Continuing The Hero's Journey: Landing A Job In Today's Market

Continuing The Hero's Journey: Landing A Job In Today's Market
Summary: Continuing the Hero's Journey on the road to finding a new job. What can go wrong?

From Ordeal To Triumph

In my previous article, I started comparing the Hero's Journey to landing a new job. We're picking up where I left the journey, ominously foreshadowing the ordeal stage.

Landing A Job: The Final Stretch


The ordeal stage is a critical point that often represents the midpoint of the story. It is a series of tests that challenge the Hero's courage and growth. It is a "do or die" situation where the Hero's "old self" must "die" to emerge transformed, having gained new insights and powers.

I'm not talking about retyping your resume for the one-hundredth time because the submission form just can't read a simple PDF. I'm not talking about creating the one-hundredth account with the same system that enthusiastically welcomes you yet again. I'm talking about the disappointment that you don't even get to talk to a human. Rejection hurts.

There are posts on LinkedIn by job seekers who claim to have applied for hundreds of jobs. When I saw this, my initial reaction was: "Hundreds of job applications? I don't even see more than a dozen roles I would like to have!" This attitude may change quickly. The longer you're on the market, the wider your net becomes.

  • Hint
    You're about to toss a coin, and previously, it had four consecutive heads. Which is more likely to happen next? Heads or tails?

    If you know statistics, you know there is a 50% chance of each. Still, it feels like it should be tails. The thing is, the coin does not have a memory. For the coin, every toss is an independent 50-50 chance. It is you who have the memory. The bias resides with you.

    It is the same with every job application. They don't have a memory. It is in your head. Those voices saying that this job sounds like the other one you just got rejected for? Those voices that are telling you you're overqualified? Or don't have all the skills listed? Voices that say last time you interviewed for something similar, you messed up ? Those voices are only in your head. It is your memory. If you get to talk to a human, they don't know anything about what you did last summer.

Again, as long as you have the basic qualifications, personal influence always trumps skills. One of the biggest nightmares for managers is a brilliant jerk, resistant to coaching, who destroys the team. If you're determined "coachable," your chances of getting hired are much higher. The level of the job, however, may determine the exact process: entry-level jobs can be filled through job boards, but senior-level jobs often require a personal touch (aka, a personal introduction to the hiring manager), and C-suite might be invite-only (or by an executive search committee).

The Interview Process

In today's job market for L&D, it's not rare to have sic or seven interviews over four to five weeks before you get an offer or a rejection. Sometimes, you never get either. I'm still waiting for some well-known companies to even reject me! :)

  • Some jobs require a portfolio.
  • Some jobs require a presentation.
  • Some jobs require a work sample.

Either way, you're on the right track if you make it to the interview rounds with a human. That, in itself, is a reward. Seize it!

  • Hint
    There's a huge debate on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and applicant tracking systems (ATSs) tracking and rejecting resumes. Recruiters say it's a myth that it blocks 90% of applications, while candidates keep saying there's just something wrong. Either way, a human connection is always more effective. But networking is like a bank account; you deposit first. You can't just take out money when you need it. You need to grow and maintain your relationships with others, even if you're not planning to find a new job soon [1].

If you're interested in what AI is already doing in the recruiting space, check out some of these case studies [2]

  • A large healthcare system decreased the time to schedule an interview by 86% (from 7 days to 24 hours)
  • A major appliance manufacturer reduced their time to hire 9%, with up to 78% of recruiters’ time savings attributed to AI scheduling.
  • A high-growth retail company decreased the time to schedule an interview by 98% (from 5 minutes to 5 seconds)

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

After defeating (one of many) enemies while overcoming their inner personal challenge, the Hero emerges from the battle a stronger person. Each battle you win often comes with a prize. It may not be an actual sword. It could be a skill, a shield, a technique, a know-how, whatever. As long as the "sword" unlocks the Hero's potential, it works.

The screening interview is the first time you'll see light at the end of the tunnel. Yep, the light is a human. Although it might be an oncoming train? How to prepare for a screening interview of no longer than 30 minutes, in which you must impress the human at the other end? 30 minutes. That's how much time you have to seize the sword. Do your research!

Interview Or Interrogation?

The interview is your first glimpse into the company and the role. And as much as you want this to be the one, the final one, remember that an interview is a dialogue. You are also interviewing them! Write down how it "felt" as an experience after the interview. Did it feel like a successful first date, an formal interview, a checklist, or an interrogation?

I had several screenings, and I could tell after each one whether this was the end of the journey with that position, or the beginning. During one of my screenings, the recruiter was eight minutes late. Then, the experience felt like filling out a form. She was literally reading out random questions from a list (without any idea of what a good answer could be) and then did her best to type up my answer.

Other screenings felt like they actually wanted to get to know me the same way I wanted to get to know them. Either way, your goal is to seize the sword: that is, to get to the next round. Be yourself! Don't try to be what you think they want you to be, because then you might get hired to be someone else.

  • Hint
    Screening is often based on the "interpretation" of a job description, and not necessarily the meaning behind it. What do I mean by that? If the job description says you need Java skills, they're going to ask you about Java. Just because someone put the wrong programming language in the description, and you know it is JavaScript and not Java, don't just say you don't have Java experience. The same goes for authoring tools. Use the exact wording from the job listing with the recruiter. They are often not familiar with the tools needed. If they require computer skills, tell them you have computer skills, and then give examples of what you can do. LinkedIn, for example, told me I don't have computer skills, after 20+ years of programming and having a computer science degree. Just because my resume did not say "computer skills."

Use the words in the job description as is to refer to skills, tools, and processes. You'll have time later, with the hiring manager, to figure out what they actually need.

The Road Back: On The Way To Landing A Job

After seizing the sword, it is now time for the Hero to return. The road back is a stage that seems like a slam dunk. The audience anticipates a herioc return with total vindication! But the Hero's journey suddenly takes a twist, and the stakes just got higher.

Congrats! You're in the next round, which is usually the hiring manager. As you prepare, research the company, the role, and reviews on Glassdoor, and chat informally with your LinkedIn peeps, you start to like the job! Like, really. And the stakes just get higher! You can see yourself working for the company and for that manager. Now, you have much more to lose! The road back gets steeper. What if you don't make it?

  • "There can be only one"
    There are many Heroes on this path, but only about three of them will make it to the final rounds of interviews. The final decision may come down between you and another Hero. But ultimately, there can be only one. I can tell you from the hiring side of things that after a while, resumes, skills, tools, and experiences look alike. In order to win, you need to stand out.

That is the point of your inner battle. You need to know yourself well! Not just your intent, but also how you might come across. Remember, people you meet during interviews have a short glimpse of you as a person. No matter how STAR-driven the interview process is, we make a lot of decisions by gut and then come up with logical reasons to explain why.

By looking at brain activity while making a decision, researchers could predict what choice people would make seven to ten seconds before they themselves were even aware of having made a decision. This means that even when people think they are making a conscious, logical, decision, chances are that they aren’t aware that they’ve already made a decision, and that it was unconscious.

Act 3: Return To The Ordinary World

The final stage leads to victory or defeat. This is decision time!


Just when you thought it was over, the biggest, scariest, and most lethal enemy stands in your way. Everything you've done in the long, long road comes down to the final battle. The Hero now understands that outcome of this final battle is much greater than the Hero themselves.

Making it through rounds and rounds of interviews with the same enthusiasm while yet being thoughtful, even smart, takes its toll. Being so close to being the chosen one (among the last two standing), yet knowing everything that you did on the journey could fall apart at the last second, is tough.

  • Hint
    I repeat this again because it is critical: all through the process, be yourself! Don't try to outsmart everyone by pretending to be someone you think they want. There are two reasons I say this: a) if you get hired, they hire that person who you're not, and b) if you don't get hired, you might blame it on your decision to be someone you're not.

At the end of this stage, you either get an offer, or not. Even if you are not the one chosen, you've learned a lot about yourself. The company also invested in your interviews. If you are someone they're looking for, but not for the role you interviewed for, they might recommend you internally. Amazon, for example, keeps an open mind about the candidate's potential for other roles throughout their hiring process.

Return With The Elixir: Landing The Job

As a changed person, the Hero returns to the "ordinary" world. While the Hero returns to where they started and things seem to be the same, the audience knows that nothing will be the same again. Lessons are learned, life is changed.

Whether you're extended an offer or not, and whether you accept it or not (you can always negotiate), you've learned something along the way. Reflect on your findings, because regardless of whether this is the end of your journey to landing a job or not, this is only the beginning of a new journey.

Know your values, know your worth! Be smart out there, folks. Remember, the Hero's journey as the story of the "rugged individual infused with toxic masculinity to win against all odds" is a myth. You are not alone in the journey. Find your human allies! And there's a list AI tools that you might want to check out to help you along during the journey as well [4].


[1] 5 Applicant Tracking System Myths, Debunked

[2] Survey Reveals: Employers Using AI and Automation Technologies Screen, Interview Talent Faster

[3] How People Make Decisions

[4] 5 AI tools that can help you land that perfect job

Editor's Note: Check out our directory to find, choose, and compare eLearning Industry's Top Applicant Tracking Systems.