“American Idol” returned to U.S. airwaves several weeks ago with a fresh new crop of singing wannabes trying to impress the judges. Some could carry a tune, a handful sang like angels, but the vast majority looked and sounded exactly like alley cats. They made you want to a launch a tin can in their direction to get them to close their mouths.
Now obviously, these audition shows are done as such because it’s a great ratings booster. However mean-spirited it may be, it’s still sort of fun to watch people who think they’re “all that” be given a slice of humble pie before they’re shown the door. It suddenly makes perfect sense why of all the people who flock to the big show biz capitols of the world in search of fame, only a handful make the cut.
As I watched some of the atrocious auditions, it occurred to me that the interview process for “Idol” is pretty much like the interview process for any industry: those who look good, sound good, and know their business are passed through to the next round; those who don’t, aren’t. There’s not a lot of mystery involved here. Either you know what’s expected of the position, or you don’t.
Yet I see people miss opportunities again and again because they either haven’t done the necessary research or they think their talent is so immense that the rules just don’t apply to them. Then, when they don’t get hired, promoted, elected, or whatever, they start pointing fingers at others – when the real culprit is often themselves.
The problems are really easy to see in others, like when watching “American Idol.” You can see the crazy clothes, discern the lack of talent, and recognize the diva attitude. But it’s not so easy to evaluate ourselves. We know we work hard and know our stuff, so why, oh why, aren’t the doors opening wide?
Having been on both sides of the hiring table in my career, I can tell all sorts of wild stories as to why people were not hired or promoted. Some of them are Oscar-worthy. But by and large, there are five common reasons people are passed over for hire or promotion. See if you recognize anyone you know in this list:
|1. All Flash, No Substance
They look good and their resumes look good. Everyone’s happy – until they open their mouth and fully demonstrate just how little they know. Image ISN’T everything; it’s only part of the equation. How you look may get you in the door; what you know will keep you in the room.
REMEDY: If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve felt like you were in “over your head,” chances are very good that you were – and others knew it as well. Take classes to upgrade your skills and keep abreast of what’s happening in your industry. Match your skills to your image to become an irresistible candidate.
2. Status Sally
She has the handbags, the shoes, or the logos. She also has a meager income that couldn’t begin to pay for any of it. She’s not fooling anyone; no one thinks she’s a wealthy person in disguise, because if she HAD any kind of money, she wouldn’t be working or looking for work here. What she IS doing is demonstrating just what a spendthrift she can be, thus preventing her from ever being hired or promoted to any position that requires fiscal responsibility.
REMEDY: Put away the status symbols, get hired or promoted, and THEN wear them — IF your new income warrants such a display.
|3. Style-less Sue
She has top-notch skills but bargain-basement style. She has the brains to go the distance, but no one wants to take her anywhere because she doesn’t know how to dress. She thinks talent is far more important than clothes; her superiors think she’s not serious about her career, because if she was, she’d dress appropriately.
REMEDY: If you want to advance, dress one level above your current position so that your superiors can easily see you in that role.
4. Debbie Does Decolletage
She’s got great body parts (or so she thinks) and wants everyone to know it, so she wears hems up to there, necklines down to there, or clothes so tight that you know what she had for lunch. If anyone dares to criticize her, she says they’re jealous. If anyone dares to hire or promote her, they’re accused of hanky-panky. So they don’t.
REMEDY: Unless you’re a lifeguard or a stripper, large displays of skin are totally inappropriate at work. Keep covered and get promoted for your brains, not your body.
|5. Gossip Gertie
She knows her business and everyone else’s, too. She doesn’t have a life, so she entertains herself by talking about everyone else’s. She’s THE person to go to for the latest “dirt.” But don’t share any secrets with her, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put her in any position that requires her to use discretion or be a confidant, because she doesn’t know the meanings of the words. No, general or low-level positions are best for her.
REMEDY: Don’t gossip – even if it’s juicy. Knowing when to be quiet is every bit as important as knowing when to speak up in business or other responsible positions. Prove that you’re trustworthy by knowing when to hold your tongue.
Sometimes, it’s really easy to see why others don’t advance, like when watching the “Idol” auditions. It’s not so easy to turn the spotlight on ourselves to see our own shortcomings. If you’re looking for a new job, a promotion, or other position of responsibility (or you know someone who is), start by taking a good, honest look at yourself (or have them look at themselves).
Do you have the look? The talent? The right attitude? If so, you’ll probably make the cut. If not, work on those trouble spots and try again when they’re fixed. Once you advance to the next level, keep honing your work skills, your people skills, and your look. Before you know it, you could be the “star” in your office or industry.
|Need some more help on determining the best look for your position and industry? Then download a copy of Business Wear Magic to see how easy dressing appropriately for work can be.|