You’re probably familiar with the old principle of WIIFM–What’s In It For Me? On the other hand, how often do you think about WIIFU–What’s In It For Us? Maybe not often enough.
Employers’ Perspective is Critical
If you haven’t put the needs of potential employers at the top of your list when creating your professional resume or preparing for a full-out job search, you could be wasting your time–and theirs. Most employers, if not all, won’t care that you’re a good person who deserves a good job. If they do care at all, it probably comes a distant second to how much they care about hiring someone who can bring substantial value to their organization in a number of ways, such as the following:
- Solve a troublesome problem as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
- Spot a situation with potential to become a nasty problem and identify a solution before things get out of hand.
- Attract and retain major customers that will significantly increase revenues over an extended period.
- Recruit, train and motivate teams that stand out from the rest as super-achievers enthusiastically focused on a common goal.
- Elevate (or at least help elevate) the company to an industry-leading market position.
Employers want someone who can hit the ground running and gather the necessary resources to pursue corporate goals with next-to-zero ramp-up time, rather than someone who needs a gentle introduction to the job and plenty of hand-holding to get started. You might think a “zero to 60 in 3 minutes” requirement is unreasonable, and in that case, maybe this isn’t the job for you (but that’s another story).
What’s important to remember is that employers often and not unreasonably tend to put their self-interest ahead of other considerations. Which gets back to “what can you do for us?”
How Can You Determine Your WIIFU Approach?
For starters, you need to know as much as you can about the company you’re pursuing before you submit your resume or make the first contact there. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You’re responsible for scouting out relevant information through whatever means are realistically available to you. Failure to make a determined effort in that area will cost you time and possibly money as well, if the new-job train leaves the station without you.
Here are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to make your WIIFU approach effective:
- What sources of potentially useful information can I identify and access reasonably soon? Work up a plan for doing the necessary research, making relevant contacts, etc.
- What actions am I comfortable taking–or can I motivate myself to take, if they’re somewhere outside my comfort zone–to get things moving? For instance, it’s not bragging to build an online portfolio of your unique experiences and achievements that might interest prospective employers. Then you just need to figure out how to get that information in front of your targeted employers.
- How much time can I devote to the WIIFU-building approach to my job search, especially if I’m already feeling overloaded? Of course, only you really know what your schedule and demands are. However, it’s surprising how often we find that we can carve out an hour or two here and there, if a larger block of time appears completely out of the question.
You’ll notice that these questions are centered on what you need to do to make the approach work, but they’re still not all about you. What you want is important to you, but you need to wrap it in a package that’s important to the employer. If you can’t or won’t do that, you might as well not bother. Your competitors probably will!
Sometimes it feels as if I’m playing a broken record on this, but experience shows that too many job seekers still don’t get the difference between a resume that showcases their unique value to employers and one that looks basically like a job description. The latter is what I’ve decided to call a ho-hum resume.
In other words, the response to it is likely to be something along the lines of “who cares?” or “So…?” or even “OK (round-file that one). Next.”
What Makes a Resume Stand Out?
Remember that employers get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of resumes in a relatively short time when they publicize a job opening. If your resume doesn’t stand out in a quick glance through the stack, it might not ever get even a cursory look.
And that’s quite apart from the requirements set up for passing the ATS (applicant tracking system) screening process. If you’ve done that, you still need to impress the people who will actually be looking at your resume and (you hope) considering you as a potential employee.
In some ways, the question should really be: What makes a resume blend into the background? Or to put it another way, why would your resume disappear and never be heard from again?
Job Description Terminology–Good or Bad?
If used with careful thought, some job description terminology in your resume wouldn’t necessarily be bad. However, if it doesn’t somehow bring out your value proposition so that employers can see it quickly and become interested in pursuing you further, that job description wording will relegate you to the ranks of would-be employees who don’t get a serious look.
For instance, there’s a world of difference between these two statements:
- Established a sales department; hired 5 employees and initiated contact with potential customers.
- Built a sales department that successfully established strategic relationships with 3 major customers in primary target market, creating a pipeline projected to generate $1.5 million in revenue over the next 6 months.
Both of these are presumably factual (or they shouldn’t be used at all), but #2 leaves #1 in the dust, metaphorically speaking. It’s still relatively concise, which is good, but it delivers a “punch” that the first one totally fails to do.
You need to make a memorable impression on employers in the best possible way, and you need to do it fairly quickly. A ho-hum resume packed with generic job description verbiage won’t get you there, so don’t settle for taking that “easy way out.” Create a standout resume that makes you shine in the eyes of employers!
You might have heard the term “talent wars” or something similar, which generally refers to companies competing for top talent even when a lot of job seekers are unemployed (and some have been for an extended period).
If you’ve been looking for a new job or trying to move out/up from your current job for a while, this whole concept of a talent shortage might seem almost laughable–except that no job seeker I know is laughing about it.
Talent Shortage is a Matter of Perspective
To some extent, the feeling seems to be that companies aren’t doing enough–or enough of the right things–to find the employee talent they desperately need.
According to a recent article by Mike Prokopeak in Talent Magazine, “Luring the Best Talent,” companies’ management teams are lagging behind in understanding the need to change their talent management practices because they just don’t get the extent of the challenge.
Prokopeak’s article quotes an executive VP at ManpowerGroup as saying, “They’re in denial because they think their company brand is strong enough that people will want to work there….A lot of people with high demand skills don’t want to work in the environments we’ve created.”
But Job Seekers Might Contribute to the Problem
On the other hand, you as a job seeker might be a part of the problem. Say what? Of course you’re working hard at your job search! (You are, aren’t you?) You’d love to put your talents to work at the right company and are doing everything you can to make that happen.
Not according to some experts. At least a few of them (including Nick Corcodillos of Ask The Headhunter) maintain that if you’re just following the tried-and-true methods, such as submitting your hopefully-great resume to as many potential jobs as you can, you’re really missing the point.
Why is that? For starters, because it’s the easy way to conduct a job search but at the same time maybe one of the least likely methods to actually produce solid job opportunities that can lead to job offers. You almost certainly will face significantly more competition that way, and it’s harder to impress employers with your value (stand out from the crowd).
Here’s Corcodillos’ take on the situation:
“You write your resume only after you’ve talked to the hiring manager. The resume comes last. It’s not your ‘marketing piece’ and it doesn’t ‘introduce you.’ You introduce you….everyone should create their own because the point is, each is and must be unique and tailored to a single employer….it’s an enormous amount of work.”
Caveat: As a professional resume writer, I could be said to have an axe to grind if I disagree with Corcodillos, but I don’t–at least, not exactly. What he wants, I think, is for every job seeker to make this kind of effort every time he/she looks for a new position. Realistically, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
However, I do agree that you need to put a fair amount of real thought and effort into your job search campaign–and it is (or should be) a campaign, not just a one-off sending out of resumes here, there and everywhere. That includes networking your way into companies you’d like to work for, now or at some point in the future.
As the saying goes, “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.” If that means sticking your neck out now and then, going outside your comfort zone, so be it.
Regardless of what you do on the job and when you’re pursuing a new job or career role, quality obviously matters. You certainly wouldn’t knowingly give less than your best to the situation. In fact, if you’re seriously invested in your job success or career advancement, you’re probably making a strong effort to excel in terms of quality performance. Is there something else you should be doing? Quite possibly.
Your Success Could Depend on Others’ Success
If what you contribute makes your colleagues look like winners, not just you, that’s worth something. Even better might be if you can add value that makes your boss look like a champ. Now I’m not suggesting that you become a shrinking violet and meekly let everyone else take the full credit for what you worked hard to contribute. However, you can boost others without sacrificing yourself if you do it right.
In fact, that’s pretty much the point of a recent article titled “Stop Emphasizing the Quality of Your Work and Do This Instead,” by Ben Drake. As Drake puts it, “no one cares about the quality of your work; people care about the quality of their own work….What matters to others (users, clients, citizens, friends, families, employees) is their quality. If what you do doesn’t make them better at what they do, you’re useless to them. This is extremely important to understand in the professional world. If you can’t provide value, they’ll forget your name 30 minutes after they meet you.”
I’m not sure I go 100% with his statement that no one cares about the quality of your work, but I think the point is that they care most about your work being high quality when/if it affects them one way or another (good or bad). That might sound a bit self-serving, but it’s basically just human nature.
How to Make Others Look Great
To start with, you need to focus consistently on providing value to others–your boss, co-workers, and so on. But, as Drake says, “don’t ask others how you can improve. Instead, ask others what they need from you to help them improve,” achieve their main goals, etc.
I can think of a number of illustrations of this point. For example, if your boss has a big meeting coming up and you know he/she wants it to go off as smoothly as possible to impress the senior execs from corporate headquarters in the UK, what can you do to help make sure that happens? Come up with some ideas and “float” them in a one-on-one meeting with your boss to see how one or more of them might produce desirable results.
This approach plays equally well in a job interview. According to Drake, it’s best if you “don’t talk about your quality. Talk about what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in the past. Provide the vision of how they can be better with you on the team.”
I talk about this a lot with clients when I’m doing interview coaching as well as when I’m creating a professional resume for them. It’s important that you have stories to tell to underscore what you can bring to the party that will benefit the company. “I am the greatest” worked for Muhammad Ali; it’s not necessarily the best way for you to come across!