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Your Skills and Experience Are Not Your Only Strengths
Ask yourself, "In addition to my skills and experience, what else can I offer to increase my chances of being hired?"
An example of humour telling the truth:
A man walking past a construction site sees a sign: "Handy Man Wanted: Apply Within."
The man goes to the office trailer to speak to the foreman.
Forman: "Can you drive a forklift?"
Forman: "Can you plaster?"
Foreman: "Can you lay bricks?"
Forman: "If you don't mind my asking, what's handy about you?"
Man: "I only live five minutes down the road."
When speaking with employers, job seekers tend to emphasize their skills and experience as reasons for hiring them and overlook reasons other than matching the job description, such as living close by, that would make them an appealing hire.
When an employer makes a hire, it is not just the candidate's skills and experiences that are being hired. The employer is taking on the candidate's personality and aptitudes, mental and physical health, vices, good and bad habits, political and religious beliefs, morality, family dynamics, mannerism… all the stuff that makes each of us “one-of-a-kind” which employers, and your colleagues, must deal with and accommodate.
Have you ever considered how your health could be an asset to an employer? I am not talking about being athletic fit, where your BMI is 20.8, and you participate in triathlons every second weekend. I am talking about, for example, if you do not smoke. Between two equally qualified candidates, who would appeal more to a hiring manager? A smoker or a non-smoker? Presuming the hiring manager is a non-smoker, which is likely, then, of course, a non-smoker would be more appealing. Likewise, a candidate who appears to be in good shape would be preferred over a candidate who seems out of shape.
For several reasons, hiring managers are "judgemental" about a candidate's health. Since hiring ultimately boils down to assessing the risk of hiring a candidate, hiring managers tend to be risk-averse. Therefore, hiring managers will pass on a candidate they feel will need time off to deal with medical issues.
Nowadays, companies are running lean. You are being interviewed for a reason: The employer has essential work which must be done and, therefore, cannot afford to have employees take excessive time off. In other words, why hire someone who may be away a lot?
I recall asking a candidate, whom I would say was in his mid-forties, "What can you offer that the other candidates cannot?" I braced myself for the cliché answer of being told they have years of experience or a unique set of skills—rarely does anyone have a unique set of skills—instead, he said, without hesitation, "Yesterday I had my annual physical. My doctor said I was in top health. I have the body of a 25-year-old. You have a chance to hire a healthy 25-year-old with over 20 years of workforce management experience."
This is how you answer an interview question! Spin your answers so you look favourable and are hard to reject.
Outside of your relevant to the job skills and experience, an employer may find valuable:
You live nearby.
You have grown children who are on their own, or you have no children.
You do not smoke.
You speak a second language.
You are a member of an industry association, or you sit on an advisory board.
You are working on a degree or a certification.
Your social media presence/digital footprint. (e.g., you have a high number of followers, you write a popular blog)
Mentioning any of the above and much more is how you set yourself apart from the other applicants. For example, if you are interviewing for a senior accountant position, you can be certain that all the other applicants have similar skills to yours. However, do they speak French, have over 150,000 Twitter followers, live 4 kilometres away or sit on the advisory board that champions the employer's industry?
Do not just consider how you will fit into the job you are interviewing for; consider how you can fit holistically into the company. Being able to speak French may not have been mentioned in the job description; however, being bilingual would be a plus if the company has a presence in Quebec. Being skilled at social media would be a massive plus if you were interviewing for an accountant position for an e-commerce site.
Introducing to your interviewer your strengths outside of your skills and experience relevant to the job is relatively easy. In most cases, your interviewer will ask you a question such as, "Is there anything else I should know about you?"
This is when you would answer, "I am fluent in French, therefore, I will be able to communicate with my colleagues at your Montreal office easily," or "I live just 10 minutes away; hence I have no excuse for ever being late."
If your interviewer does not ask you to elaborate on your candidacy, then be proactive and say, "Before we wrap up our discussion, I would like to add ________."
In preparation for your next interview, ask yourself, "In addition to my skills and experience, what else can I offer to increase my chances of being hired?"
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Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to email@example.com.