YOU be the judge.

In my previous post about finding a job through significant persistence, I wrote about my experience as a ballroom dance judge. There are so many people out on the floor that sometimes some of them can get lost. Sometimes, this happens to applicants as well, but it’s not a reason to despair.

In response, the awesome Matt Hawk asked this in the comments:

Mike, as a ballroom dance judge you mentioned you were unable to notice all the dancers. I’m sure it wasn’t a day-glo orange safety vest, but how did you use that knowledge to become more noticable when you did go back to the dance floor? Crisper steps, higher kicks, brighter outfits?

What tactical advice would you give a job seeker? Paper weight/color? Font? Language style? I’d be curious to hear.

Equipped with the knowledge of what a judge is doing and looking for, I made almost no alterations to my practice habits. Sure, I continued working with my partner, improving my technique and enhancing my presentation like I had already been doing, but beyond that, I didn’t make any changes. What’s the alternative? Positioning myself directly in front of judgse so they have to see me? Well, that actually guarantees I won’t be picked. Get a flashier outfit that calls attention to me right away? I’ll admit that my costume is flashy enough as it is (yes, there are rhinestones) that too much more would be tasteless and would turn judges off. The moral here is that gimmicks don’t work.

What did differ was my mental state. Knowing that my dancing would shine though if it was good enough and that the only thing I could do was to dance my best, I stopped feeling like I had to force the issue to be seen and simply danced my heart out while having a good time – I stopped caring about the judges and focused more on what I was doing. In others, I instilled a level of confidence in myself that I didn’t have before.

And that is exactly what I would suggest to job seekers out there. Make your work your best. Show off who you are in the best way possible. Be proud of the work that you’re putting out there. But be sure you put down who you actually are and not who you think someone else wants you to be. No, you won’t get picked every time – I certainly didn’t get called back for every round – but when you do, it will be for the right reasons, because that employer is interested in meeting the candidate represented by the piece of paper.

I recognize that it seems like I’m telling you to do nothing. No, don’t change the font size or the weight of the paper (though there shouldn’t be a paper weight since you should be using e-mail nowadays anyway…). Again, gimmicks don’t work (and you don’t want to work for an employer who responds to gimmicks anyway because that means that the employer only responds to neediness and cries for attention).

What I am suggesting is that you change your state of mind – express your passion for the things that you want. Don’t hesitate to let loose and be honest about who you are (within reason, of course) and what you’re looking for. Employers will respond to it eventually, you just have to give it some time.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?


8 responses to “YOU be the judge.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention YOU be the judge. | The HR Intern --

  2. Geez, Mike, good points, shows you that I’ve been blessed with a successful (rewarding too) job, but paper weight really? I wrote that?

    The take away for me: job hunting is a full time job and you MUST be passionate about the position, company, role you want to play on that team. If you can share yourself and your technical skills then you’ve given yourself a better chance.

    But your search must use a rifle approach. Knowing your audience, doing your research and being selective is likely to get you further. Otherwise its attrition.

    Good post/good weekend,

    • Absolutely Matt. It really is something you have to dedicate an expansive amount of time to to get the results that you want, just like dancing or any other kind of hobby. I hate that cliche about “10,000 hours makes you an expert” or whatever it is, but the idea behind is there – it takes a lot of work to be get what you’re going for.

  3. Mike, what is your opinion of architect Derek Leavitt’s treatise on rethinking the resume for architects and other creative professionals? If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here:

    I personally think it’s a great exercise in reexamining the application package, but perhaps it works better for small firms, where the principals are more likely to be making all the hiring decisions, than with companies that have a more systematic hiring process and HR employees. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    • Thanks Bryant! I actually hadn’t seen that, so let me take a closer look at it and then make a post out of it. Appreciate you passing it along!

  4. Pingback: Do creative types really need their own resume guide? | The HR Intern

  5. Christopher Busbin

    Hey Mike, I like the comparison between Ballroom dance competition and the job market. You’re right, it’s the same kind of game. I remember when I first started competing, I wore a flashy rhinestone shirt and always danced right in the middle of the floor, and my results weren’t nearly as good then as they are now. Being older and wiser, I don’t try to impress anybody when I dance, I just dance from the heart; and I get much better results now than I did then. The lesson is clear: be yourself and don’t back down from that. Don’t worry about the judges/employers who don’t like your style, because those who admire you for who you are will be superfans…and those are the only kind of fans you should want.

  6. @Christopher – I totally agree with you. It’s incredibly counterintuitive – you think that because you’re being judged, you have to aim to impress them and get the attention, but it’s actually much better if you do your own thing and let them find you. And the parallels with real life are pretty clear. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!

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