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Here’s how to present yourself as a low-risk candidate in a hyper-cautious job hiring landscape

Nick-KossovanFifteen years ago (I’m ballparking), employers hired after two or three interviews. Today, it’s common to have five to seven interviews.

I seldom encounter a job seeker who empathizes with employers and grasps that hiring is a significant risk, thus understanding why employers tend to be skittish when hiring.

Employers are risk-averse. Hiring involves assuming a liability risk. Candidates often, without realizing it, present themselves in a way that gives employers the impression that hiring them would be risky.

Will the candidate…

  • be a fit?
  • be easy to manage?
  • look after the company’s best interest?
  • make them (the hiring manager) look good?

job hunting

Photo courtesy Ahmet Kurt


Add to the above the persistent talk of a looming recession along with the rapid advances of AI, which may soon be able to fill the current vacancy. It’s no wonder why employers are hyper-cautious when hiring.

Think AI won’t have an impact on jobs?

Thirty-seven percent of 750 business leaders surveyed by ResumeBuilder said AI replaced workers in 2023. Forty-four percent predict AI efficiency will lead to layoffs in 2024. The good news is that 96 percent of companies hiring in 2024 say candidates will benefit from having AI skills.

I consider AI a human replacement tool, not a productivity tool. As AI adoption increases, employers will closely monitor their employees’ productivity versus AI’s and lean towards which best serves their self-interests.

No employer wants to hire a candidate only to let them go a short time later. “Sorry, Bob, the second and third quarters weren’t as strong as we’d hoped; unfortunately, we need to let you go.”

Today’s economic and political climate, combined with seismic changes in the psyches of the younger generation, which are adding fuel to the always-existing discourse between employees and employers, explains why employers hire with extreme caution. As a job seeker, you need to figure out ways to present yourself as a candidate who isn’t high-risk.

Write the following quote on a Post-it Note and place it where you’ll see it daily while job hunting:

“Business is all about solving people’s problems – at a profit.”

So says Paul Marsden, a British writer, businessman and former politician.

Job searching is about selling yourself as the solution to an employer’s problem. What’s the employer’s problem? Read the job description. Ask yourself: Why does this position exist? Why was it created? When you answer these questions, you are forced to focus on what the employer wants rather than what you want.

Instead of focusing on what you want, get deeply and intensely curious about the employer’s needs and wants, increasing revenue and reducing costs being the obvious (READ: creating a profit). What do you offer employers that are tangible and measurable that’ll facilitate their earnings and, therefore, are worth paying for? If an employer hired you, what kind of ROI (Return on Investment) would they receive?

Employers don’t give money to their employees because they want it or feel they deserve it. Employers aren’t concerned with what their employees want or feel they deserve. Employees are paid by their employers in exchange for results that help them achieve their business goals.

You can gain a significant advantage over your competitors by understanding and empathizing with the risks employers take when hiring.

In a time of economic uncertainty, rapid technological advancement, and cultural fit becoming increasingly important, job seekers must address these factors directly.

  • Economic uncertainty

Hyperinflation is shifting consumer behaviour. Geopolitical tensions are becoming more pronounced. There’s constant talk of a recession looming. We live in an angst-filled world.

In order to ease employers’ concerns about where the economy is heading, candidates must demonstrate flexible problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. To be seen as someone who can help the company weather difficult times, prepare a couple of STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) stories demonstrating you have handled challenging situations or helped your employer through tough times.

  • Technological advancement

It’s no longer enough to know the basics of Word and Excel. Today, employers expect their employees to be able to proficiently use multiple tech tools, such as data analysis, online collaboration, project management and, of late, AI prompting.

Using tech tools (for example, QR code, Zoom, Slack) throughout your job search shows that you are tech-savvy without having to say so.

  • Cultural fit

The importance of cultural fit is greater than ever. The slightest sign that you won’t fit in – you don’t align with the company’s values, mission, or work culture – will end your candidacy.

By researching the organization’s culture, mission, and values, you can then position yourself to demonstrate how your values and work style match the organization’s mission and culture. Showing enthusiasm for the company’s objectives and illustrating experiences (STAR stories) that resonate with its culture will ease employers’ concerns about cultural compatibility.

Understanding and mitigating employers’ hiring concerns will help you stand out in today’s fiercely competitive job market.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.

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