Before interviewing or even applying for a job, you need to be able to answer these questions:
- Why should a potential employer hire you for this job?
- Why have you chosen to apply for this job?
Organizations need to know what you are bringing to the table. They also need to know that you are committed to their success as well as your own.
It is tempting to apply for every job that comes along regardless of whether you have considered your potential for success with the organization. However, these generic applications to company inboxes have a high probability of failure. A targeted résumé and cover letter is much more likely to succeed.
Before applying for a position, think about the skills, talents and accomplishments that you want to highlight. Each example chosen should point to a need expressed by your potential employer either through their job listing or through other organizational documents. Think of what you are bringing to the organization from the employer’s point of view—not yours. Also, remember that they have not lived your life, so they lack context for your achievements. You must succinctly connect the dots for them, so that they can see exactly how a person with your background would benefit their organization. If you can relate your experience to a process or a product of the organization, that is even better.
For example, if you are applying to a pharmaceutical manufacturer who specializes in biomedical polymers, you should emphasize any experience you may have with biological or polymeric systems. Starting with your résumé, highlight experiences with either type of system. Continuing in your cover letter, reflect the terms used in the original job listing connecting your accomplishments in each of the key areas listed. Lastly, compose responses to likely interview questions using relevant examples related to your experiences with biological and polymeric systems. Don’t force this strategy too far, but if you can draw a correlation, you certainly should.
In addition to selling yourself to the organization, you should also examine why you are choosing to apply. The last thing that an organization wants to do is to invest in a job candidate that can do the job, but does not want to. Accepting a job that you do not like should also be low on your list of career goals. During an interview, your potential employer will be assessing whether you will be a productive member of their team. If your values do not align with those of the organization, or if you would really rather be someplace else, you are likely to drain resources away from organizational initiatives. You also will not feel comfortable in the organizational environment. It takes a lot of time and effort to apply to each position, so you might as well focus on the ones that you like.
By thinking about the questions: “Why you?” and “Why this job?” you will force yourself to examine your fit with a particular job listing. You will also optimize your marketing strategy and be able to justify your motivations.
This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.