By Janice Worthington

The Business Journals, December 20, 2018 —

One of the mysteries in career management has always been determining why perfectly good candidates struggle to get offers.

We know that in certain circumstances dozens to hundreds might be rejected per hire. In our hiring circles, there continues to be a bumper crop of exceptionally strong candidates, and with so much competition we job search coaches continue to search for the secret sauce to make our candidates irresistible.

We’ve found that a successful campaign is both strategic and tactical. The old concept of whoever blinks first truly applies. As in staring contests, blinking first is never a good thing because it puts a job seeker in a position of vulnerability. In job search, that is defined as any action, reaction or inaction that weakens a candidate’s position.

In a job search, blinking is any action, reaction or inaction that weakens a candidate’s position.

Blinking comes in many forms, including:

The manic follow-up:

Everyone knows the importance of a post-interview follow-up. Thank you notes show gratitude and class. Follow-up phone calls demonstrate our continued enthusiasm. And then we sit and wait. If we are honest we’ll admit that both thank-you notes and phone calls aren’t what they appear to be. We are dying to know if we are going to get hired, and we can barely tolerate limbo. Human beings don’t like question marks; they leave us restless and anxious.

Unfortunately having no answers can make the most docile professional into a raving maniac demanding answers. Don’t do it! You don’t need answers. Don’t blink.

Stalling out if you think you scored:

Replacing logic with emotion in job search kills opportunity and is downright dangerous. The naïve candidate believes everything they hear and because they might be starved for validation, where there’s a compliment they hear a pending job offer. Therein lies the blink!

The more savvy candidate never breaks their stride, no matter what is said. They understand that to cultivate loyalty, employers tend to be encouraging to all contenders.

Becoming weary:

Without exception, job search is grueling. Feeling self-assured and a bit arrogant, many candidates believe they will not have to make this painful journey. Beginning with their first interview and a few, perhaps insincere, kind words they are convinced they won’t be on the market that long. Once this evolves into repeated rejection and no explanations, the blink may have already occurred.

My company offers statistics on average search times so our candidates know full well what lies ahead. A weakened sense of self-esteem strips a candidate of their power.

Staying away:

Interviews are difficult to secure, yet candidates have been known to turn away. They may have read negativity on Glassdoor, have heard about how many hours employees work or about low pay. In reality, fear has set in and they no longer want to go on interviews and risk rejection; in essence they might have thrown away their dream jobs.

Remember who you are:

The human psyche is fragile and with extended unemployment or repeated rejections, the most successful candidates begin to question if they ever racked up those achievements on their resumes. They doubt their talent.

This can be the most difficult blink from which to recover.

Ultimately to blink means going off course from the position of strength required to outcompete others who may sink into inactivity from rejection and self-doubt. This candidate – no matter how talented, experienced or accomplished – will never win.

Janice Worthington is executive director of Worthington Career Services.