Want to Impress an Employer? Think Like an Employer!
Getting your dream job is a lot like those talent and singing competitions you see on TV these days – shows like The Voice or American Idol, where there can only be one winner but dozens, perhaps hundreds are in the mix.
The job search is a competition and you want to be the winner. But in order to be the winner, you need to get every possible advantage in your favor.
One of the ways you can increase your chances of landing that job is to try and put yourself in the mind of an employer. Yes, try to think like an employer.
First, ask yourself this question, “Would I hire myself?”
The answer better be yes. Of course you’d hire yourself. Why wouldn’t you? After all, you know your talents and skills better than anyone else out there. And then you look at a job posting, check over the duties and requirements and think, “I can do all of that easily” or “I have that kind of experience.”
The problem, however, is that an employer doesn’t know that about you. All that employers know about you is what you put down on a little piece of paper in résumé format, perhaps a cover letter. And if you land that key interview, you’re likely a stranger – a person with whom employers have never met until now. They want to get to know you and see if you match up well enough.
Why? Well, some folks say they can handle those job duties with ease. But, perhaps, they don’t have the actual relevant experience or don’t necessarily understand how to translate their experience into the skills and duties required.
That’s why thinking like an employer is so important. And it all starts the moment you see a job opening.
Reading between the Lines
Job postings can be pretty straight forward. The prototypical “here’s what the job is” and “here are the requirements” you’ve gotten so used to reading since your job search started.
But stop and think about what the employer is really asking for.
Case in point, you might see a job posting for a “dynamic administrative assistant.” Well, that’s a keyword – dynamic. By definition, dynamic means “to be characterized by constant change or activity.” Translation: the employee better be able to handle a variety of ever-changing tasks in what will likely be an up-tempo workspace.
Or how about this – a job description reads “the employee needs to have excellent critical thinking skills” or “excellent customer service skills.” To me, that would translate into an employee being able to think and make quick, good decisions on the fly. As far as the customer service-side of things? Well, you better be likable. Especially to the company’s customers and clientele.
Simply put, going behind just the text of a job description can tell you a lot more about what an employer is seeking in its next great employee. So when you’re putting together that custom resume – you’re tailoring your résumés to each position, aren’t you? – or getting ready for that key interview, remember what you deduced from the job posting and incorporate it into your impression.
How to Stand Out… for the Right Reasons
As hard as you might try to think like an employer, you aren’t the employer. Just like each one of us, every employer and interviewer is different. Some may be upbeat and outgoing, while others are more reserved and quiet. And unless you have some inside knowledge, you’ll have no clue what to expect.
But there are things many employers and interviewers have in common. For starters, they’ve probably poured over dozens, maybe hundreds of résumés, including yours. It’s easy to get “lost in the shuffle,” which is exactly where you don’t want to be in the hiring process.
So put yourself in an employer’s perspective. Imagine having to read, let’s say, 100 résumés for one position. Sounds exhausting, right? The first thing you’d likely do is start whittling down the pile by getting rid of résumés that come nowhere close to what you’re looking for. After that, you’d probably start looking for some of the right work experience, keywords and skill sets necessary to the position. And, finally, you might make your final cut based off the fine details – punctuation, proper formatting, grammar, overall look, etc.
Maybe you have 10 candidates you’d like to interview out of those 100. That’s quite the cut.
Standing out on paper is tough to do. And it’s why you need to make sure your résumé looks professional and avoids the pitfalls many profiles can have.
Understanding the hiring process from an employer’s perspective goes beyond the résumé, though.
Let’s take the same approach with the interview process. Like résumé review, an employer might be interviewing dozens of candidates. Again, you need to stand out but in the right way. Part of the way you can do this is by putting yourself in the interviewer’s shoes once more. You likely understand you’re just one of a number of candidates.
An employer’s time is valuable, just like yours. And you wouldn’t want someone else making you wait because he or she wasn’t totally prepared, late or anything like that. Same thing goes when you’re in the actual interview. Some of us have the tendency to get a little longwinded in our answers. Remember, you’re on the employer’s time. It never hurts to stay to the point.
Still, you want to constantly remind yourself, “The employer is looking for the best fit for his or her company.” You could be it, but you want the employer to think that too.
For example, I interviewed for a position many years ago for which I knew I was way overqualified. My thinking at the time was, “Well, they’ll see how qualified I am and either promote me quickly or hand me a position higher up the chain.”
It didn’t go that way.
I never got the job. Later, hearing from a friend who worked there, I found out the company thought I would be bored with the position and I would likely want to move on shortly after getting hired to find something more challenging.
See, I made the mistake of not thinking from the company’s perspective. What are they looking to fill? Who do they want to see in this position?
Even if your résumé and profile fit the job description to a “T,” and you’re an ideal candidate, you’ll still want to think like an employer during your interview.
Some of the best interviews I’ve had with candidates feel more like casual conversations instead of an actual interview. Sure, I’m asking the standard interview questions. But the candidate is expressing experience and qualifications in a simple-to-understand, relatable manner. The interviewee also asks questions, smart ones, which tell me he or she is engaged and wants to know more about what it would take to succeed in the position up for grabs. Those are the kinds of things you can do to stand out in the right way.
But you’ll want to be careful about doing this. For starters, you don’t want your answers to sound “canned” or automatic, as if you’re trying to answer questions by reciting the company’s mission statement verbatim. And you wouldn’t want to go into an interview with more ego than confidence. Companies have egos too, and they’re the ones ultimately in charge of the final decision.
Yet if you’re able to hone your answers and interaction in a way that directly reflects what the employer is thinking, you’ll be that much further ahead towards standing alone at the finish line.
And ultimately getting the job of your dreams.
“Yet if you’re able to hone your answers and interaction in a way that directly reflects what the employer is thinking, you’ll be that much further ahead towards standing alone at the finish line.”