Oscar Wilde once opined that “life imitates art more than art imitates life” and believed that art influences how we live in a more profound way than how we live influences art. No matter which side of the argument you may land on, it appears that life can inform art and vice-versa. Pondering this concept, my thoughts turned to the performing arts and discovered a rather unlikely source of learning about job search strategies found in the TV show, “The Voice.”
You may not find a lot that’s real about reality shows, but here’s one worth watching for insights into effectively competing for a job. Imagine you are a contestant on this singing competition, then observe the dynamics occurring among the coaches, contestants and mentors to get a flavor of what to expect when venturing into the job market.
Let’s walk through one season of the show to understand how you will advance through multiple rounds of elimination to win that top spot. Here is how the show (and the candidate selection process) works.
- PROGRESSING THROUGH THE PRESCREEN: THE CASTING CALL
In “The Voice”, you will be competing with thousands of hopefuls during the initial casting call. On the show’s website, step one is submitting an audition tape. When you do apply, the “Video Audition Tip” on their site indicates: “Most important-each artist is unique and has their own style. Let that shine through…”
Contestants declare their musical genres: country, jazz, pop, blues, select songs complementary to their style and stick to their brand.
Consider: Zety.com, an Online Resume Maker, gathered statistics from a 2020 Glassdoor survey, reporting that “on average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 will get called for an interview and only 1 will get the job.” Not quite the numbers “The Voice” attracts, but how do you get noticed when competing even among hundreds of job seekers?
Don’t do anything else until you can articulate why your “DNA” as a candidate differentiates you as the top choice. This exercise may be more time consuming than appears on the surface but is SO worth the effort. Only when you have taken inventory of your assets will you be ready to declare your brand and initiate your search.
Gather feedback from friends and colleagues or use one of the many career assessment tools (i.e. DiSC, CliftonStrengths, Myers-Briggs, etc.) to take inventory of your attributes. Develop branding statements which will form your personal mantra and then use them in every form of communication-from resumes to LinkedIn profiles to talking points in an interview.
- MAKING THE FIRST CUT: THE “BLINDS” AUDITION
Next, you will be invited to step into the spotlight and compete in the “Blinds.” During this phase of the competition, four judges are seated with their backs turned away from the stage while listening to a contestant. By positioning themselves in this way, judges have no knowledge of the singer’s age, gender, physical attributes, etc. and will rely only on how a person’s voice “speaks” to them.
Contestants have a big advantage in this unbiased setting. Job seekers will be less fortunate.
Consider: In the real world, you may not have the same good fortune of an environment free of discrimination. Understand negative biases and know how to counteract them.
There are several ways to mitigate the risk of bias during the selection process. Be mindfulof the potential landminesof prejudice and avoidthem, starting with a few simple steps.
Resumes should exclude your street address in the contact section. Communication with candidates is conducted via email, not USPS mail, so stating anything more than city and state will age you. Recruiters may even draw conclusions about your socioeconomic status if given the chance to google your street address.
Abandon AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail or any other service providers of that vintage and move to more current providers like Gmail, outlook.com or iCloud Mail. Also, avoid creating an email address with a combination of name and a two-digit number, i.e. smithj62 could either indicate birth year or be perceived as birth year.
Throwback expressions, e.g. “back in the day” will date a more seasoned worker. 50% of today’s workforce are millennials who may be your Interviewer. Speak their language or face possible elimination.
Ensure you appear healthy, energetic, positive (smile) and well-groomed in your headshot. Employers are interested in vibrant candidates and may make judgments based on a photo.
- CHOOSING YOUR COACH AND JOINING THEIR TEAM
On the show, you will next choose a coach, who will also serve as a mentor. Contestants determine which coach most closely aligns with their musical style and who they feel the chemistry with to help them reach their full potential. Coaches, in turn, present their case for why they would be a good match, e.g. they hail from the same city or state, they have coached past winners of the show, they understand the specific musical genre a contestant is pursuing because they are in the “same lane.”
Consider: Interviewing is a two-way street. As a candidate, you have the right and responsibility to judge the correct fit for your career needs as well as financial needs. Carefully weigh not only the overall opportunity but especially consider the fit with your future boss. Although the company will espouse its culture on the website, on social media, during the interview…it is really your direct manager who will be the embodiment of the culture-pay close attention to their point of view surrounding the values, goals and practices of the company.
While conducting your search, reach out to advisors who can assist in providing direction on the path to your next job. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes-from teachers, parents, professional coaches, or former managers. Take advantage of all available resources willing to provide objective feedback.
- MOVING TO THE NEXT PHASE OF THE COMPETITION: “THE BATTLES”
Contestants made it through the first audition (interview) and will now battle it out with a fellow contestant. They literally rehearse the same song with a competitor and will perform with them during this knock-out round. They are expected to collaborate, harmonize and at the same time, present their best individual performances. Friendly fire?
Consider: Group interviews may pose a similar challenge for a job seeker. While not a common practice, in this type of interview, you will be in a room (or virtual room) with fellow candidates vying for the same job. The employer may be using this process to be efficient or could be testing your ability to interact with others. A common technique a company uses is to present a group problem-solving situation to determine team building and/or leadership abilities. If invited to this type of interview, be respectful of other job seekers in the room, but speak with purpose when it’s your turn.
- ADAPTING TO DIFFERENT GENRES AND NEW SETS
Although contestants have distinctive musical styles and ranges, they will be put to the test as coaches check for their vocal range. If tenors are most comfortable with their “falsetto”, a coach may select a song for them to perform in a different octave. Or, if they love and follow everything related to pop music, they might be presented with a country song to perform. Coaches look for adaptability and potential.
A different and unique challenge which contestants faced at the onset of COVID-19 was dealing with a virtual platform in lieu of a studio performance. No longer having the benefit of a live audience within a TV studio, contestants were faced with improvising within the confines of their home studios.
Consider: Job seekers must also be able to think on their feet and respond to questions in an interview that were not on their anticipated list. When posed with a question of how you would carry out a responsibility for which you have limited experience, respond with whatever knowledge you do have, express your potential and interest to learn and discuss expectations about the timeline it will take to become proficient. Employers are assessing not only what you know today, but also your ability to adapt and grow in the role.
And of course, effectively navigating the world of virtual interviewing is critical in today’s market. Get your house in order with the right equipment, setting, lighting, etc. and follow the proper etiquette for this new venue.
How to Have Your Voice Heard
As a job candidate, your “voice” will be heard through a variety of media, including print (resumes, LinkedIn, cover letters), visual (headshots, virtual and face to face, interviews, presentations) and of course-audio! Be pitch perfect with all forms of media, prepare and practice for your next “audition” to beat out the competition, win the top spot and secure a job offer.