The one important thing that your job application lacks
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
I'm someone who's received hundreds of spontaneous job applications from candidates over the years; when working as the go-to-guy at a startup hub, as a job coach for professionals in the artistic and creative industries, or as a casting director for actors.
So having seen a lot of applications from aspiring professionals in varying fields, I've come to realize that they all tend to lack one important thing - they almost never, ever, express what it is that the candidate actually wants. Rather, they focus on communicating what the candidate has. Often this is done by way of a Cover Letter that communicates the candidate's soft skills like personal values, social skills or spare-time hobbies, backed up by a CV listing things like previous job positions, finished degrees, and volunteer work.
From this, the recruiter or prospective employer is then supposed to understand where to place the candidate; indeed to make a truly future-deciding decision on behalf of the candidate.
To me, this is ´old thinking´. In the old days, day labourers would line up in the village square, and foremen would come riding on their wagons to take their pick of talent. "You look like a strong young man, I have some plow work for you." "That's some fine knitting you've done there Grandmother, I have a mosaic floor for you to put together in my new housing project". "You, the smelly fellow over there, you can work in a tannery, yes?".
Most people still seem to be stuck in this way of thinking -that it is enough to ask for a job with the proverbial hat in their hand, and most any job will do, since it is best to keep all options open, in order to maximize the chances of obtaining stable income. These candidates operate under the assumption that they are competing in a job market, where the employers have all of the power, and the best strategy is to leave any and all decision making to the people getting paid to make decisions (the higher-ups), and just try to demonstrate a willingness to do what they're told, whatever that may be.
To me though, there is no job market. Not really. Rather, there is a Marketplace. In this marketplace, two parties -that possess equal value- meet with each other and try to create value together. They're trying to do business, by coming to an agreement. In this agreement, a lot of the time, one party will provide their expertise and effort, and the other party will provide monetary compensation. It's an equal trade.
This is the reality for Business Owners. Business Owners will intuitively think in this way. They will meet with a prospective client, and they will proceed to pitch to this client why they happen to be the best at what they do, how they stand out in doing what they do, and what actual value the client can expect to be delivered when purchasing their services. And if the client approves, they have performed a sale, and they will be paid money upon delivery. This is how it works for businesses, regardless of if we're talking about a company with 10.000 employees or a company that is owned and run by a single person.
That leads any sole proprietor of a company; a single individual who is looking for assignments, to quickly learn to be very specific in what they offer in the marketplace. A recently started freelancer in Graphic Design might get away with offering both Graphic Design and Copywriting skills, but will probably get better results by simply communicating mastery in one discipline, instead of two. And will in the same vein get no results at all if they communicate that they're open to delivering either Graphic Design, Copy, Front-end development, Back-end development, UX-design, UI-design, Business Development, or Testing. Simply because that's way too wide of a claim for it to inspire confidence.
If you think about it, every time a phone salesperson who represented a company ever called you up to try to sell you something - they would have been extremely singular in what it is they were trying to sell you. If they were calling from a book club, they would be trying to sell you books. If they were calling from an insurance company, they would be trying to sell you insurance. No company has ever tried to call you up to sell you a mix of books and insurance. Because they know that it would be a horrible strategy.
If you happen to be one of the people who are currently "looking for a job, any job will do", without having made any life choices at all as to what you want to work with, just imagine how you would feel if some company representative called you up and said: "Hi, I'm calling from Company X. We sell things, in fact, we'll sell you anything you want -you decide. We'll sell you books, insurance or vacation packages. We'll sell you aquariums, shaving gear or a swimming pool, anything is fine with us really; you just have to decide, and we'll deliver."
If this were to happen to you, would you feel that this company inspired confidence? Would you feel that you could trust them to deliver on everything, or anything, they promised Would you chose them as your supplier?
No. You wouldn't purchase anything from them in a million years. You would buy your books from a book club, your vacation package from a traveling agency, and your swimming pool from a company that specializes in building and installing swimming pools, and nothing else.
Of course, no company would ever be this wide in their offering, because they know better. They will not communicate a general willingness to do things; they will communicate a willingness to do some very specific things.
But a majority of job seekers do not possess this kind of thinking. And that is why the reality for recruiters, every day, is to look through applications where candidates list what they generally can do, but not what they specifically want to do. Where they try to keep all doors open, and end up being relevant to no-one.
So, if you're with me so far, here's what I recommend you do:
-Define specifically what it is you want to do.
-Communicate what it is you want to do in a clear and decisive way, to the right people.
-Demonstrate by way of actions how far you have already come to your goal, since actions speak louder than any promise of excellence.
In subsequent posts I'll describe how this can be done. But if you're with me so far you have already started to change your mindset. Good luck! /M.