“So … I’ve got a great résumé. I know that I interview well. But I haven’t been able to translate it all into a job.” This is an all too common refrain these days. If you believe that you’ve done everything you can, and the deck seems stacked against you, it’s time to step back and imagine that late-night TV huckster screaming into your ear, “But wait! That’s not all! There’s more!”
And, if your job hunt is a new venture, it is equally important to incorporate these insights into your overall strategy:
1. Step back and examine what you’ve actually communicated. Do a very close read of your résumé, and review carefully everything you’ve said at interviews. Ask yourself what specifically someone learns about you from each sentence of written and oral communications. Are you just saying stuff, or is there a clear purpose for each sentence? What is the overall impression that the reader of your résumé will draw from your tone, format, use of language and the way you build your case for consideration, point by point?
2. Convey information. Are you filling your résumé, cover letter and interview with lots of jargon that really conveys nothing specific about you? Are you jumbling together stock résumé-speak phrases because you think that is what is expected, or do your words actually articulate what you’ve done in the past and the value you bring with you for your future employer?
Do you provide a contextual framework so that someone can see what specifically you have done, and the size, scale and scope of the environment in which you have operated? Wherever possible, have you quantified things, such as: how often, how much, costs, savings, benefits, etc., for whatever it is you have done? Have you conveyed the results of your efforts in terms of added revenue or productivity, saved expense or time or other innovation?
3. Be authentic. Are you using every conversation as an opportunity to build a relationship based on your common knowledge, industry experience and goals? Or, are you coming across as arrogant, phony, desperate or self-deprecating? Do you project yourself as the professional person that you are, or do you come off as just trying to game the whole process to get a job?
4. Project optimism. People don’t like to be around Debbie Downers. It is not surprising that both Presidents Reagan and Obama were catapulted into office by their optimism. Reagan evoked the image of “Morning in America” and shared his belief that the best days are always yet to come. Obama’s rallying cry was “Hope and Change.” In each case, the presidents acknowledged the issues of their day and laid out plans to address them. They convinced the voters that they had an attractive vision of the future and a path to get there. While their world views, political parties and agendas were all different, their senses of optimism were essential components of their cases for leadership.
Is your message all about yourself, or have you taken the time to put yourself in the context of your potential employer’s situation? Have you diagnosed the employer’s current problems? Have you conveyed your vision and path forward that will lead toward positive results?
5. Let your audience make the judgment. Remember that it is your job at every stage to earn trust and confidence in what you say, and not to assume that you have it. For example, there is a big difference between claiming that you are an excellent communicator than the far better, “…wrote X proposals that were accepted and executed, thereby earning $XXX for the company.” When you convey facts in a logical sequence, you enable the hiring authorities to see your successes and form the inevitable conclusion that you are the answer to their needs.
6. Listening. Do you drone on and on, continually presenting your own personal history and message that you want to get out there and monopolize the conversation? Taking the time to actively listen to those around you is an essential element of communication. By listening you implicitly acknowledge that the hiring process is about the employer, not you. Thereby, you enable yourself to address their needs and concerns forthrightly and demonstrate your fit.