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Competence Triggers: How to Land a Job You’ll Love in the Civilian Sector

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We know that our Dream Job won’t just fall into our laps… and that the best jobs usually aren’t listed on any job boards. But when tired old job hunt “tricks” fail us, we end up frustrated, embarrassed, scared of wasting time, and paralyzed by the fear of being stuck. 

Ramit Sethi, bestselling author who has taught thousands how to become rich, generously agreed to partner with our founder Phil Randazzo and share his advice on how to land your Dream Job.

When you walk into an interview room the hiring manager is instantly sizing you up on dozens or even hundreds of characteristics. Ramit Sethi defines these implicit messages as Competence Triggers, or signals that show you are a top performer. 

From the way you talk, the way you walk, what you’re wearing, the way you smile, to the questions you ask and the answers you give – these behaviors communicate something positive or negative about your competence. 

For instance, a hiring manager may ask what your current salary is. A low competence trigger would be “I’m not really sure” or answering with your exact salary number. A high competence trigger would be more along the lines of “You know, I’m sure we can discuss salary a little bit later on in the process but right now I just want to make sure that it’s a good fit for you and a good fit for me.”

Why? Because top candidates don’t want to discuss salary right away. They know that they have plenty of other offers out there. Answering in this way signals to your hiring manager that you are a candidate of value.

Or, how do you answer when an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself?

A low competence trigger would be to simply address things chronologically: “I graduated from here, then I did this, I studied that, then I worked at this company, and now I’m really interested in this company.”


By contrast, a high competence trigger in this case would be to pick out the key elements of your story. Highly competent people understand that an interview is not just telling the facts but is about telling your story.

Competence Triggers are not a trick to hide your deficiencies. Of course you have to be good at your craft. If you try to put lipstick on a pig, you will be discovered. (Interestingly, the more advanced you are, the quicker any deception will be discovered, because you’re competing with increasingly smart people). But Competence Triggers signal that you are potentially worthy of further investigation. 

If you internalize these Competence Triggers, and the psychology behind them, you can get amazing results in the search for your Dream Job.

By Ramit Sethi, Phil Randazzo, and Bethany Faulds

schuyler@americandreamu.org

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