How often have you heard the phrase, "Oh sure, she/he got promoted because they're the manager's favourite."
Interestingly enough, recent research suggests that favouritism is much more widespread than initially believed. But what exactly is favouritism from a recruitment perspective?
Favouritism suggests that a candidate is given preferential treatment based on factors or elements that do not directly relate to a person's ability to do a job. This might be the result of a family connection, a personal philosophy that is parallel to a manager's own beliefs or personal elements such as education, religion, age, and/or gender.
Most organizations have processes to help counter favouritism during the recruitment process. This typically includes creating panels for recruitment and selection through which several people vet the candidates and make joint decisions on the best candidate for the job. However, it is well known that favouritism can indeed creep into decision making.
Frankly, I think the issue of favouritism defined as selecting a candidate based on friendships, personal beliefs or organizational connections is somewhat overblown. What is really being referred to here is whether a candidate fits into the organizational culture and can work with the current leadership style. And believe me, if a candidate is selected based on technical qualifications only and they don't fit the culture, it's guaranteed they simply will not succeed. So, if the recruiter attempts to ensure there is a cultural fit, is this deemed to be favouritism? I don't think so.
Thus the challenge for potential candidates is to figure out how to become a favoured candidate with respect to both skills and cultural fit. Review the following strategies and determine if they will help to promote your candidacy.
Keep a current resumé -- Most employees fail to keep track of their accomplishments and when it comes time for a resumé, they are challenged to recall their many great assignments. Keep your resumé current and keep a running list of those accomplishments so they are ready and handy when you need them. Apply the accomplishments that best suit the job you are applying for.
Understand the organizational structure -- Take time to understand which departments appear to have more power and influence. Then, examine what skills are required in these departments. Seek opportunities to transfer into these departments or, at the very least, get to know one or two of the managers and seek advice and mentoring. In other words, become a known entity outside your own department.
Volunteer for special projects -- There is nothing more challenging for a manager than working with a team of professionals who will not step out of their comfort zone. So, take the initiative and be the one to volunteer for special projects. Not only will you demonstrate your skills in front of other people, you will broaden your network, develop important relationships and learn new skills all at the same time.
Become a good communicator -- Unfortunately, having technical skills is simply not enough to succeed in today's world. You also need to excel at communications. You need to make yourself heard, make a good impression, and be willing and able to effectively contribute to discussions and debate. When you can demonstrate logical and critical thinking, managers will note your skill and will be favoured toward your candidacy.
Understand the culture and leadership style -- As an employee, you also have control over your own career. If you find the organization culture and leadership style is not suitable to you, then it's your responsibility to move on. If you fit in and work well with your managers and have the skills and talent they need, the potential of being promoted is high. If you don't succeed, try and try again. However, if it is evident that success will be fleeting in your current organization, then take steps to move on to better things.
Work hard, work smart -- Favoured employees consistently produce good work, meet their deadlines, demonstrate good customer service and rarely go over budget. They are good project managers who keep leaders informed of both challenges and successes. They give credit where credit is due and ensure that credit for team projects is shared. How do you rate on this career element?
Become known as ethical -- Develop a reputation for high integrity, honesty and ethical behaviour. This type of reputation draws people to you. Keep in mind, you can't be a leader if you don't have any followers. Employees want to work for someone they can trust and who is consistent and fair in their decisions. Your reputation for ethical behaviour will make you a favoured candidate.
Be a continuous learner -- Favoured candidates are continuous learners. They know themselves well from the point of view of strengths and areas of challenge and they are always working on personal self-development. Attend courses offered in-house and use this as a means of becoming more broadly known as well as developing broader relationships. Attend outside courses and conferences and if possible, take the risk to be a presenter.
Network, network, network -- Becoming a favoured candidate also involves being out in the community either volunteering in a professional association or attending functions on behalf of your organization. There are more opportunities than people to attend so let it be known that you are willing to put yourself out there. This is a wonderful opportunity to get known outside your organization.
Dress the part -- Being viewed as a favoured candidate requires you to dress and act the part. Examine the management or technical level to which you aspire and note how they dress, talk, walk and act. Emulate this behaviour -- dress like they do, talk like they do. Be one of them.
Seek out informal mentorship -- Make an effort to network with the people with whom you want to work. Ask them to accompany you on a work break. Invite them to lunch. Ask for an informational meeting, ask for some informal coaching. Keep things informal while you pursue developing a relationship. Learn what makes them tick. View yourself as working for them and then examine what you need to do to get there.
Reach out and help others -- Whenever possible, reach out and help others succeed. This helps to develop relationships, solidify friendships and ensure that you are seen as a leader who can coach, mentor and develop others. Successful leaders keep their ego in check and work to develop highly productive teams rather than getting caught in the "I, I, I, I" ego trip.
Your career goal is to become the so-called favoured candidate, not from the perspective of preferential treatment but because you have become a known entity, you have proven yourself, your work is excellent and your leadership style fits with the organizational culture.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, is president of Legacy Bowes Group, a talent management company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org