Find Your Dream Job, Episode 359:
How to Show An Employer You’re the Best Person for the Job, with John Neral
Airdate: August 3, 2022
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You see a job posting. And after reading it, you know that you have exactly what the position requires.
John Neral is here to talk about how to show an employer that you’re the best person for the job.
He’s a career coach who helps mid-career professionals find a job they love or love the job they have.
John also hosts the terrific show, The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.
He joins us from Vienna, Virginia.
Well, let’s get going, John. I regularly meet people, and I expect you do too, who say they are perfect for a job, but they don’t get an interview. Why does this happen?
There’s so many reasons as to why people don’t get the interview. In that case, it might be something as simple as their resume isn’t specifically tailored to that job posting. They haven’t customized it. Therefore, it doesn’t clear whatever certifications or criteria are set up within the Applicant Tracking System.
But another big component to that, especially when people are networking and they’re putting the message out there that they’re actively looking, there’s something in their message that isn’t clear or clean enough that communicates why they are that best person for the job.
I know we’re gonna talk about ways to get that clarity, but let’s talk about some of the barriers before we get there. Do you think employers know what they’re looking for when they post a position? Do they have a clear idea of what an ideal candidate looks like?
I would love to tell you that they do, but I can’t. I think, in some cases, some people are pretty clear, and organizations are, about what specifically they want. But in my experience, Mac, a job posting is really this kind of pseudo-laundry list about all of the things that they would love to see in a candidate, and from the job seeker’s side, it can really bring in a lot of things like imposter syndrome when they look at the job posting and say, “Well, I don’t meet all of the criteria for the job; therefore, I’m not going to apply for it.” It’s one of those things where I encourage my clients to really kind of figure out what kind of percentage of a job posting they truly believe they match the requirements for and then use that to apply for the jobs. And in a lot of cases, my clients do get those interviews because they’re hitting the targets where they need to.
So, two quick follow-up questions; what’s that percentage, John? Is it sixty, seventy percent?
That’s a great question. It’s one of those things that I work with my individual clients on, really based on some certain situations or circumstances about the kinds of jobs they’re looking for, what kind of specificity they’re looking for in that job. So, we might set a criteria of something like seventy or eighty percent because they don’t want to spend a lot of time applying for jobs they don’t think they really have a shot at, and for others that really are looking to cast a much wider net, that percentage might be fifty.
Why do employers do this? This has got to be frustrating for listeners to hear. If you want something, ask for it. But if you don’t want a qualification, why is it in the posting at all?
I believe that job postings are really a list of problems or challenges or needs that the organization has, and they’re looking for talent to help them fill that particular part of the role. As companies build out job descriptions and they build out their ??? chart, there certainly are competencies or specific tasks that they want people in those jobs to do.
Sometimes an ideal candidate fills most, if not all, of them, and so it just allows them to look at their talent pool a little bit more broadly and differently. So, when they get to the interview and the candidate is sitting before them, be it in person or on-screen, they can truly assess what that fit looks like and whether or not that person really is the best one for the job.
When you’re looking at a posting, and you’re thinking about applying, how do you advise someone to figure out what to emphasize, both in the application and the interview? In other words, to know what will matter most to an employer?
It’s really as simple as looking at the verbs in the job posting and see how well you match up to those specific actions that are listed. So, we’ll see things in job postings like manage, direct, supervise, lead, coordinate, communicate, and I often like to have my clients go through and either highlight or identify or make a list of those different verbs because they tie directly back into the job duties and the competencies as we talked about earlier.
And that’s where, typically, the problems lie. It’s who they’re looking for and why you’re gonna look at that job posting and say, “Here’s how I can help you,” and you’re gonna help them based on how well you have been able to perform those specific verbs or job duties in the past to help you get that job.
In your experience, John, do most applicants know how to do this, and understand that employers don’t expect a hundred percent, and also understand how to analyze a posting to make the kind of conclusions that you just shared?
I don’t think so. One of the things, and one of the particular pain points my clients often go through, and I know a lot of your, I can imagine a lot of your listeners do as well, is that whole notion about imposter syndrome.
We get so much information bombarded at us from so many different channels and outlets, that it can be easy to believe that if you don’t meet all, in capital letters, all of the criteria, you’re not good enough for the job, and it’s really a huge mindset shift to pull it back a little bit, slow down, focus on what your value is in the job, and say, “Look, when I look at this job posting, here are all the things that I can help them with,” and it really is a huge mindset shift where the job seeker is going to actually hit that submit button and feel really strongly about what they bring to that position in a true way of value and service to help them.
Another point I hear you touching on, and I’d like to draw you out on, is you, as an applicant, can’t rely on the employer to see that you’re the best person for the job. You’ve got to understand the organization’s needs and highlight the things, you know, the skills and experiences that will matter most to the employer, don’t you?
Yes, absolutely, and the clearer and cleaner you can communicate your value to somebody – I often equate this to, this is all about our story. We come to a certain point where it’s all based on the totality of our experiences.
So, everybody who’s listening, you’ve all done things in your career. You’ve done things that have been recognized and accomplished, and you’re very proud of, and so, those are the things that bring you to that job and that potential position, and go, here’s where you can leverage all of my talents and expertise, and here’s where I can help you accelerate and solve some of the problems and accelerate the growth points that you want in that position as well.
Well, tell us more about that, John, how to clearly and cleanly communicate your value. What do you advise your clients to do?
One of the things I advise my clients to do is to not pitch. Now look, Shark Tank is a great show. Right? If we’ve ever watched it, we know people come on; they want something. They come in there, and they pitch to a group of experts, and we hear so much about how we have to pitch. I challenge that we need to look at this from a place of value.
And I help my clients create what I call a unique professional value statement. It’s grounded in two key components. It’s identifying very clearly about who you help, and secondly, it answers what you help them do specifically.
So, imagine sitting in the interview, and you get that dreaded, tell me about yourself question, and you do the fatal flaw where you regurgitate your resume or your LinkedIn profile, and interviewers, in a lot of ways expect that. And it’s boring, and it doesn’t build the relationship.
So, imagine you get asked that question, tell me about yourself, and you start off with these two words – I help. Right away, you have changed the tone and the dynamic of the interview and the relationship because you’re not bragging or boasting about yourself. You’re talking about how you’re gonna partner with the interviewer, and be it the hiring manager or an interview panel, their brains are gonna trigger when they hear that, and all of a sudden, their level of interest is going to be different because you’re talking specifically how you’re gonna partner with them because you’re going to help them.
I want to pause here, John, and I want to dig in more of that after the break. Stay with us. We’re gonna take a quick break; when we come back, John Neral will continue to share his advice on how to show an employer that you’re the best person for the job. Stay with us.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with John Neral.
He’s a career coach who helps mid-career professionals find a job they love or love the job they have.
John also hosts The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.
And he’s joining us today from Vienna, Virginia.
Now, John, before the break, we were talking about how to cleanly and clearly communicate your value to an employer, and you were saying that you encourage your clients in the interview, especially when answering the tell me about yourself question, to start with the phrase, I help.
How do you coach your clients to identify what happens next? What statements can you make that are gonna be most effective when answering that question and talking about how you help others to persuade an employer that, in fact, you are the best person for the job?
We have to get really specific, and part of the challenge is that, especially for the people that I work with, they’re all heart-centered leaders and professionals, and it’s so easy for them to put everyone else first, and when we do this exercise, they’ll often jokingly say to me, that they help everyone. And I’ll joke right back with them, and I’ll say, well, you can’t do that. So, let’s narrow that down a little bit.
And I have them think about the people whom they interact with every day. Is it an internal partner? Is it a client? Is it an external relationship in some way, shape, or form? And I get really curious with them about all of the things that they help them do, and what it ends up doing is, you see this lightbulb go off, and they start getting to a point where they tap into what I like to call their genius. It’s that thing that they do better than anybody else, and by tapping into that, what they do is, they really start remembering all of the things they love about the work, and they love what they do and the reasons behind it.
So, Mac, for example, I’m awful at Excel. I have worked in jobs where I used Excel for its minimal functionality, and that was it and I remember being asked one time to have to do a pivot table. I’m not really good at it, but I knew people on my team who were, and having that kind of technical expertise, I could give them a spreadsheet, and they could turn something around to me in just a couple of minutes. It would take me probably an hour to figure out and do, and I remember talking to this person on my team, and they were like, oh, I’m not valuable around here. I’m like, do you not understand your technical skills? Like, you make my job easier because of the things that you do.
That’s where the exercise comes into play. How are you making somebody’s work life easier because of what it is that you do? That’s a big part of your value.
Do you find it’s hard for the clients you work with to identify those examples, John? And if so, what makes it easier for them to do so?
It absolutely is challenging, without question, because they really have to look inward for all of the things that they’re doing. So, like, specifically in my work, when I think about those mid-career professionals that are managers, directors, they’re in that middle part of the org chart, there is a certain technical expertise that they have that we have to get really specific about. That’s where the coaching conversations come in, because once we identify that specificity, then it becomes easier to know what the results or the effects of those are, and then all of a sudden, they do sit there, and they go, oh, I see where I’m valuable.
So, just to give you and your listeners an example, let’s say we have a middle manager who is really, really good at all of the interpersonal skills. They know how to manage, they know how to lead teams, and they apply for a job where it is specifically looking to manage a team of eight people.
One of those value statements that someone like that might have might sound something like this; I help organizations build efficient and dynamic teams, so they can improve productivity and build better client relationships, so they can generate more revenue.
When you hear something like that, the goal is you want that hiring manager or interviewer to be interested in who you are and what you do. We’re all interesting people. But when the client owns that, like when my client owns that, when the candidate owns that, and they are able to say something like that confidently and competently, when they get that follow-up question, and the interviewer goes, tell me more about that. Or, how did you do that? Now the relationship takes on a completely different level and dynamic, and now, both parties are starting to assess fit.
Why are they the best person for the job? It lets the interviewer get really, really curious about who they are and what they do.
Tell us more about that connection between the candidate and the interviewer and creating and building a relationship in the interview itself. Why is it important to do that, John? And how can that help the employer see that, in fact, you are the best person for the job?
Mac, I know throughout my entire career, when I changed how I looked at going for interviews, I got better results. So, I started looking at interviews as really sitting down and just having a cup of coffee with somebody. When I got desperate, when I went into the interview, and I was like, oh my gosh, I have to prove myself here, I have to get this job because if I don’t get this job, I’m gonna go back to a job I don’t like, or anything else. Right? And certainly, what we’ve seen during the pandemic, we know we’ve had a lot of people change jobs, and sadly, we’ve seen people go through periods of being unemployed.
But when you focus on building the relationship, as the candidate, it’s really about you being curious about the organization, the interviewer. What are their problems? What are their successes?
And it comes back to that question about how you can help them. If we can all just go into interviews and be completely detached from the outcome, the outcome is getting the offer. If we just focus on building the relationship, getting to know them, getting to know what their problems are, and stating very clearly and cleanly how we can help them, you’ll walk away from that interview knowing you’ve had one of the best experiences you’ve ever had interviewing for a job.
That can be challenging to do, can’t it? Many people walk into that interview room and they are thinking that they need to get this job, or perhaps they’re uncertain about how to interview. What are some of your best tips, John, for overcoming fear in the interview room and preparing so that you can turn it into a conversation?
Such a great point. Right? Because we can’t deny the elephant in the room. We get nervous in interviews because we care. We want the job. No one ever goes into an interview and says, I’m gonna make a mess of this interview today and blow it. Right?
So, it is absolutely hard. It’s why I end up doing a lot of interview prep and a lot of thought work and mindset work around how they’re going to approach that interview. And then to debrief in that whole process. And say, look, what are you gonna do well? What did you learn? What do you want to do better next time?
But going into that interview, back to your question. Right? It really is about doing that mindset work that they walk through every single component in that interview. How does the introduction start off? How do they handle certain questions? How are they gonna close the interview? And to do that through the lens of, this is how I’m gonna build the relationship?
If you’re memorable, you stand out, and if you’re memorable because you said something or you shared a particular experience that was unique, different, interesting, and it’s all things that you know really well because that’s part of your story. I just want you to go into an interview and tell your story. No one knows that story better than you. It’s just all about how you tell it.
How would you recommend to a listener who might not be able to work with a coach to do that kind of preparation in advance? How have you seen people do that work on their own before they go into the interview room?
Prepping for interviews is challenging. There’s no way you’re really going to know all of the questions or follow-up questions they’re going to ask. So, what I would offer here is to pick five key events in your career. Things that have been memorable, results-oriented, things that you’ve accomplished, things you’ve been proud of, even things you’ve been disappointed in.
Pick five particular events and spend some time either writing them out or doing it on a Word document. Write out all of the things that happened around that story.
That way, as you continue to keep going back to those stories and adding to it, when you get asked a question, tell me about something you’re especially proud of; tell me about a time when you got difficult feedback and how did you handle that, you can go back into what I call story buckets. You can go back into your story buckets and extract anything out of those experiences to answer any interview question you have. It just all comes back to it. The more you know your story, the better you’re gonna do in the interview.
Well, John, it’s been a terrific conversation. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
I have a free resource; it’s a career guide to help you just jump-start your whole career search. You can find it on my website at johnneral.com/free.
Terrific, and I know listeners can learn more about you, not only by taking advantage of that free resource but by visiting your website. And we’ll be sure to include johnneral.com in the show notes and in the website article about today’s interview.
Now, John, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to show an employer that you’re the best person for the job?
You’re the best person for the job because of the value you bring to that position. It is all based on your experiences, your knowledge base, and how you show up into that job. When you come from a place of value and service and make an offer to help them, you’re gonna find that job you love or even love the job that you have. So, never forget your value.
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Next week, our guest will be Stephanie Heath.
She’s a job search advisor and the founder of SoulWork and Six Figures.
Her company has helped hundreds of professionals find their dream job while often doubling their salaries.
Have you ever had a terrible boss?
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This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.