Posted by Brian McCullough
Several times on this blog, I’ve railed against the narrow mindset of people looking for jobs. A new job is not something rewarded by luck or the fates: it’s a negotiation wherein you offer something to the employer as much as they offer you a job. A successful job candidate doesn’t just prove she’s adequate, she proves that she’s exceptional; he convinces the employer that hiring him can pay additional and unexpected dividends.
To that end, I’m here to make a similar point, but in a different way. I want to address a common mistake people make when formulating their resumes and preparing for job interviews.
Over the years I found that for those clients who came to our company with a specific job position in mind, there was an almost slavish devotion to the job requirements listed in the job ad.
One the one hand, there is nothing wrong with this. Every position is slightly different, and so tweaking your resume to fit the requirements the employer lists makes perfect sense.
But time and again, clients insisted that the resume and, by extension, their interview preparation, stay narrowly focused on proving they were qualified based on the requirements listed in the job description. It was almost as if they feared any additional or supporting information would jeopardized their qualifications.
To this, my standard answer is:
The Job Description Is Just A Starting Point- You Want To Cover The Job Description And THEN Some
In other words, showing you can meet the requirements of the job description are the bare minimum you should do if you want to be considered for the job. But to actually LAND the job, you need to show more.
After all, everyone else is trying to prove they’re just as qualified to cover the narrow requirements of the position. If that’s all you do, and that’s all they do, then no one stands out at all.
I’ve tried to hit time and time again on the idea that the thing that will get you hired every time is to show the employer that hiring you will give them an extra bang for their buck. You need to show them that you can do the job they advertised… and you can do it better… and you can do it in new and innovative ways… AND you can bring additional things to the table that they didn’t even consider.
Here’s a real world example.
A client comes to me as salesman… a salesman with a specialty in a specific industry to be sure, but not more or less qualified than any other salesman of similar experience.
On his resume we focus on the tangible accomplishments and sales numbers he’s been able to achieve over his career. This helps. His numbers might be more impressive than others.
But in addition, I notice this client has some impressive side experience with the latest in CRM software and technology. He’s sort of a geek in his spare time.
I convince the client that we make this additional experience a highlight of his resume. And I encourage him to mention it prominently in his next interview.
Sure enough, his next interview is with a growing, but old school company that has never used CRM software but is thinking about it. When the client brings this up in the interview, this leads to a lengthy discussion with the hiring manager about the merits of various CRM software systems. The client expresses confidence that not only could he help the manager make the right decision in terms of what system to go with… he also has the needed expertise to help set up the system and get it running.
Of course the client gets the job. Why? Because the manager not only gets a new, experienced salesperson, but he gets a valuable added dividend he didn’t expect: someone to help him introduce a CRM system and bring his salesforce into the 21st century.
The moral of the story is, use the job description as your starting point. But then expand from that starting point and show them all the additional benefits you would bring to the table.
If all candidates are similarly qualified, the manager will hire the candidate with the best additional “features” so to speak.
I can speak from my own recent experience. We’ve had to hire a bunch of new writers so far this quarter at ResumeWriters. I recently had to choose one from a pool of four.
All four were excellent writers. All were qualified.
But one was bi-lingual (Spanish and English) and in the interview took the opportunity to pitch me on an idea for introducing a bi-lingual resume translation product, something we’ve never been able to launch successfully in the past.
Who do you think I hired? I hired the bi-lingual woman. I expect her to be a fine writer… but I also look forward to pursuing her ideas and (who knows?) maybe introducing a whole new product line. What a nice bonus from a new hire!
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- Ask Brian- Taking A Step “Backward” And How To Address This In My Resume