Richard Bolles, in his book What Color Is Your Parachute? (ed. 2012) describes the order of preference in which most employers hunt for employees. First, easily enough for the employer, is to hire from within the existing company structure. The employer’s thoughts: “I want to hire someone whose work I have already seen.” The second preference is using proof: hiring an unknown job-hunter who brings proof of what he or she can do, with regards to the skills needed.
Back in the day when I myself hired workers for a manufacturing department, I used the technique of a working interview. I gave the applicant some short but typical tasks they would be doing in the course of a typical workday to measure their competancy for the role they were to assume. I found out pretty quickly if they could easily learn new skills, work quickly and independently, and rise to new challenges. Unfortunately these aren’t used much anymore. While beneficial, they’re not very feasible.
Jobseekers consistently lament the impersonal nature that job hunting has evolved into, mostly filling out online job applications without the ability to talk to an actual hiring manager. Those managers often find this process highly frustrating themselves– they want to see who they’re considering. It’s hard to get the whole picture from a simple couple pieces of paper, no matter how good the resume, cover letter or job application looks.
Remember the elementary school activity Show and Tell? Usually we had to bring something from home and tell the class why we chose that item, what is its significance. More than just an opportunity for the student to show off something he or she might be proud of, it taught us valuable skills such as public speaking, fostering imagination and communication skills, and learning by seeing as well as hearing.
Well, pull out the lined paper and the old #2 pencils because getting an employer to take you seriously is going to involve a little show and tell. Your job application, cover letter and resume are your places to tell the employer your skills and experience, but you need to go beyond that. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Participating in discussions on LinkedIn group pages can show an employer you know what you’re talking about. Well thought-out comments prove your ability to articulate thoughts and ideas, as well as your expertise.
- Barriers to employment can be overcome by showing an employer your benefit. If you perceive age to be a barrier, for example, show the employer– don’t just tell– how your skills are more cost effective than hiring an inexperienced worker. Use that carefully-crafted argument in your cover letter or post on your online profile.
- Demonstrate your strengths. You can say in your resume that you have excellent customer services skills, but I could venture to say that 90% of the resumes I read on a daily basis list that particular skill. It’s cliche. Instead of simply saying you have that skill, show it. Give an example of how you utilized that skill as an accomplishment. For example: “Increased repeat customer rates by 50% over the past 6 months.”
- Have a fully-utilized online presence. Profiles on LinkedIn and/or Twitter can give a better idea of your professional life, work and values. Make sure everything you put out there is focused on your personal brand or message. Employers are probably going to look for you online anyway– make it easy for them to find you. And when they do, let them find what you want them to know.
- How to Know When Your Personal Brand Isn’t Working (personalbrandingblog.com)
- 10 Reasons Your Resume Isn’t Getting You Interviews (money.usnews.com)
- Improve your LinkedIn Profile (minnesotaworks.net)