How to use ‘bracketology’ to add a little ‘March Madness’ to your job search

This is the time of year when everyone, including the President is selecting who they believe will advance to the final four in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championships. With a little imagination, you can use the bracket concept as a decision matrix to manage career choice, job search or your network.

In 2007, sportswriters Richard Sandomir and Mark Reiter published ‘The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything’, applying the methodology of March Madness to everyday decisions.


“Bracketology—the practice of parsing people, places, and things into discrete one-on-one matchups to determine which of the two is superior or preferable—works because it is simple. It is a system that helps us make clearer and cleaner decisions about what is good, better, best in our world. What could be simpler than breaking down a choice into either/or, black or white, this one or that one?”

How can we apply the scaffolding of March Madness to job search? Let’s say you are totally undecided (confused, terrified, ambivalent) about your next career move. All you know is you’re not happy with your current work situation. Where do you begin?

Try categorizing your interests using the bracket system. Instead of four regions, fill in four career fields that might interest you. Next, identify sixteen possible employers in each field. Once you have your potential employer roster identified, begin your research.

This may be a good time to develop a parallel list of contacts: a bracket representing your network. Use the same four career categories and identify folks who have broad expertise  in the profession. In this ‘exploration’ phase you are aggregating data about industry trends, market leaders, and potential for growth.

As you progress with your data gathering, you will begin to eliminate some organizations in favor of others. Once you get to your ‘elite eight’ employers, schedule your in-depth information interviews.

As you talk to people you will begin to establish a realistic assessment of ‘organization fit’, and evaluate your chances for success.

The ‘elite eight’ forms your target list. By the time you have narrowed your selection to eight, you should feel comfortable that each employer presents a realistic starting point in the next phase your career.

As with any selection process, you don’t have total control. The employer extends the offer and you have the choice to accept or continue to pursue other options.

The NCAA tournament lasts three weeks. If you start filling in your career brackets now, you will advance through the exploration process at a pace to be ready for interviews by ‘tip-off’ in the championship game.

Its time to add a little ‘March Madness’ to your job search, and some fun to a typically stressful routine.


Time to ‘spring clean’ your social media profile

Can you feel it? The economy is growing again and folks who have held tight to positions for security are now loosening their grip, updating resumes, scheduling information interviews and testing their value in the market.

Latest industry reports indicate that more people are changing jobs as the economy improves. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released statistics showing a 9.6% growth in job opportunities for recent college graduates.

Before you begin your exploration into the brave new world of job search, check your online presence. It may need a bit of ‘spring cleaning’ before you send out your first resume.

Hiring managers are active participants on most social media platforms. These online profiles have become another prescreening opportunity to determine, prior to a face to face meeting, if you are a ‘fit’ for an organization.

Employers attending the Fashion Institute of Technology’s annual Industry Expo this week in Los Angeles were asked if social media is the new background check. 

“You can tell a lot about a person just by viewing the “About” section of their Facebook profile, the topics that they tweet about, and the content of their Instagram page. Stephanie Sherwood, the College Relations Specialist at BCBG, cites that she views her candidate’s profiles to “understand their own personal brand,” and by personal brand she means their “creativity, sense of style, hobbies, and overall personality.” In other words, if you’re in the running for an open position at BCBG, and you’re wearing an oversized hoodie, a pair of baggy sweatpants, and Nike tennis shoes in your profile photo, there’s a slight possibility that BCBG would pick another job candidate over you. Sherwood also states, “[Social media] is a fun way to see if [candidates] are a good fit for our brand.”

What does your online profile communicate about you? When was the last time you updated your profile? Does your online presence describe a professional who is serious about work and career? Have you shared links to your portfolio? Are you posting articles that demonstrate your knowledge of market trends?

Many applicants replay interviews over and over, trying to figure out why they did not get a job offer, when all the initial indications from the employer signaled that they were the lead candidate.

The selection process is subjective. There are many factors that influence an employer’s decision. One of the most critical is trust. Can the employer trust that you will represent their organization in a professional manner? Will your performance over time reflect positively on their hiring decision? Are your values in concert with the workplace community you aspire to join?

If you find you are always in the pool of finalists for a position, yet never hired, it’s time to ask: Is there something in my multi-platform, social media existence that might cause an employer to hesitate?

Your online presence is a snapshot in time of your character and a narrative of your reputation. Take the time to ensure you present a consistent, professional image to the world.