Career Fitness: Mirroring

Hiring managers often have a very clear image in their minds of the perfect candidate. While recruiters will press them to identify the education, skills and experience required to do the job, what supervisors want – more often than not – is for them to find someone just like Joe or Jane. They are looking for the person who most closely matches the attributes of their best performer. And that preference is what makes a technique called mirroring so effective.

Finding people matches is fast becoming a major trend among recruiters. A recent Time cover story, for example, introduced the large and growing battery of tests now being used to assess the personality and other traits of candidates. Their “scores” are then compared to those of an employer’s high performing workers to find the individuals who match and, according to conventional wisdom, are thus most likely to perform equally as well on-the-job.

Those tests are expensive, however, and therefore mostly used by very large organizations. Nevertheless, the notion of matching candidates to an employer’s proven workers continues to gain traction among recruiters. They still go through the motions of drafting the “requirements and responsibilities” of the job, but in the end, they want to please that hiring manager, and what he or she most wants is a clone of one of their best employees.

Searching for Your Clone

One of the key Career Fitness strategies in a job search is the “application two-step.” It involves applying for a job according to an employer’s stated directions and Then networking to find someone in the target company who will refer you to the recruiter filling that job. Since recruiters believe that referrals are their best candidates, this technique ensures that the recruiter will give you the attention you deserve. It doesn’t, however, improve the odds you’ll be hired as that decision almost always rests with the hiring manager.

How can you positively influence BOTH the recruiter and the hiring manager? With mirroring. You find a person to refer you for your target job by conducting research (on social media, among friends and colleagues), and you extend that research to determine which attributes you share with the all stars in the unit where the job is located.

Finding someone who will refer you is an exercise in uncovering employees (a) whom you know or (b) with whom you share certain attributes. While it happens, it’s rare to find an acquaintance in the employer with your target job, so most of the time, you will be looking for a stranger with whom you can connect because you both:

  • Worked for the same company or organization;
  • Attended the same undergraduate or graduate school; or
  • Are members of the same affinity group (eg, Iraq war veterans, a fraternity or sorority).

Those matches aren’t a guarantee of interest on the part of an employee, but in many cases they will enable you to open a dialogue with and convince them that they should refer you to the recruiter filling your target job.

Similarly, convincing a hiring manager that you have the right stuff for their opening is an exercise in finding that manager’s all stars and identifying the attributes you share with one or more of them. You’ll be looking at social media and talking to your connections to determine how you can position yourself as an all star because you and the manager’s all stars both:

  • Worked for the same company or organization;
  • Attended the same undergraduate or graduate school; or
  • Have the same personality traits and/or approaches to work.

The shared attributes you identify must actually exist, of course, but when they do, they should be highlighted near the top of your resume so the hiring manager immediately sees you are just like one or more of their top performers.

Mirroring gives you a way to separate yourself from all of the other applicants for a job by positioning yourself as a close match to a hiring manager’s best workers. Admittedly, it takes time and effort to establish that match and tailor your resume to convey it effectively, but doing so transforms you from just another applicant to a one-of-a-kind all star.

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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams, A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, and WEDDLE’s Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Get them at and at the all new today.

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