Job seekers need to focus on the two questions that will inform all aspects and steps in the interview process.
These are: What problem does the company look to solve? And how can you best demonstrate your experience to be seen as the best possible solution to the problem they are solving?
What is the problem the employer seeks to solve?
I had dropped out of college and my parents made broad hints that I should find work. While reading the paper, not the want ads, it hit me. The front page was filled with typos. There was hardly a sentence without some glaring error. I knew I could solve their problem.
I applied for the proof reader position. The editor asked me, since they had not advertised for a proof reader, what inspired me to apply?
I smiled and said that I was not responding to an ad but rather, their front page cried out for a proof reader.
When the editor grasped what I was saying, he laughed with me and admitted the front page needed attention. However, budget constraints kept him from hiring anyone. I didn’t get the job.
Will you always get the job? No. I am talking about getting an edge.
It is expensive to add personnel. Companies do not hire for charitable reasons. They won’t hire unless a problem demands a solution. How can you expect to get hired unless you provide the best solution to the problem?
The job description in the listing will specify why they are hiring. You need to get your own ad to them, tailored to suit their needs, in the form of a resume.
The Resume– an abstract of your problem solving ability
Much has been written about resumes’ optimal length, formatting and the best quality of paper on which to print them. However, before submitting it, examine your resume through the prism of – does it present you as the best solution to the problem?
You did not do A, B and C. You solved problems A, B and C using a variety of skills. Or you used a multi-faceted skillset to solve similar problems to A, B and C, those problems the company will hire you to solve.
Use active verbs. They add energy and allow you to pare your word count.
Tailor your resume so that point after point presents you as the perfect solution to their problem. Obviously, your skills exceed those needed for one particular problem. Nonetheless, you can show the depth of your experience and the breadth of your ability by using every bullet point to focus or support your main argument: Hire me, problem solved.
Interviews – auditioning your problem solving ability
Everyone has seen lists of the best questions (and the answers) you need for the interview. Forget them. What if they ask questions from a different list? Memorized answers will not get you hired.
Those lists of questions miss the point. The big question is: what impression will you make when you first walk through the door?
Everyone hates first impressions. They aren’t fair, and they are unavoidable. If you are alive, you cannot help but form opinions of people within about three seconds of first meeting them.
It is sometimes known as ‘the survival instinct’. Any infant learns to quickly judge the intent of that stranger who just entered the room. Can you blame it? Somehow, we never unlearned that primal impulse. Make it work for you.
Obviously, you don’t want to look like a troll when entering the interview. You want to look good. But besides grooming, what makes ‘good’?
More to lose
Believe it or not, your interviewer(s) have more to lose by hiring the wrong person, than you do by not getting hired.
If you don’t get hired, you will have spent some time, met some people and left them with the gnawing sense that they missed a good bet by not signing you on. Hopefully you learned something. But you are no worse off than before the interview.
If they hire the wrong person, that curious scent they detect when that wrong person moves into his new office, may be from a bad attitude, poor hygiene or maybe a juicy law suit smoldering under the newbie’s collar. Bad hires are expensive, in both time and money.
Back to you. You are not begging for a job. You are there to solve their problem. You are their solution. You have arrived.
The most important thing is to create an impression of self-confidence. They are anxious to find the right person. Everyone else they met had clammy hands and nervous laughter.
How would the best solution for their problem act?
Right. Like you.
You walk in, are calm, self-assured, and are in command of your persona and the skills they are seeking. What’s not to like?
You are more relaxed than anyone else in the room. You carry yourself like you already have the job. Not arrogant. Self-assured and with nothing to lose. You are your humble best. The best doesn’t need braggadocio because the best stands on solid ground. Like you.
You deliver because you have the stuff – the best solution to their problem.
Being told one is over qualified sucks. It is a ‘nice’ way to say ‘we don’t like you’. How does one argue with ‘you are too good for the job’?
The flaw, however, is in your presentation. Somehow you made them feel you didn’t really want the job. Perhaps you indicated your purpose was to get in the door and then impatiently move beyond the job for which you were hired.
Your purpose must be to get the job they are hiring for. You want that job. If you over shoot, tip your hand, or wax grandiose in your description of your accomplishments, they won’t believe you desire what they can offer.
Tone down your presentation. Don’t lie, and aim for the job they are offering. If your skills are better used elsewhere, once you are in, they will see that and find a way to challenge you. No one will believe a brain surgeon wants to be a janitor. They won’t.
If you present yourself as the best solution to their problem, they won’t think you are over qualified. They will ask, “When can you start?”