You’re Doing It Wrong!

For decades, job seekers have been instructed to focus on the same things: drafting a professional cover letter, listening closely and giving satisfactory responses to interviewers’ questions, and then following up appropriately. However, the new realities of the job market are requiring applicants to take a different approach to their job search.

These days, it’s all about knowing your value, identifying the employer’s pain points, telling a story, and showing relevance. As a result, there is an all-new list of must-have skills for job seekers:

1. Identify Pain Points – In the past, applicants could get by simply focusing on the requirements listed in the “help wanted” ad. That approach won’t cut the mustard these days. You need to dig deep and discover what kind of business pain is behind the job opening. This can be accomplished by reading the job posting and researching the employer. Their pain could be growth-related or consolidation-related. They could be losing customers to competitors who provide cheaper prices. Their industry could simply be experiencing a shortage of talent. Whatever the cause of the pain, it’s up to you to identify it and use that information to make your case for why they should hire you.

2. Tell a Story – Rambling off characteristics like “strong work ethic” doesn’t mean much in today’s overcrowded job market. Hundreds of well-qualified individuals are likely to apply for any opening. Chances are they will all claim to possess the same desirable characteristics. Rather than building your responses around catch phrases, tell a story. Seek to explain what kind of results you produce on the job. Keep it brief, but make it powerful.

3. Be Personable — Not long ago, applicants were taught to talk in business speak, using phrases like “bottom-line orientation” and “results-oriented professional.” Unfortunately, such phrases mean little to today’s hiring managers. Aim to use a human voice instead of tired, worn-out corporate speak. Don’t be afraid to begin sentences with “I.” Be proud to speak in the first person as you take credit where credit is due.

4. Nix the One-Size-Fits-All Resume – Most job seekers make the mistake of using one resume for every position. This approach does nothing to help the hiring manager envision how you will fit into their organization. Take steps to highlight accomplishments that are relevant to the position in question. Don’t be afraid to revise your resume as often as necessary.

5. Know Your Value – Earlier this year, television news personality Mika Brzezinski published a book titled “Knowing Your Value.” While her tome was geared towards the historically underpaid female sex, there’s much to be said for the concept of knowing your value, no matter what gender, race, or orientation you may be. Before you begin a job search, undertake some research to discover your fair market value. Go in with a specific salary range in your head. Even in a tough economy, your skills and experiences have a specific value, so don’t allow yourself to get low-balled. If a potential employer isn’t willing to pay what you are worth, take your talents elsewhere.

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