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The Art of Finding Work - Part 11

Guide your job search with these two universal truths

There's no shortage of job search advice floating around that contradicts. 

  • Resumes (formatting, length, how to beat the employer's ATS, as if that's possible)

  • Cover letters (Include or don't include?)

  • Whether using LinkedIn's #OpenToWork green banner feature makes you appear desperate.

  • Interview advice

All job search advice, including mine, is subject to bias. My first The Art of Finding Work column was titled There Is No Universal Hiring Methodology. In this column, I explained that hiring is more emotional than logical and, therefore, a highly subjective process. Protest all you want; the fact remains that hiring is heavily influenced by biases and gut feelings, resulting in no two recruiters or hiring managers assessing candidates the same way.

One interviewer's deal breaker may not be another's. 

Self-proclaiming career coaches like to claim that the formula for successful job hunting is A + B + C = "You're hired!" Predictably, they also claim they have the formula for you to purchase (book, webinar, becoming a client of their coaching service). My question: How can a formula exist with gut instinct being the driving force behind hiring decisions?

I've hired:

  • a candidate was more than 20 minutes late for their interview.

  • candidates who asked, within five minutes of starting the interview, "How many vacation days will I get?"

  • candidates who've been unemployed for more than nine months.

  • candidates (lost count of) who were over the age of 50.

  • a candidate who brought her cat, Duchess, who'd undergone surgery that morning, to the interview. (This hire was a stretch even for me, but I couldn't ignore her career story, set of skills, and strong personality.)

Another hiring manager would have likely rejected these candidates. Vice versa, candidates I've rejected inevitably went on to be hired by hiring managers who didn't consider why I rejected them relevant. 

Rather than trying to juggle all the conflicting job search advice you're receiving—attempting to please all employers—focus on, better yet embrace, these two universal truisms.

  1. Your success depends on what others think of you.

Nowadays, the standard "life advice" is to not care what other people think about you. This advice, which I strongly disagree with, has led to the prevalence of self-centred behaviour.

Being successful is highly dependent on your image and what others think of you. 

Searching for a job involves actively seeking approval. First you need the employer to approve—like what they see—your resume and LinkedIn profile. Then, to be approved for an in-person interview, you must pass a phone screening. Then, your interviewer must approve you for a second interview or to be hired. All these approvals required someone to think you deserve a "yes."

If everyone actually didn't care what others thought of them, social media wouldn't be filled with approval-seeking posts, and rejection wouldn't hurt. Yet, job seekers constantly complain about being rejected (read: not approved) without receiving feedback, suggesting they care what their interviewer thought of them.

As you realize how others perceive you is the key determining factor to your success, you'll ask yourself: How do people experience me?

Be honest. How do people experience you? How do people feel in your presence? 

A challenge:

  1. Solicit the opinion(s) of family members and friends regarding how they perceive you.

  2. Based on the feedback, adjust your behaviour and shift your thinking.

  3. Make it your mission to give those in your presence a memorable interpersonal experience. 


  1. Image is everything.

People watch in a mall, restaurant, or on a busy street. You'll notice that most people don't take their image seriously or subscribe to the "don't care what other people think of you" advice.

Whether you like it or not, humans are wired to judge a book by its cover. Therefore, how someone experiences you begins with your appearance. When it comes to interviewing, having an off-putting appearance will overshadow—not in a good way—your answers. When interviewing, you must be the best version of yourself.

Consider this uncomfortable question: 

Those times when you aced, at least thought you did, the interview but didn't get the job, could it have been because of your appearance? 

According to research, a person's opinion of you is formed in just three seconds. Psychologists call it "thin slicing." Your interviewer will make four snap judgments when meeting you for the first time:

  1. re you trustworthy?

  2. Intelligence level

  3. Your professionalism

  4. Whether they like you

Everything I mentioned can be influenced, starting with how you dress and by looking your interviewer in the eye. Then, check your mannerisms and communication skills; both are imperative to your job search and career success. 

Looking your best gives you the mental state you need more than ever in today's competitive job market: Confidence. 

Commit to the following:

  • Exercising

  • Eating healthy

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Wearing proper fitting age-appropriate clothes

  • Smiling (Your teeth' role in how people perceive you can't be overstated.)

Hire an image consultant if you need one; it’ll be money well spent.

Don't underestimate, or worse, deny, the correlation between how your physical appearance impacts your life experiences and opportunities.


Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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