Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on November 7, 2017
You graduate from college and are looking to land your dream job. Or, perhaps you are competing for a promotion within your company or starting a new job search. Regardless of your current situation, you should always work to ensure that you will be highly marketable.
I coach and counsel college seniors and individuals who are already employed and prepare them to get promoted or search for their next job. I share with them advice on how to differentiate themselves so they stand out from the crowd. Just as businesses differentiate to gain competitive advantage, individuals must do the same.
Employers will want to know these eight things:
1. Are you results oriented?
You will be asked about the results that you achieved in your previous positions. How did those results support the goals of your organization, or those of a customer or client? Show how you have been innovative and have exercised initiative. A potential employer will assess what you can do for their organization based on what you accomplished within your previous organization.
Be sure to achieve results in your current job, or if a college student, in campus organizations. Be proactive and go beyond expectations. This will differentiate you from the dozens of other people applying for the job.
2. Are you customer/client-focused?
All employees have internal and/or external clients. If you are in a staff position, your job is to help other staff and line organizations within your company be successful in achieving their goals. If you are in a line position, your job is to help your company’s clients or customers achieve their goals and to help them be successful in their businesses. How have you done so?
The Holy Grail of any business is to be the preferred provider to its market and the company that customers/clients will first choose to go to for products or services. How have you helped your previous employer travel the journey to be the preferred provider in its market?
3. Do you embrace continuous improvement?
An important driver to creating competitive advantage in the marketplace is the process of continuous improvement within your company. What have you done in your previous jobs that demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement?
Challenge paradigms and the accepted ways of doing things within your area of responsibility if you feel there are more effective or efficient approaches to accomplishing the organization’s goals. The competition is constantly changing, and to remain competitive, your company needs to do the same.
4. How do you de-risk your decisions?
You may have sole authority to make a decision that you deem risky. The way you de-risk that decision is by asking others for their opinions. It is not a weakness to ask others for their views; it’s a strength. The decision is still yours, but you get the benefit of others who may see the issue in a different light. Share examples of how you have de-risked your decisions.
5. What is your leadership style?
You should share your expectations and jointly develop goals with your direct reports without micro-managing how those goals are achieved. You should help create a sense of ownership in your employees for what they do, and hold them accountable for results. The interviewer will want to know how you lead others and would like to be led.
6. Are you effective at selling your ideas?
People who are in sales aren’t the only ones who sell. Everyone is selling their ideas to their boss, their peers, the teams they serve on and to their direct reports. This requires good presentation skills. It also requires good listening skills, not only to address objections, but also to hear and to be open to better ideas. Discuss how you have sold your ideas to your organization, and demonstrate that you listen and value the opinions of others.
7. Do you keep commitments?
People who keep commitments engender trust. Without trust, no organization can properly function.
Don’t make a commitment unless you can keep it. If you find that for whatever reason you can’t keep a commitment, let the other person know immediately. He or she might have made a commitment to another person based on your commitment. You may be asked at an interview about this, so share a time when you could not keep a commitment and what you did about it.
8. Do you fit the culture?
Prospective employers will want to know if you are a good fit. Conversely, you will want to determine if the culture of a prospective company is a good fit for you. Stay away from a company that has a reputation for unethical dealings with employees or with clients, or has a toxic culture.
Don’t forget to do your own due diligence on a prospective employer, checking on the reputation of the company and its leaders. If during your interview you get a bad vibe, trust your judgment and cross that company off the list of potential employers.
One of the most important things everyone should do is network with others. You never know when an individual you meet will provide you with assistance or introduce you to someone else who can do the same. By developing a strong personal network, you can also help others in need of assistance.
Most jobs are found through your network. The larger your network is, the easier it is to find your next job. Use your network contacts to ask for advice and guidance, but not for a job. Eventually, a network contact will know of a job opening within their personal network and make an introduction for you.
The key to landing your next job is differentiating yourself, demonstrating that you are an effective leader and developing a reputation of achieving results within your field. Do this well, and employers will seek you out.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.