Thursday, 24 May 2012

How good are you at deciding whether to make a job application?

When we are looking for a job or looking for a promotion it is usual to look at the  person specifications and considering whether  we meet it. Often coachees will ask me: should I apply for this? Others will come with a vacancy and go: I am going to apply for this, what do you think?
Being realistic about your own prospects of success is quite difficult. People who are out of work may consider that they have nothing to lose in casting their net widely and having a punt. (This rather ignores the depression that can set in with the law of diminishing returns) So if they fancy the role they will have a go. When I’m coaching people my work is to support them and not to poor cold water on their ambition: although there will be times when I do counsel and more focussed or targeted approach.
So I was really interested to read about the Kruger-Dunning effect, in 1999 they hypothesized that the more people know the less confident they are , whereas the less people know the more they overestimate their abilities.
 For a given skill, incompetent people will:
  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Having gone on studying this cognitive bias they have deduced (2008) that poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve. They lack the skill and experience to enable them to know what they don’t know.
The caveat of this is that they were testing humour, grammar and logic rather than the ability to solve complex problems or lead organisations. But it is an interesting principle: we don’t know what we don’t know.

So how can people make sensible decisions about whether to apply for a role?
There is a lot of subjective judgement about your own abilities, but you can reduce your margin of error. What is that Dunning and Kruger say: you can’t know what you don’t know, and the people who over-estimate their abilities don’t listen to feedback. So get on with your research, find out what this job is really about, what skills it really needs and then ask the following questions.

Well clearly the first test is to look at the objective criteria: do I have the right qualifications, right experience?

Secondly look at the person specification and ask yourself ‘if I were recruiting for this role what would my ideal candidate be doing now?’ Does this describe you?

Thirdly, ask ‘if I were recruiting for this role and could not have my ideal candidate, which of these criteria would I be willing to give up?’

Fourthly, given that you now know what the ideal person looks like and what they are doing now, does such a person exist? Are there lots of them? What have I got that would be really useful that this ideal person may not have?

Fifthly, am I 80% of the way there towards meeting this specification? If the answer to that is yes then it may be worth the punt…This is somewhere that the real subjectivity kicks in: but pay attention to the numbers in the job description and the significance of the expereince they are asking for. If it is a fundraising job, running a Race for Life may not be want they want... yes you worked hard but just how much will they be expecting you to raise? that will give you some clues.

 And finally, treat the writing of the application as a test. If it flows easily and you are finding that you have the right examples and it is easy to feel confident then you are probably in the right area. If you are struggling and not sure that your examples are of the same depth and breadth as the tasks in the job... then that struggle is an indication to you.  

Find out what you don’t know about the job and then find out what you don’t know about yourself. Ask for feedback… maybe your coach will give it to you!.

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