Finding the Sweet Spot, Delivering the Secret Sauce

With artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics and newer technologies replacing many of the jobs once done by highly qualified people it appears the job market will only tighten the screws on many professionals who lack these specialized skills. So don’t be lured into thinking all is well with lower unemployment which accounts for many of the lower paying and gig jobs which are on the rise. What we are seeing according to Ellen Ruppel Shell in her book “The Job – Work and its Future in a Time of Change” is a diminishing middle class with fewer specialized jobs at the top of the economic pyramid, and a large working class flipping burghers at the bottom.

So what can perfectly qualified people do to get good jobs when they don’t have these specialized skills, but are capable of learning them? According to Peter Cappelli in his book “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” companies have unrealistic hiring expectations that screen out even the best candidates. My own clients tell me that while they consider themselves highly qualified and experienced professionals they could never meet every requirement some companies are putting into their job descriptions. Now add AI to the list!

A good example is client of mine with a quantitative analyst background in financial services with experience developing trading systems for hedge funds and asset management companies. He also holds a Ph.D. in physics from a prestigious university. Suffice it to say solving complicated problems requiring mathematical modeling is his strong suite, which would make him a perfect match for most quantitative positions for which he applies. With one exception! He has no experience in machine learning.

While Human Resources, professional and trade associations, and educational institutions seem to have recognized that companies must be willing to train people in these newer skills to meet their hiring needs, the challenge for most job hunters is how to break through that impenetrable wall that keeps screening them out. As Cappelli notes one of the biggest culprits is the automated tracking system (ATS) companies use to screen out applicants who don’t meet virtually every requirement of the jobs for which their applying.

One of the biggest culprits is the Automated Tracking System (ATS)

So how does one overcome the challenge of having most if not all the qualifications of a job, plus the desire and willingness to learn the skills he/she does not possess? The chances of getting these jobs by applying online to jobs posted on job boards will give you about a 10% chance of getting called for an interview. The same low percentage happens when working with search firms since their mission is to ensure the applicants they present to their client companies meet virtually all the job’s requirements.

Until companies take that leap of faith and reach out to these very qualified candidates, despite not having every skill they require, it’s incumbent on you, the job hunter, to find that company’s or hiring manager’s sweet spot by convincing them that you’re the best person for the job. Of course, this is easier said than done, but by circumventing the standard application process for most jobs (something you can always come back to) every effort should be made to meet those with the authority to make hiring decisions, in most cases the job’s hiring manager.

So what is that sweet spot? In the majority of cases it’s knowing the real needs of the hiring manager, the kind of things that keep him or her up at night. Show me a hiring manager who won’t value someone who can make their life easier by taking on their most challenging problems? And I dare say many of these problems can be resolved through creative and strategic thinking whether in a traditional work environment which is not highly automated, or one using AI. The key is also convincing hiring managers that you can learn their proprietary system using these new technologies with the proper training and exposure.

The good news is that more companies are recognizing that they’re not going to fill all of their jobs with the perfect candidate. More companies are seeing the need to provide the training, whether formal or on-the-job, that would give candidates perfectly qualified to perform most of a job’s requirements the opportunity to learn new skills. All my quantitative client may need to do is be the test subject for a new application of machine learning to learn those skills himself. They could probably teach one another a thing or two!

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