What American Idol Tells Us About The Job Market

We watch a lot of American Idol here at The Professor’s house.  We have strong opinions.  Personally, I’m a fan of Joshua.  I know that Jessica has the best voice.   But she just doesn’t “connect” with the audience, as Randy Jackson constantly reminds us.

Jessica Sanchez, not connecting

I always watch the process by which the American Idol contestants get groomed for the big time, and arrange themselves into marketable commodities, with a gritty interest.  It always feels familiar to me, but in ways that I haven’t been able to put my finger on.  Until now.

My partner Kellee found this interesting piece from Forbes about Jessica Sanchez, and why she, the front-runner and without question the most brilliant singer, is not garnering the votes she needs to actually win.  Written by Filipina-American executive/entrepeneur career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine, the piece identifies three key mistakes that Jessica is making.  Ceniza-Levine’s point is that these three mistakes are ones that many if not most front-runners tend to make on the job market:

The three mistakes are:

  • Picking the Wrong Things to Highlight
  • Forgetting Who the Decision Makers Are
  • Underestimating the Importance of Likeability

I am going to let you read the article on the second and the third mistakes, but I want to quote the author on the first, Picking The Wrong Things to Highlight:

“Of the thousands of available songs out there, Jessica selected a lesser-known one. Instead of having an immediately relatable connection to start with (yes, we both know this song!), she started with a gap between her and her audience. Candidates do this all the time when they pick projects or accomplishments to highlight that bear little relevance to the prospective employer. You have years of experience and multiple projects to choose from, so what you choose to highlight must represent you well (Jessica did this) AND must resonate with the prospective employer (“Stuttering” did not). A real-life example: I recently coached a manager-level supply chain candidate interviewing for a chemical company. When asked for a quantitative example, he talked about a statistics project. Bad choice because his role didn’t require statistics, but rather more finance and accounting. Not all songs are equal. Not all quantitative examples are equal. You want to pick based on who you’re singing to or interviewing with.”

How many times have I worked with a job candidate during an Interview Bootcamp who offered a response that was totally reasonable, and totally ill-considered?  In other words, the answer was perfectly valid and true of her record, it just was COMPLETELY OFF POINT for the job at hand.  If the job is seeking a Victorianist, and strictly a Victorianist, then nobody is going to be compelled by your side project on Milton.  Lead with Milton, and regardless of how brilliant and original the project, you will lose the job.  Your answers need to be all-Victorianist, all the time.

Ceniza-Levine concludes: “You might be a great candidate, but your background will not speak for itself. You still need to highlight the right things that your prospective employer cares about. You still need to frame your message to the specific decision-makers of your hire, not just anyone in the company. You still need to develop rapport and be likeable.”

Jessica Sanchez needs to learn this, and so do you.

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What American Idol Tells Us About The Job Market — 4 Comments

  1. One of the conspicuous American Idol cliches that has stuck with me is the whole “I want this so bad” response when contestants are asked why they should win. Besides being a cookie cutter response, it doesn’t give the audience anything to grab onto. Sometimes I wonder if that is exactly the spirit behind many job candidates, thinking that passion and zeal will be enough to get the job, instead of measured, tactical, razor-sharp answers (as you instruct).

    • Yes, exactly! Why should WE care that YOU want it? Tell us something that WE care about–that your music/work is original, important, and necessary to our happiness.

  2. In the case of American Idol, the type of people who are watching the show also tends to heavily reflect on who the winner will be. Thanks to the success of shows like Nashville Star there are very few country music sensations coming from the American Idol camp. However, you do on occasion have a country treasure to find, after all Carrie Underwood and a few other Idol rejects are doing extremely well in country music. The personality of the viewers tends to show in the actual contestants. Those who perform well in styles of music that the audience can connect with tend to stay on the show much longer.*

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  3. Pingback: Renai Hunter to Career Hunter: 11 Job Lessons from Idoldom | Magi-Kat presents "Morning Meteora"

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