Take genuine interest in the companies you apply to and the people who run those companies. Building these relationships early can pay off in the long run.
Nash warns that less experience applicants often “forget about the importance of this.” So workforce newbies — take note.
3. Don’t Answer the Question
Generally, we think of politicians who dodges questions as shady characters. However, Nash takes this technique in a different, much more honest direction. “Really, what I mean is you need to come in as an applicant — especially in an interview — with a few key stories or points that you know you need to make,” she explains. “The goal then is to fit those stories to the questions you’re being asked.”
So, rather than responding to an interviewer’s questions in the moment, applicants should come prepared with the narratives they want to tell about themselves, and use those narratives to answer the questions asked of them. “They can just attach the right story to the right question,” Nash says. “So, come in with the key points you know you want to make.”
Applicants who don’t come in with these key stories can easily slip up. “What happens is they’ll get thrown by the question and then fail to communicate something that is really relevant,” Nash says.
4. The Personal Is the Professional
We know that applicants need to come in with key points and relative stories — but what makes for a good key point or story? Aside from career highlights and impressive achievements, Nash also stresses that applicants “need to get across their personal stories.”
Nash gives an example of a college student who recently applied for an internship at Jobscience. He was a “good kid, but hadn’t had a lot of work experience” because of his relative youth.
What he did have was the makings of a strong, relevant personal story. Nash explains: “I’m reading through his resumé and picking out things like he’s been through multiple different surgeries, he’s a javelin thrower, [and] he’s been taken down by injury and unfortunate circumstances many times and managed to bounce back. For me, if I were him, I would be telling that story in a really compelling way.”
Unfortunately, the applicant in question did not know that the personal is the professional. “He hadn’t thought through how to interview, so that story didn’t come out,” Nash says. “He hadn’t figured out how to tell his story in a compelling way.”
The result? The applicant was not hired.
5. Know Your Policy
“This is kind of basic,” Nash says, but it’s incredibly important. Nobody trusts a politician who doesn’t even seem to understand her own policies. Similarly, no one wants to hire an applicant who doesn’t understand what they are applying for.
“Do your research online. Read up on the company. Look at recent PR and news around the company,” Nash suggests. “Check out at least two of the company’s competitors so that you’ve got a lay of the land.”
Once you have a good understanding of the company, you can be “very straightforward about connecting what the company does to your own experience,” Nash says.
For example, Nash points to her own company. “We’re a recruitment software company,” she says, “so whenever an applicant comes in who has worked with a recruiter or a staffing agency — or, frankly, just tried to get a job — they should be able to relate that personal experience to some aspect of what we do as a company.”
Looking for a job is an incredibly common part of life — most of us have done it multiple times and will do it many more times in the future — and yet, Nash says, “not enough applicants find a way to connect it or tie it to the company.”
One Size (Sort of) Fits All
Nash believes that these tips can be useful for any job seeker, whether they are new to the workforce or multi-decade veterans. Still, she notes that “it can be a different experience — depending on where you are in your own career life cycle — how you use these tips to the fullest.”
And these tips are most important for young workers applying for internships and similar lower- and entry-level positions. “You need to find a way to still communicate who you are without the crutch of a really long resumé,” Nash says of the young workers.