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Job seekers: think like the person you’re applying to

Job seekers: don’t think like you, think about who you're applying to

One of the keys to great marketing is to really understand your target audience. To put yourself in their shoes. To tailor a relevant and compelling message. Not something that is relevant and compelling to you, mind you. But to them!

It’s not about you. Think about them.

And to this day, it’s one of the single biggest mistakes I see job hunters make. Let me be clear: If the person you’re applying to is exactly like you, then by all means, do what you think is relevant and compelling. Share the bits of your story that you like the most. And share them in a way that is how you like to receive information. Maybe it’s a text. Or a social media message. Or a SnapChat. Go your hardest.

It’s worth remembering, however, that sometimes it’s still old farts like me handing out the jobs. And although I’m understanding and accepting of new technologies and new ways of doing things, a part of me, a big part of me, still wants to see certain things done a certain way. The ‘old’ way.

You have to talk my language. Not yours.

There’ll likely be a time when letter writing, phone call making people like me will be a minuscule minority or even entirely extinct. So you can ignore all that stuff entirely. In the meantime, I value those sorts of skills. I value great communication. Commitment. Enthusiasm. Effort. And leaving a quick message on a Facebook Page asking for a job doesn’t cut it for me. Even an email with no follow up tells me you just weren’t that interested.

If you’re not able to go a bit further now, why should I believe you’ll magically find a new level of enthusiasm and endeavour if I were to give you a job?

I suppose there are those who may think that sending a short message asking for a job is efficient. To old people like me, it’s lazy. And that’s why I’m suggesting you need to think like an old person. Or more importantly, you need to think like the person you’re applying to. Sometimes you won’t know who it is, of course, and that’s a bit of a challenge. That’s where I’d suggest you err on the side of caution and cover all your bases. That means going to more effort than a 140 character tweet. Go above and beyond.

Less is not always more.

As an employer, it’s easy to skip over and ignore information if you provide too much. It’s not so easy to employ you if you don’t give enough information. Not just factual information, mind you, but insights into what kind of person you are. And not just all the usual words you pulled from a thesaurus to prove how awesome you are. But something that demonstrates those things. A too long application may be a bit of a pain for me to dig through, but it’s better than telling me you’re lazy, (even if you’re not), by sending a lame one.

Even better? Send me the short version AND the long version. Send me the highlights as a bit of an executive summary by way of introduction. Your first impression if you will. Then a more comprehensive version if I want to dig for more information without having to call you — which I probably won’t do. Maybe think of your application as your first and second point of contact all rolled into one, and you’ll be much better off. Leave no stone unturned.

Phones still matter.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: skills like actually being able to speak on a phone, are still valuable. I know firing off a quick email is easier. And less scary. Hell, even I use email and text for the same reason, all the time. But that doesn’t make it the best or right way to do things.

So follow up with a call, not an email or a text. Make some effort. Connect. Be enthusiastic. Be compelling. And most importantly, don’t be exactly like the other 500 people who are also applying for that job you want. Be different. Be better. Not just with what you have to offer, but how you offer it.

Sure, some things change, but understanding who you’re talking to and speaking their language isn’t one of those things. So please, don’t think like you. Think like the person you’re applying to. Even if they’re old. Like me.

Oh, and by the way, understanding some of these simple principles won’t just make you a better job candidate, they’ll make you a better person.

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