It’s a competitive world, and never more so than now.  We all want our fair share, or at least what we think is our fair share.  Employers want to attract better employees, candidates want to get better jobs, with more pay, and websites want more traffic.  However, very few of us actually believe we are getting our fair share; getting what we deserve.  Google was founded on the principle that if it returned search results in order of relevance and popularity, then each site would receive its fair and deserved share of traffic.  But what if the owners of a website want more than their fair share?  Aside from buying traffic via advertising, they can either make their website more relevant and more popular, which is a long and arduous process, or they can optimise their site so that it merely seems to be.  The justification being that the resulting greater traffic itself makes the site popular, and brings further relevant content.

Candidates have always been schooled in how to present themselves for a job, either in their CV, cover letter, or in the interview itself.  They need to compete with other candidates, who may well be better qualified for the job.  So do employers always recruit the very best candidate?  They may think they do.  They may try their very best to.  You and I know, however, that often the best candidate doesn’t get the job because he or she just isn’t so good at interviewing, has a terrible CV, or any number of other things.  So are the self-help books, and websites, and recruiters who coach candidates to sell themselves well, therefore helping them to get the job ahead of a better candidate?  We expect candidates to have confidence in their own abilities, and a belief that they are ideal for the job. Similarly, contestants on shows like the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent also want to achieve fame beyond their abilities. So are we really levelling the playing field by coaching job seekers, or are we giving poor candidates an unfair advantage? Are candidates learning to be better, or just to seem better? Maybe coaching candidates to perform well merely serves to make it harder for interviewers.

This is not a perfect world.  Websites do not get the traffic they deserve, candidates do not always get the jobs they deserve, and sometimes talentless numpties win the X-Factor.

So do we continue to coach candidates to get jobs beyond their abilities, or do we instead look to improve the abilities of employers and interviewers to identify the very best applicants?  Dependent upon the requirements of the job, looking beyond a glossy CV, a new business suit, and a winning pitch is precisely what’s called for.  I’m all for candidates selling themselves, and being persuasive and charming, but what if that’s not a requirement of the job?

In a world where we are encouraged to feel that we’re not getting our fair share, and have to compete harder to get it, the onus is on those in a position to judge, whether it be Simon Cowell or your next employer, to look closer and ensure we get what we deserve.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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