Whether you're unemployed, underemployed, or simply looking for an opportunity to grow and prove your professional worth, this is a climate you can and should take advantage of.
But you've got to be ever mindful of the hiring organization's goals and how your employment could help the company reach those goals. Here are some tips:
Do your homework. Just knowing that a position is available and that your experience is relevant is nowhere near enough. The vast amount of information available today means job seekers have no excuse not to be well-informed about a company, its competitive marketplace, and what new products and services it has in the pipeline. This means more than just taking a look at a company's website. Can you network with a stakeholder in the organization or get yourself an introduction from someone with leverage? You may also wish to consider increasing your professional qualifications, getting published in trade journals or otherwise increasing your visibility -- all in ways that meet a company's immediate market objectives.
That might seem like a lot of work. Executives I spoke to, however, said the "hunger" a candidate shows for a job plays a significant role in their decision making. Even more, everyone agreed that even if a position isn't immediately open, doors are always open to the right -- talented and dedicated -- candidates.
Tighten your cover letter and resume. As in many industries, the executives I spoke to thought of resumes and cover letters as a "foot in the door" -- and little more. Moreover, it may seem counterintuitive, but your resume isn't about you; it's about what you can deliver to a future employer. This means focusing on results, listing details and goal-driven deliverables, and keeping it brief. Employers look at a cover letter and resume's highlights -- they don't have time to go through and evaluate a candidate's past 10 years of employment.
Keep things simple, accessible, and, no matter the length, clear and focused on how you can improve the business' revenue and bottom line. There's no better guarantee of getting an interview than convincing an executive you can affect his or her profit margin.
An interview is not about you. As with your resume, what an employer is looking for in an interview has less to do with the candidate and more with what the candidate can do for the business. Business leaders are looking for candidates who can demonstrate their commitment, command of detailed examples of previous experience and, most important, ability to affect the bottom line. One executive summed things up by noting that if he's interviewing someone, it means he has a problem that needs to be fixed. If a candidate can provide the solution, he or she is going to get hired.
Finally, the way you act in an interview is the only opportunity you have to prove how you would represent a company to its clients. You might not have to bake muffins (although I did hear a story of someone getting a job that way) but simple, hand-written follow-up notes can go a long way toward improving your chances.
Clearly it's all about results. Throughout my conversations with executives, the ability of a candidate to deliver was consistently cited as the most important factor in hiring decisions. If you've done your homework, networked with the right people, tightened up your resume, and managed to answer interview questions directly and concretely, then you're on your way to demonstrating your worth to the company's bottom line. It's hard to think of a better reason to give someone a job than that.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Erika Weinstein is president and co-founder of Stephen-Bradford Search.