Kindergarten Can't Help: The New Rules in Today's Job Market

One of the first lessons you’re taught in school is to follow the rules when playing a game.  The rules ensure that there is a well defined pathway to victory and that everyone knows what it is.  They establish certainty and fairness.

The job market is no game, but it too has long been governed by a set of rules.  Those maxims determined how to win employment.  They were all important, but only one was absolutely critical to success.  It was the definition of “qualified” – what it takes for you to be considered a legitimate contender for an open position.

Employers set that rule because only they judge a person’s qualifications.  And, for the last fifty years or so, they’ve defined a qualified candidate as someone who met the requirements and responsibilities specified for a job.  If your education and experience met that standard, you were deemed to be an acceptable applicant.  You were in the running for selection.

And now you aren’t.  In today’s job market, if you apply for a job where you are a perfect match with the stated requirements and responsibilities, you will almost certainly be ignored.  All you’ll hear back from the employer is the sound of silence.

What’s causing this situation?  Employers have ignored what they were taught in kindergarten.  They’ve changed the rules and haven’t told anyone they’ve done so.  They’ve reset the definition of “qualified,” and kept the existence of the change to themselves.

The New Rule for Being Qualified

The change in the definition of “qualified” wasn’t done maliciously or out of spite.  Indeed, many employers aren’t even aware that they are using a new standard for determining who is eligible for their open jobs.  Whether it’s applied consciously or otherwise, however, it is being used because employers now face changed conditions for their own success.

For years, employers selected candidates based on their ability to do a job competently.  Their requirements and responsibilities were simply a way of ensuring that level of performance.  They believed that individual competence was sufficient for organizational success.  When employees performed as required by the responsibilities of the job, employers would thrive.

Today, that’s no longer the case.  Employers are now facing domestic and global competition from organizations with workers who perform at a higher level than competence.  These employees aren’t doing their jobs, they’re excelling at them.  That’s the new standard.  Being able to excel at work is today’s definition of “qualified.”

How can you prove your ability to excel on-the-job?  It involves the 3 Rs: resume, reputation and recurrence.  I’ll explore each of them in my next column.

Thanks for reading,


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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American DreamThe Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hang Onto the Job of Your Dreams, The Career Activist Republic, The Success Matrix: Wisdom from the Web on How to Get Hired & Not Be Fired, andWEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet.  Get them at and today.