You have 15 seconds to share your top three accomplishments that are relevant to your target job – go!
While 15 seconds can feel like a lifetime when holding a plank in Pilates, it’s a relatively short period of time. But if you were in the market for a new vehicle and asked the Sales Person to name three features that would make you sign on the dotted line, and she hesitated, would you feel very confident making that purchase?
Perhaps worse, what if your primary interest was finding a safe and reliable car to transport your young family, and the Sales Person enthusiastically launched into features like speed, leather seats and the killer sound system? You may determine this isn’t the right vehicle for you and move on to another dealership, even if the car also came with eight airbags, child safety locks and an extensive roadside assistance package.
Clearly the Sales Person missed the opportunity to understand her product’s strengths in relation to her audience’s needs, and lost a customer.
Job seekers do this every day when choosing to focus on the accomplishments that are most meaningful to themselves, while neglecting to highlight strengths that align mostly closely with the needs of their target audience.
I coached a corporate attorney named Lauren who was interested in making a functional career switch into a human resources role. Although she had some valuable transferable skills, when seeking her new target role, she tended to introduce herself as a lawyer and launch into a recent lawsuit she had handled that saved the organization a lot of money. Lauren was understandably proud of this, and rationalized that interviewers would be able to extract the relevant information to see how she could be an asset, but unfortunately, hiring managers saw an apple when they were searching for an orange.
When it comes to landing the offer, there’s something even more important than stellar achievements. Hiring Managers are looking for relevance.
In your résumé, online presence and the interview, hirers expect you (the candidate) to do the heavy lifting of selecting those features of your background that are aligned with the problems you’re being hired to solve. Sometimes these are your greatest achievements, but if you’re a career switcher, they may be accomplishments from three jobs ago, or something you acquired through a volunteer role.
Don’t run the risk of losing their attention. Here’s how to make sure you present your value in a way that is relevant to a hiring manager:
- Research your audience. In order to know what’s relevant, you need to know what’s important to the people you are pitching to. Engage the internet, your contacts and all available resources to learn about the problems that keep your audience awake at night.
- Grab their attention. Your audience will quickly determine if you are worth their time based on what they see and hear first. If Lauren introduces herself as an attorney, even if she has some relevant examples to share later that make her a fit with an HR role, it may be too late. It can be tough to see yourself in a new way when switching roles, but the image you paint in the first few moments will be the lens you’re viewed through, so make sure it’s a match.
- Have a marketing mindset. You likely have dozens of skills and abilities that you’re proud of, but that doesn’t mean you have to include everything on a résumé or in an interview. In fact, sometimes one of your best achievements may cause a hiring manager to question your fit for the role, so it may be worth leaving it out. One of my clients who was transitioning from an academic to a corporate role didn’t start getting interviews until she dropped her Ph.D. from her résumé.
- Tell stories. Lists of skills or accomplishments leave the hiring manager to infer your value. Early in my career, I had a bad habit of including every achievement I was proud of on my résumé with the belief that hiring managers would read it thoroughly and magically know exactly where I would be a perfect fit. As you can imagine, this didn’t work out too well because I was asking my audience to do the hard work. A better approach is including what’s relevant to the role, and explaining how it will have a direct impact.
- Match first, stand out second . If a hirer doesn’t see you as a match, they’ll quickly move to the next candidate. However, once you’ve made it past the initial hurdles and are in the final stretch, they’ll want to understand how you stand out from your competition. This is a great time to bring up any unique qualities that can enhance your value, like that Ph.D. you removed from your résumé. Here’s Lauren’s revised opening for the HR role:
After partnering with clients to help them mitigate risk, remain compliant and develop retention strategies for 10 years, I was ready to broaden my client base. I decided to return to school to earn a Masters in Human Resources Management, while simultaneously accepting the role of overseeing employment policy and compliance in my company.
Over the last two years, I’ve successfully implemented two new organization-wide programs – a performance review plan that contributed to decreased attrition rates by 22%, as well as the creation of contracts and related policies that allow eligible employees the flexibility to work from home while protecting digital property. In addition, as a licensed attorney, I’m able to advise on legal matters related to a variety of employee relations questions. I’m excited to bring these skills to an emerging tech company like yours where mitigating risks to save costs and creating a worker-friendly employment model are core values.”
Whether in writing or the interview, when you take responsibility for building a case for your candidacy and communicating it effectively, you’re going to see many more opportunities come your way.
Reposted from: Forbes.com