Thinking Like and Employer on Your Job Search

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, July 2018

Marc earned a general business degree, and sent out hundreds of resumes for any job that sounded like something he could perform. After months of searching, he had only one telephone screening interview.

Erin graduated with a degree in history, but the only work experience she had was a part-time job at an ice cream shop. Her resume listed every course she took to earn her degree, and the part-time job. She applied for dozens of museum jobs without a single interview.

Greg’s approach to job interviews was to simply show up and answer questions “honestly.” Asked why he wanted to leave his current position, he replied, “It doesn’t pay enough.” Asked why he wanted to work for a certain company, he responded, “I want an opportunity to advance.” He did not understand why 20-plus interviews did not yield a job offer.

Do you know what these job seekers have in common? Each was approaching the job search based on their goals, instead of considering the employer’s perspective. In other words, they were not clearly communicating how their education, skills and experience would benefit an organization.

At first, Greg thought the employer perspective approach was dishonest. “The reason I want a job is because I need to earn money in order to live independently,” he said. “I don’t want to lie.”

Greg was right: people work in order to make money. However, it is implicitly understood that this is so. It is not expected or necessary for job candidates to state this at an interview. When employers have a job to fill they review applications and resumes, and conduct interviews, to narrow the applicant pool. Then they select the person best suited to the job. If it not clear how you fill the need, you will not be hired.

Here are some tips on how to think like an employer and conduct an effective job search.

▪ Before searching job boards, you must be clear on the type of job that you are seeking. This will enable you to search using corresponding keywords. Using very general criteria, such as “marketing,” “business” or “research” will generate a large percentage of jobs for which you are not qualified.

Your search should also include your experience level, such as entry-level, mid-level or senior. Jennifer was discouraged because so many of the posts she received called for 3 to 5 years experience. “I just graduated college,” she said. When she added “entry-level” to her criteria, she found suitable openings.

▪ Your resume is a marketing document that must demonstrate immediately your qualifications for the job you seek. Many of my clients use self-serving objectives, such as, “Seeking a position where I can learn and grow.” Instead, explain what you can do for the employer: “Seeking a position that will utilize advance skills in Web site design and search engine optimization.”

Remember Erin’s resume? It really wasn’t a resume at all. We eliminated the course list, and included several projects she completed in college. The descriptions emphasized the skills she used and the results that were achieved.

If you are new to resume writing, there is no need to start from scratch. Visit the library to find a book of sample resumes, or search online. Review samples for the type of job you are seeking, and your experience level (e.g. “sample resume for an entry-level software programmer”). Read through five or six examples to get an idea of what skills are emphasized, and how.

▪ Job interviews are complex, since candidates are evaluated on their skills, experience, and their ability to work well within a group. From an employer’s perspective, there is a lot at stake. Making the wrong hiring decision is costly. I have read estimates that replacing an employee can cost upwards of 40% or more of his or her annual salary.

When I am assisting a client with interview skills we go through four steps. The first is to understand the purpose of anticipated questions. If an interviewer asks, “Where do you want to be in 5 years,” is she wondering where you want to live, or about your career ambitions? (It is the latter.)

Next we brainstorm to determine the content of the answer. We decide on up to three points to make per question.

This third step is to work out the language. Writing down key phrases instead of full sentences makes it easier to practice in a conversational tone. You do not want to sound over-rehearsed during an interview.

The fourth step is to practice saying responses out loud. This will help you identify any long-winded answers, or those that contain irrelevant details.

Greg represents a dramatic example of how thinking like an employer can pay off in a job search. Just seven weeks after modifying his approach, he was offered a new position.

Copyright 2018, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching