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Make Yourself a "Will Do" Candidate

Career Tools  |  by Peter Weddle
Monday, October 10, 2011
Americans are a "can do" people. We pride ourselves on getting the job done. It's a trait that's stood us in good stead for centuries. We've relied on it to create the nation in the Revolutionary War and to save it in World War II, to build the world's most modern economy and to put the first human on the moon. If we depend on it to find a job, however, we'll likely see our hopes dashed and our dreams cancelled.

That hasn't always been the case. For most of the 20th Century, employers asked only that candidates demonstrate they could perform a job. Their recruiters would post each opening's requirements and responsibilities, and all we had to do was prove that our credentials were a match. If we met the criteria, we were, by definition, a qualified candidate -- someone who can do the work -- and more often than not, that led to a job offer.

Today, this "can do" approach to job search is the little train that can't. Global competition is now forcing employers to redefine what it means to be a qualified candidate. They can no longer get by with workers who can do the work; they need employees who will excel at it.

What does that mean for those of us in transition?

Simply this: The most important part of your resume and your answers to interview questions is not what you've done, but how well you've done it. In other words, the key to a successful job search isn't your capability; it's your accomplishments.

Accomplishments have always been important, of course. They were the single best way to differentiate ourselves from others competing for the job we wanted. They were, in effect, icing on the cake. The extra value an employer got when they hired us.

That role, unfortunately, has been overtaken by events. In this new economy, accomplishments aren't a nice thing to have. They're the price of admission. To be considered a qualified candidate, you must now prove not that you can do a job, but that you will do it, and do it superbly.

Proving You're a "Will Do" Candidate

Each of us faces two challenges in proving that we're a "will do" candidate:
  • Recruiters spend just seconds reviewing individual resumes so the distinction has to be clear and compelling from the very first words of that document.
  • Hiring managers are often not well trained in the conduct of interviews so each candidate has to make the case in a persuasive way on their own.
To overcome the first challenge, lead with your strength on your resume. Don't waste the valuable space at the very top of the page by filling it up with an Objective statement or even a list of your skills and knowledge. Instead, use bullets and short phrases to itemize those of your accomplishments that are most relevant to the job for which you're applying. The list should run horizontally across the page and for no more than four lines.

To overcome the second challenge, lead with your strength in the interview. Prepare for the session by rehearsing your description of the accomplishments you listed on your resume. Make sure that you can articulate why what you did was an accomplishment and how it benefited your employer. For example, if your resume highlighted your previous selection as Salesman of the Year, be able to state the numerical measures of your success (e.g., the number of sales you closed or their dollar volume).

There is no silver bullet in today's tough job market, but resetting yourself as a "will do" candidate will significantly improve your prospects for success. It tells employers that you recognize the greater level of competition they face in the global economy and that you take personal responsibility for making a meaningful contribution to their efforts. That's an attribute they value greatly and strive mightily to acquire in their recruiting.

Thanks for reading,
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