The Three Legged Stool

Vic Napier, MBA


Imagine that the decision to hire a person for a new job as a stool supported by three legs.  In order for the decision to be balanced and sturdy, the legs supporting it must be of equal height and strength. If one leg is out of proportion to the others the stool will be lop sided and precarious. When all three legs are the same height, at the same angle and of the same strength we would be confident that the stool will support our weight.

Job seekers should think of the way they present themselves to an employer as being supported by three legs as well. One leg is education or training, one leg is experience and the other is job related values. In order to win the confidence of the employer all three legs must be compatible with one another.

Education must be exactly what the employer lists on a job announcement. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing different. At one time a little over education was a good thing.  No longer. Earning a higher degree than what the employer has listed on a job posting – or even having taken a few more classes than what the employer has specified -- will likely be enough to earn a rejection letter. If the employer wanted to hire smart and ambitious people that is what they would have listed on the job announcement.

Tip #1: List only the education the employer asked for on the job announcement. Nothing more. And don’t say anything about your MBA or law degree in the interview.

Experience should be limited to what the employer lists on the job announcement as well.  Be sure to change the name or title of previous jobs to what the employer listed on the job announcement.  The days of “transferable skills” are gone.  If an employer wants someone who knows how to operate a desktop publishing suite on a Mac platform, your experience operating a desktop publishing suite on a Windows platform is irrelevant even if you also have the experience listed on the job announcement.  The employer wants to get something published on the platform he owns and the fact that you might be a recognized expert in a similar platform means nothing to him. 

Tip #2: Do not confuse the employer with experience and qualifications that are not exactly and perfectly compatible with his needs. You will sound like you do not really believe you are qualified and look like you are trying to convince the employer that you are. 

Values. We are not talking about whether or not you believe in abortion or what your views on gun control are. We are talking about how closely your beliefs about work conform to the employers. If you are the kind of person who is oriented towards results and the employer puts more value in process and procedure it will be obvious in the interview and you’ll have another rejection letter to add to your collection. If you are the type of worker who has respect for authority and works best when your duties are explicitly defined you probably won’t do well in a fast moving start up where there is a lot of change and the boss is rarely around. 

Tip #3: Find out your work traits, stay true to your core work values and accept rejection letters from places that do not share your values as a message that it just wasn’t the right job for you anyway.  

We all need to make a living, and sometimes we take jobs that are not necessarily a good fit. Sometimes necessity dictates that we take a job that is not a good fit, but staying in such a job is not a good way to make a living.

Vic Napier MBA