We all look at the world through the lenses of our own unique history and current situation. And for the job seeker, often the current urgency of obtaining a new position colors how everything around us is viewed. On a basic level, it’s quite understandable as an innate tendency for one’s own survival. Yet when your focus is solely about your own needs, and you only view a potential employer as a means to fulfilling them, your search can easily self-destruct.
When you take the time to understand the employer’s problem that originally caused the job posting, and then present yourself as one who can easily make life easier for the employer, you will greatly enhance the chances of your own aspirations to be fulfilled.
- Frame your career story not as an autobiography of everything you’ve ever done. Don’t drone on about everything you want to get off your chest. Instead, selectively include on your résumé and talk in your interviews about your key successes and achievements that relate to the employer’s needs.
- Get down in the weeds so that the language you use to describe yourself mirrors the employer's language as precisely as possible. Home in on keywords in the job description, and wherever possible use them in your résumé and cover letter.
- Research the company and its place in the community as well as within its general industry. Try to determine the nature of the company’s culture in terms of the way work gets done and the kind of people it typically employs. Then, prepare to give stories from your work history that depict you as that kind of person.
For example, if you find out that major work or projects are team-based, it is not enough to assert, “I’m a team player.” Rather, you should prepare stories demonstrating how your work style and values mirror those of the company.
While it is critical to get into the weeds of a job description’s detail, don’t get caught there. Every company will have its own style, culture and hiring priorities. Yet you can put to use knowledge of what Google screens for in its new hires, no matter what your role or the places to which you are applying.
In a recent New York Times column, Thomas L. Friedman cites five hiring attributes Google seeks in its potential employees. This list was according to a prior interview that Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, gave to the Times' Adam Bryant:
1. Technical ability to do the job. It should go without saying that you can demonstrate how you’ve used the necessary tools to do whatever is the intrinsic work of the role you seek to fill.
2. General cognitive ability. Any employer will want to know how well and quickly you are able to learn new things on the fly.
3. Emergent leadership. By this, Bock isn’t talking about an authority role or a job title. This type of leader is one who recognizes that no matter what a person’s job title might be, whenever he or she can make a contribution to the team or organization, he or she takes the initiative to step up and lead the team.
4. Humility. There is real value in understanding that no matter how smart or experienced you are, you don’t have all the answers, and you are eager to learn from others. It's important for an organization to move forward, Bock contends, but stepping back to embrace others' ideas is also important.
5. Ownership. This is about an employee not just being physically present, but caring about the company, and the immediate problems at hand, plus possessing a sense of responsibility of owning the work rather than just marking time until it is time to go home at the end of the day.
Google, of course, is one of the most successful companies. It has huge numbers of people who would cherish the opportunity to work there, and it has an amazingly sophisticated way of screening applicants to determine which ones have the greatest probability of success if hired. Chances are good, however, that no matter what industry you are in, or what kind of role you seek, if you present yourself as a person who can be the answer to an employer’s needs and the kind of employee who has the personal characteristics that Google searches for, you will soon be on that company’s payroll.