What the Iowa caucus tells us about job hunting

Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus by eight votes. But eight votes or 8 million votes, it doesn't matter -- he's still the winner. Of course, this isn't the final prize (if you can call being President of the United States a "prize.") However, looking at the Iowa caucus results can tell you a bit about how the job hunt works.

1. It's a bit of a crap shoot. An eight-person difference means that if someone got the flu (or didn't get the flu), or there was bad weather in one town, or better weather in another, it could have easily gone to Rick Santorum or Ron Paul. Your job interviews can go the same way. It's rarely a decision made by the hiring manager alone -- her colleagues and bosses also have input. Someone being in or out of the office really can change the outcome.

2. The initial interview is merely a screening tool. Do you know who won the previous Iowa caucus? Unless you're a political junky, you probably don't. Mike Huckabee won the 2008 Republican Iowa caucus, beating second-place Romney. Neither man went on to win the nomination. And furthermore, Romney got 25 percent of the vote in 2008, and came in second. This time around, he got 25 percent of the vote and came in first.

Winning this is like rocking the initial interview with HR, but it hardly means you've won the job. In fact, as long as you don't give up after the initial interview, you still have a chance. Don't believe me? Check out the 1992 Iowa caucus where someone named Bill Clinton got a rotten 3 percent, losing out to Tom Harkin (76 percent), Undecided (12 percent) and Paul Tsongas (4 percent). Clinton could have walked away and said, "Well, that interview stunk. I'll withdraw my application." Instead, he persevered, and you all have to wrack your brains to remember who the heck Tom Harkin and Paul Tsongas were.

3. It's not over until it's over. Bill Clinton bombed in Iowa in 1992 and went on to be a two-term president. No matter what the pundits are saying right now, no one really has any idea who will secure the Republican nomination, and whether that person or Barack Obama will win the final election. (They will try to tell you they know, but they don't.)

In hiring, I've seen the absolute best person get the job and perform spectacularly well in it. I've also seen people who interviewed very well get the job and perform terribly. I've seen job offers made to multiple people before someone accepts it. Just because you didn't get the call offering you the position the day after the interview doesn't mean you're out of the running. And even because you are confident that you did a bang up job in the interview doesn't mean you'll end up getting the job.

There are so many variables that go into a job hunt. You can't predict the end results. But what you can know is that if you give up, you won't get the position. So don't let a bad interview or a great one color your expectations too strongly. There's no telling what the next round will bring.

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