Job Search

3 Mistakes that Turn You Into a Commodity Candidate

Commodity:  A reasonably interchangeable good or material, bought and sold freely.

You: Not a commodity!

Hiring managers will swear up and down that every role has a “set compensation range” which does not deviate.

And yet time and time again, we see executives negotiate packages that rewrite those rules.

This is not an accident.

These executives don’t see themselves as a “jobseeker” which is just about the cheapest commodity there is.

They see themselves as a “1-of-1” candidate, and take actions which back that up.

Here are 3 of the biggest pitfalls along the way, and how you can avoid them to take control:

MISTAKE #1: Answering Job Postings

I know it’s tempting to hit that “apply” button and upload your resume when you see a position that might be a good fit. But it’s a recipe for poor results. Because the INSTANT you submit that application, you are telling an employer, “I have zero leverage in this situation- please lump me into a giant pool of candidates and compare away!”

Here’s another way you can pursue that role:

  • Jump on LinkedIn and run a search to see if you have any first-degree connections at the company. If you do, send them a quick message re-establishing the relationship, and ask if you could pick their brain about their experience at the company. That’s a natural segue into discussing the open role (and potentially enlisting their aid in getting you in as an internal candidate).
  • If you don’t have any first-degree connections at the company, run an Advanced Search on LinkedIn for second-degree connections who work there. These are people who are one step removed from you. Cultivating relationships with them is an excellent way to get in the door. Here are some tips for accomplishing this:
    • When sending the invite to connect, check out the “Mutual Connections” you have with them, and specifically call out a person you know in common in the note that accompanies the invite. This has been shown to result in a drastically higher acceptance rate.
    • Once they accept, send a few strategic follow-up messages to warm them up. The first should be a quick thank you note for accepting your connection request. The second can share a little insight into who you are, and how you know the mutual connection. The third is where you politely ask a few questions about their experience at the company. Again, a natural segue point into discussing the open role.

Here’s the best part about this approach (beyond avoiding the sanity-destroying process of blind submitting resumes): you don’t NEED a job posting to execute this.

Create a list of dream companies you want to be in business with and start building those bridges!


Also read: LinkedIn’s New Look and What it Means for Your Profile


MISTAKE #2: Being Passive throughout the Interview Process

Have you ever had the experience of going through a torturous interview process, with multiple face-to-face interactions and promises of an offer to come…only to have nothing materialize? Or even if an offer does come, it’s shockingly below what you were expecting?

Here’s the truth: the culprit is not always the employer.
Oftentimes, it boils down to “low value” signals you’ve been putting out throughout the interview process. After all, if an employer gets a sense that you don’t value yourself highly, can you really blame them for stringing you along and/or low-balling you?

Here are some ways to avoid this trap:

  • Be ruthless about sticking to time limits. A 15-minute call runs for 15 minutes, and not a minute over. A 1-hour long interview wraps up at the 1-hour mark, regardless of how well it’s going. Giving up free time devalues you. Hold the line.
  • Don’t start the interview by sliding over your resume and waiting for questions. Instead, broach the 2-3 biggest PAIN POINTS that the company is facing based on your research, and then share 2-3 major CAREER SUCCESSES that directly support your ability to address those pain points. This approach opens the door to getting insider information about what they’re really dealing with, and helps turn the interview from a general meeting to a working meeting (which is exactly what you want)
  • Do not agree to any follow-up interviews without first asking what topics will be covered that were not discussed earlier. This will give you a signal about how seriously they’re taking you as a candidate, and whether a follow-up is worth your time. If they refuse to offer any details, politely bow out.

Also read: 3 Mindset Shifts to Rock Your Next Job Interview


MISTAKE #3: Not Being a Real Person

Taking on a new hire isn’t just about collecting a bunch of qualifications and skills. This person will become a part of the team. You’ll see them every day, struggle through difficult situations together, celebrate successes together. When you excise your personality and life story from the equation, you are taking away a valuable opportunity for people to bond with you on this human level.

If you’re asked that old chestnut, “Tell me about yourself” don’t respond with a thinly rehashed version of your resume. Instead, share a story about overcoming adversity in your life, or a defining moment that crystallized who you were.

Don’t be afraid to disagree, especially if it means laying out a bold new vision for where you see things. Passion moves the needle far more than being “right” all the time.

Your skillset got you in the door, but your humanity is what will keep you in the room. Use it!


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About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.