Sunday, April 4, 2010

Take the Next Important Step to Landing that Job – Step 2

In the last article How to Stay Positive in a Job Search, we discussed the importance of a positive attitude in the job search. Attitude is the most important step. If you don’t have a positive attitude, it will show in your body language, which is 75-85% of your communication. Since people trust body language over the words you speak, without a positive attitude your body may be screaming “do not hire me”. A negative attitude will also be reflected in the words you say and in the energy you need to perform the job search.

If you do not have a positive attitude, if you are not looking forward to the next opportunity with hope- filled anticipation, do not start your job search; you will be sabotaging your own job search efforts. Instead, work on your attitude until you choose a positive attitude.

If you have given yourself time to process the loss of the job and are looking forward to the next opportunity, then you are ready for the next important step to landing that job. Step 2 is Aptitude, knowing what you bring to an employer and what makes you better than your competition.

Let’s use the analogy of selling a computer. You would not go before a customer and try to sell a computer without knowing how it works and what makes it better than the competition’s. When asked by the customer “why should I buy this computer” you would never think of saying “I don’t know” or merely “it’s a good one”. Yet too many job seekers update their resume with just their job history and apply to jobs without really knowing their product (them), being able to articulate how they are unique, and how the company would benefit by hiring them.

Every job seeker should take time to inventory (discover and document) their abilities, accomplishments, strengths, values, interests, education, and technical skills.

In addition to recalling this information from memory, job seekers should ask friends, family, former co-workers, former bosses, and gather this information from previous performance reviews and correspondences. These external sources of input are essential. We humans tend to minimize what comes easy to us, we think because it comes so easily it is no big deal where in fact, those skills or traits do not come easily to everyone and it is what makes us unique.


Prior accomplishments are indicators of future performance, letting hiring managers know the value you will bring to their organization. This information will be useful to you in a variety of ways. Some of your accomplishments and skills will go into your resume and cover letters. Others will be used to answer interview questions. The balance will be used to remind you how valuable you are when you start to get discouraged. This information will also help you identify the environment in which you will flourish.

• Every resume should include previous accomplishments in bullet format in the “above the fold” portion of the resume as well as under the corresponding job.

• The cover letter should list accomplishments that correspond to the requirements (see the article The Most Powerful Cover Letter:

• When answering interview questions, especially behavioral style questions, job seekers should respond in STAR format leveraging one of their accomplishments.


When asked their top five strengths, most job seekers give the same reply, “I’m a people person, I’m organized, results oriented, multi-tasker, and have a strong work ethic blah blah blah”. To stand out as a candidate, identify and learn to articulate your unique strengths. One approach is to take the on-line strength assessment that is offered when you purchase the book Strength Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath.

Values & Interests

The passion a job seeker shows in an interview sets them apart from other candidates. Find your passion.

Document your values to help you identify companies you would not work for based on the products they sell or the values they hold (ex. tobacco) and companies you would love to work for because of the causes they represent and forward (ex. ecology / green).

Consider how you can combine your skills and your interests. One job seeker wanted to pursue a job as a property manager. The same job seeker also had an interest in golf. That person is now a property manager of a resort. Not all interests will combine with your skills into the perfect job; consider it though.

Education & Technical Skills

Most, if not all, job seekers know to include college education and professional certificates on their resume. Job seekers should record all training they have taken even though this information will not make it onto the resume. These records should include seminars, webinars, and extensive self-study the job seeker has taken.

List all technical skills (software, hardware, and equipment) even if the technology is no longer current.

Why, you ask, should you record education that will not be used on the resume and technical skills for a technology that is no longer current? The answer is so you can use this information in an interview. When asked during an interview if you know a certain skill or concept that you do not know well or have experience with (ex. MS Excel) instead of saying “no” you can draw on something similar that you do know (ex. Lotus 1-2-3-) to illustrate your ability with that skill or concept (ex. spreadsheets).

This job market is tough and requires a more active sales approach. Knowing your product (you) and articulating what makes you a perfect fit for the job will increase the effectiveness of your resume, your networking, and your interviews.

Next week we will look at Step 3 – Altitude – who is hiring and where you want to work, i.e. your target companies.

Only when you have successfully completed the first three steps can you properly update your resume and begin the search. Skipping the first three steps sabotages your job search efforts.

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