Louis Business Journal
The secret of job hunting
By Anna Navarro
1999 - The single most powerful job-hunting secret
is this: If you want a job, think like an employer. Put yourself
in their shoes. See things from their perspective. Hear how
you sound to them.
put this into practice, start your job hunt by asking yourself
"What does an employer want from a person in the kind of position
I am looking for?" The reply will probably include a blend
of skills, personality traits and experiences, as well as
some qualifications unique to the field.
If you don't know what an employer
would want, you may not be ready to job hunt. You probably
don't know enough about how to present yourself as an appealing
Once you are clear about what an
employer is likely to want, hunt for evidence of these characteristics
in your background. Often the treasures we find are scattered
gems amid a background that is largely irrelevant. This is
especially true in making a dramatic career change.
The next challenge is to knit these
gems together into a coherent whole that will present a compelling
case to a prospective employer.
For example, I once helped a woman
who had been an occupational therapist in a hospital setting
enter the field of corporate training a big leap!
Her specific expertise was helping
stroke victims recover their ability to do everyday tasks
like writing, brushing their teeth etc. On the surface, none
of this had any bearing on corporate training.
But as we looked more deeply into
her experience, we realized that her background offered some
parallels with corporate training. She assessed the needs
of the patients she worked with and developed programs for
rehabilitating them. Corporate trainers do the same thing
in assessing the needs of trainees, and developing training
programs for them. She had conducted in-house "staffings"
for her subordinates. This is the equivalent of delivering
stand-up training in corporations. She did outreach to other
departments of the hospital. She had done a considerable amount
of writing. She evaluated the effectiveness of occupational
therapy programs. Outreach, writing and program evaluation
are all important aspects of corporate training.
We were also careful to translate
language. In occupational therapy one works with "patients".
In training, they are "trainees": Similarly, an experience
might be called "rehabilitation" in occupational therapy,
but corporate employers would understand better if it was
The same approach applied to her
attire. Hospital employees generally dress very casually.
Soft-soled shoes are very acceptable. But in going into a
corporate environment, even one where casual dress is the
norm, she needed to make some changes: Darker clothes, subtle
jewelry, hard-soled shoes.
She integrated the overall strategy
of thinking like an employer into everything she did. It shaped
her resume, her self-presentation, her language, her interviews,
and her correspondence. The result? She quickly found a new
job in corporate training.
This approach requires some subtleties.
A friend of mine who owns a printing
company recently told me of a candidate he nearly hired who
blew it in the last few minutes of the interview.
He was hiring for a critical position
in marketing. He had been delighted with this young woman's
resume and their interaction during the interview. She was
at the top of his list of applicants.
As she left, she asked if the company
had a continuing education program for employees. He said
yes, and was impressed that she wanted to keep learning. Then
he asked her why she was interested. She replied, "I've always
wanted to be a lawyer and I want to go to night school part-time."
What employer in his right mind
would hire someone who was so interested in leaving the position
he was filling? She failed to see things from his perspective.
She failed to hear how she would sound to him.
She had the perfect skills and
background for the position, but she didn't understand what
he most needed: an employee who was excited about the job.
So she didn't get the offer.
The key to this entire approach
is empathy. This may seem a little odd. We generally think
of empathy as something we do with people who are in a less
fortunate position than we are - and employers don't usually
fit that description. But getting hired requires convincing
employers that we can meet their needs and this means demonstrating
that we understand them and their situation.
is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide career consulting
firm that trains independent career strategists and consults
with individual clients.
was originally published by the St. Louis Business Journal.
The actual title of the column and date in which it appeared
in the Business Journal may be slightly different from what
appears on WorkTransitions.com.