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Interview AND Resume Tip- The Job Description Is Just The Starting Point

March 31st, 2008 · 6 Comments

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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!

Related posts:

  1. Resume Tip- 4 Quick Ways To Make Your Resume Stand Out
  2. Ask Brian – What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume?
  3. Ask Brian- Lying on a Resume
  4. Ask Brian- How To Schedule An Interview When You Already Have A Job
  5. Ask Brian- Best Resume Tip
  6. Ask Brian- Taking A Step “Backward” And How To Address This In My Resume

Tags: Interviewing · Job Search · Resumes

  • Rick

    Nice post! If you REALLY want to land that job, this is clear evidence that any skills or accomplishments you possess BEYOND the job description can make you a prime candidate. And if it’s a small company that wants to grow, or a large company that’s looking to, say, break into a new market or push a new product line, you may be very valuable before you even interview. To improve your chances, at that stage, make sure you research the company.


    I agree with the previous comment. Good post! From personal experience (and workshops with past internship employers), I can suggest adding some personal interests and/or accomplishments at the end of the resume. This is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates and add some personality to your resume! Once you’ve landed the internship, don’t forget to critique it on!

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  • Daniel

    …And of course, upon hiring the lady that spoke spanish, you gave her remuneration package a little boost, as she was doing somewhat more than the job description asked for, right? Right.

    I would be VERY wary about freely offering more skills than the job required, unless you can successfully negotiate compensation for those skills, either right away or down the track.

    If not, keep your mouth shut, or you may find yourself in the situation where you are doing double the work of your co-workers without any benefits. It happens all the time!

  • Clara

    I just wanted to write a big THANK YOU to the person that wrote this. I was looking for a teaching job and my odds to get “the job”felt like winning the lotery sometimes in today’s economy, the competition is fierce and this would be my first teaching job= no experience. With that in mind, I read every possible blog and website about interviewing, and right before I walked out to go to THE INTERVIEW, I came across this blog. We all know the obvious : don’t curse, dress nice, don’t chew gum… etc. but I did exactly what this article is about: go beyond the job description. I had a portfolio with drawings that I have made, since my background is in design, I told them that I was interested in enrichment activities after school such as art, or chess and I had a management plan in place for the classroom…and smiled, smiled and smiled.
    I didn’t even talked about my nonexistent teaching experience, ( they were aware of that, and they called me for an interview anyway).
    One week later, I got the job. It was my first and only interview ,when I was mentally prepared to interview at at least 5 schools, wich is what I’ve heard from other people in my situation. All because of the JOB BORED, so if I didn’t say it before: THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!

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