Think of employers as shoppers in a marketplace. They know what they want and they’ve made a list of what they are looking for. During their shopping excursion they look over products for sale, pick out the ones they find most appealing and pass over by default the ones they don’t.
The question then becomes how to make yourself so attractive to an employer that you are the person they pick over other applicants? How do you become the one they examine and find just right for their particular needs? Just as an employee in the store makes products visually appealing, you’ve got to have your best face forward, be easy to locate and make your benefits known.
Stick with this shopping analogy a wee longer. When you go to the store, you might see a whole display of fresh plums. Some will be firm and hard, some softer and juicy. You make your selection on how you like them, how fast you’re likely to through them at home, and you may pick up and reject a few until you arrive at the ones just right for you. Employers act the same.
Okay so most people understand by now that when it comes to applying for work, it is essential to specifically market themselves to the needs of the employer. Ironically, while many people agree with that premise, it is a smaller number who actually know HOW to do it. There is an even smaller number of people who actually bother to take the time to market themselves to an employer – even when they do know how to do it; they just don’t.
So my question is why even bother to put in the slightest bit of energy and time applying for a job if you aren’t going to market yourself to the best of your ability? If your answer is that it’s too time consuming, save yourself the time and effort and don’t even send them one of your 20 photocopied resumes. A mass-produced resume that isn’t specifically made to match the needs of the employer is like the plum that gets passed over by every shopper and then gets reduced in cost for quick sale because it’s life expectancy is reduced. Why undervalue yourself and get passed over by employers you really want to work for; for jobs you really want?
You must market yourself to the best of your ability with each point of contact: cover letter and resume, interview (in-person and/or telephone) and follow-up. Also include any networking event that might bring you in contact with the employer. Every single interaction makes up part of their overall assessment of you as a potential employee of theirs.
It’s critical to be self-aware. Suppose you’re at a conference with others in your profession and then in two months find yourself sitting across from someone who also attended that conference who is in the position of hiring you. If you impressed at the conference, they might remember you and look favourably on you. On the other hand, if you looked bored, told others it was a waste of your time and the interviewer played a big part in putting that conference together, you may have ruined your chances two months ago. Mind your audience; both those you are specifically addressing and those in the wider zone around you but within earshot or able to see you.
It is important to match yourself up with the skills, qualifications and experience the employer has indicated they are looking for. Sure you can pick most of this up from looking at the job posting with a discerning eye. You should of course then make sure your resume and your cover letter cover all the needs of the employer. This still isn’t enough however. You’re going to need to sell yourself – market yourself – to the employer with something more. What they want in addition to this is what employers have always wanted; people who demonstrate some enthusiasm for the work, some passion or love for the job. It’s not good enough to just have a pulse; never has been.
Smile as you speak, sit slightly forward in the chair, get engaged in the conversation and invest yourself in the opportunity to discuss this job you say you really want. Your body language has to back up your words. You can’t slouch in the chair, speak in a monotone voice, never show any personality and convince anyone that you really want a job as you claim. I could see right through you and so could you were you in their shoes.
When you really want something – anything; doesn’t your face show some level of anticipation and excitement? Doesn’t your body move differently? You stride with purpose, you speak with emotion, you become emotionally invested in the pursuit of whatever it is. A job is no different.
Researching the job, company, employees and hot topics in that business will give you the intellectual, factual data you need to give solid answers, as will knowing yourself well. Delivering all that information with confidence, assertiveness and a smile drives it home and makes you a standout.
One practical thing you can do is examine your online photo. Are you smiling? Frowning? Sitting or standing? Positive or negative?. Fix it now if you look brooding, defensive, too casual or downright scary. Ask for feedback on it and I’ll let you know what your photo conveys.