There are two questions one wants to answer when applying to a job.
- How can I best conform to the organization’s desired image of a good candidate?
- How can I demonstrate more value (better ROI) to the organization than any other candidate?
Hiring decision-makers are going to minimize their chances to get a false positive. It doesn’t matter to a company, particularly a good company, how many great candidates they pass up. As long as the candidate they end up hiring is great, the process worked for them. Therefore, as an applicant, I have to not only send solid evidence of competence in the appropriate skillsets, but also avoid sending idiosyncratic or risky signals. Anything that could take me out of the pipeline likely will.
Assuming I survive in the pipeline, now I have to distinguish myself against competitive peers to get picked. It’s a baseline to meet the requirements. Let’s think what could go on top of that. Caring about the company more than other applicants is great, but I bet other people are signaling they care too. It’s all about telling a convincing story so the decision-maker believes in my unique, long-term value. If possible, I want to think about the organization’s future, and how I might play a role in that outcome.
Throughout, there’s a hidden third question. I’m talking about all the little impressions which have nothing to do with the job and everything to do with human psychology. It’s useful to communicate honestly, succinctly, professionally, and with confidence. What does this person or team most want to hear? How can I engage with that directly and memorably? My job is to entertain and persuade. If I don’t make a spectacular impression, I’ve failed.
Job applications are an exhausting art form.