I’ve shared the same advice with several job seekers recently, pulling together a number of LinkedIn posts to provide my thoughts on job hunting, so I am publishing those thoughts more broadly in case it’s helpful to you or somebody you know.
The main principle I offer is that people don’t hire you because you have a set of skills. They hire you to handle a business issue. If you can show you will create more value for the company than somebody else with similar skills, you are more likely to get the job. Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You makes a similar point that you will be more successful in your career if you build rare and valuable skills.
With that perspective, getting hired becomes a matter of understanding what makes you different than other people applying to the jobs you want, learning to tell that story effectively, and getting your story in front of somebody ready to hire. Here’s a few posts expanding on that approach:
- Figure out how to pitch yourself like a company with the problem you will handle for a hiring manager, and what makes you unique in handling it.
- Describe how you take organizations from A to B as a way of communicating what change you can drive for a company (and helping you target the jobs that are a better fit for you).
- My friend Seppo wrote a guide to writing resumes that get you interviews. The takeaway is to have a tagline to summarize the impact you will have, but he goes into a lot more detail of how it helps in the job search.
- Start with who, not what in your job search – as you get more senior, it’s less about your domain expertise, and more about values and culture fit, so people are going to prefer people they know. More tips in this HBR article on networking as an executive.
- Start by talking to people you already know, and ask them what your superpower is; you may not recognize it because it’s easy for you.
- Practice your pitch developed above in each conversation so you get better at telling your story. Then simplify it so others can tell your story for you.
- At the end of each conversation, I also recommend asking “Who else should I talk to?” to keep momentum going and find the next conversation.
I think this advice can apply even early in your career. If everybody else applying for the job has the same credentials, what will make you stand out? I was once hiring for a financial analyst at Google, and every resume looked the same: top undergrad degree, 2 years of experience at a bank or hedge fund, then back for an MBA. It felt like picking a random card out of a deck, so anything that made a resume different caught my eye. I remember choosing to interview somebody because she mentioned having won beauty contests in high school; even though that wasn’t a relevant skill, it showed a determination to excel in whatever she tackled.
That reminds me of my 2011 post on writing a resume, which still holds up, especially this line: “If you only had ten seconds to sell yourself to somebody, would you try to tell them your entire life story? Of course not – you would tell them only a few key points that make you stand out and show that you’d be a great fit for the position.” That’s the essence of this advice; identify and share the highlights of your story that make it clear to the hiring manager how you can help them succeed.
How have you applied these tips in your own job searches? What other tips would you add?