Getting Hired: A 4 Step Progression

January, 2017


I was reading a book about effective writing a few years ago, and early in the book the author shared something interesting about the hiring process. According to writer and film producer, Kenneth Atchity, four things lead to getting a job in Hollywood, in this order:

1. Perseverance
2. Connections
3. Talent
4. Fit

Each year I am a guest lecturer at a graduate level course at the University of Minnesota. Two years ago, after sharing the four-step model with this class, one of the students helped explain how this theory works in the business and non-profit world: “The first two (perseverance and connections) get you in the door. The second two (talent and fit) get you the job.”

I was very impressed with this student’s insight, and agree with her summary. Let’s take a look at each of these four steps in the order that Atchity and the student suggested. This is how getting hired usually works.

Getting In The Door

1. Perseverance

It is interesting how Atchity has turned upside down the popular notion that revealing talent is the leading driver for successfully landing a new job. Perhaps this is because it is so hard to get noticed and remembered in the ultra competitive world of Hollywood.

You simply have to keep at it to succeed in any market pursuit. If you quit trying to get noticed, you may disappear from sight and mind. If that happens, the other three factors will not happen.

Do you approach your career search with the same tenacity and discipline that you do with your work?

2. Connections

Since I started in this career transition field 28 years ago, I have kept track of the landing statistics of my clients. The next career opportunity is discovered and landed with the help of connections 65-80% of the time.

You may be wondering how recruiters factor into this four-stage model. Executive recruiter Marcia Ballinger once quoted the CEO of a national executive search firm when asked for the best way to stay on top of a search firm’s list. “Reach out to your whole network, and forget about us!” was his instant reply.

Where do recruiters find you? They find you through your network. Which network connections are going to be most helpful to recruiters? Your evangelists.
If you haven’t already done so, read Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez’s book, The 20-Minute Networking Meeting. It is an excellent resource for learning networking best practices.

Half the battle is being persistent, connected and actively building your network. It leads the way.

Getting Hired

3. Talent

My definition of well developed talent includes being really good at your work, and energized by it as well. Results matter, and possessing the talent that has consistently achieved maximum gain is a big factor in hiring. The reason this is not the final selection factor, however, is because there are usually several other candidates who are highly talented in any given search.

If the top candidates are all qualified to do the job, the decision maker will then need to turn to the next and final determining factor…fit.

4. Fit

Whenever I talk with recruiters, the word “fit” always seems to bubble to the top of their list of hiring criteria. Good fit potential usually means that a job candidate has gotten along well with others and succeeded during good times and tough times within organizations with a similar profile and with similar challenges and opportunities as the one they are pursuing.

During the interview process, this fit assessment is sometimes referred to as a “chemistry” check. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is, but a consensus needs to emerge that this is the person who will fit best in the job and the organization.

If you have been in a position to hire individuals, you have likely seen this phenomenon. After concluding that your top candidates could each do the job, don’t you want to select the one that is the best fit?

Without great fit, does talent, connections or perseverance even matter?


Remember that in Atchity’s model, he is referencing the hiring process in Hollywood. With some notable exceptions, good actors are viewed as a “dime a dozen”. Remember also, that Hollywood is an especially difficult place to find work, and the most common form of work is more like a project than a long term commitment. Yet, the changing nature of employment increasingly resembles the Hollywood story.

There are still many long tenured job opportunities, but much of the work at all levels has become more like being on the set of a movie, a one to three year project. When that movie/project/job ends, it’s time to search for another one. The perseverance, connections, talent and fit factors come right back into play as one searches for that next gig. As it goes in Hollywood, so it goes in the new world of work.