Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on August 12, 2019
To advance in your career, your goal should be to differentiate yourself – to be
better than those with whom you are competing for that next job, whether
internally or at a new company. In November 2017, I wrote an article on this
subject. This is an update of that article.
I often counsel people on how to be different from the dozens of other applicants
for the job to which they are applying. I tell them that their track record of
accomplishments, skills and experience gained in previous jobs can be used to
achieve that peer differentiation. Your goal is to demonstrate to the hiring manager
that you are the best choice for that position.
As an applicant interviewing for a new position, be prepared to address the
Describe the results you have achieved in your previous positions
How did the results you achieved 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 company,
based on what you accomplished at your previous employer.
How have you embraced continuous improvement?
In your previous positions, if you felt there was a more effective approach to
accomplishing your organization’s goals, did you challenge paradigms and the
accepted ways of doing things within your area of responsibility? Challenging the
status quo shows your initiative and desire to improve the company’s operation.
Provide examples of how you are customer/client-focused
All employees have internal and/or external customers/clients. If you are in a staff
position, your job is to help other staff and line units 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 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 – the
company that is the first choice by customers/clients from which to purchase
products or services. How have you helped your previous employer travel the
journey to be the preferred provider to its market?
Describe your leadership style
Effective leaders never micro-manage. They let their employees do their jobs and
hold them accountable for results. They ensure their employees have access to
both the financial and human resources they need to get the job done. They also
encourage their employees to create a sense of ownership in their area of
Describe instances when you have fallen back on your common sense and
good critical judgment
Many decisions are made with only a limited amount of data, so employees need
to rely on their common sense and good critical judgment to make the decision.
Describe how you screen employees for these two traits. There are too many
examples of employees causing economic and reputational harm to the company
because they lacked them.
How do you sell 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 to be open to other ideas. Discuss how you have
sold your ideas to your organization and demonstrated that you listen and value
the opinions of others.
Prospective employers will want to know if you are a good cultural and
organizational fit. Conversely, you will want to determine if the prospective
employer is a good fit for you.
Ask questions to those who interview you. Get a sense of the CEO’s tone at the
top and that of the senior leadership team. Stay away from a company that has a
reputation for unethical dealings with employees or customers or has a toxic
Be sure to manage your personal brand. Ensure your bio, resume and LinkedIn
profile are always up to date. Write and publish articles in areas of your expertise
and of interest to readers on market trends. Speak at industry events. Build a
Twitter following and become known as a thought leader and influencer in your
industry. Be careful not to reveal confidential business information in what you
say or write.
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 columnist 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. Follow Silverman on
LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.