Looking for that next job can be hard. You spend time dressing up your resume and putting together cover letters, but are still not sure if it will be enough to get you through to an interview. And once you do have an interview scheduled, you worry about whether you’ll answer the questions well and say the right things. It can end up feeling like we’re playing a game where we don’t know the rules, or even where the goals are! Thankfully there is one relatively simple principle that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager for the moment. What is it that they want? Obviously they want to hire someone who can do the job well. But how can you prove to them that you’re up to the challenge? Inherent in any recruitment decision is risk - risk that the person isn’t right for the job or can’t actually do what they said they could do. As the candidate, there is an opportunity to help reduce this risk. The more we can provide actual evidence of our capability and experience, the better.
The principle that makes all the difference when reducing risk is “past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour”. It’s hard not to say this without a Dr Phil drawl - it was one of the TV host’s favourite catch phrases. But the principle does ring true. The best predictor of how someone will behave in a particular situation is what they have done in similar situations in the past. Applying this principle to recruitment led to the rise of behavioural interviewing.
You’ve probably been through a behavioural interview before. The interviewer asks you to provide specific examples of how you’ve approached situations in the past. For example “Tell me about a time when you’ve dealt with a difficult customer” would lead you to talk about an actual time when you’ve done just that. The interviewer then explores how you approached the situation and the outcome. As a hiring manager, you’re always going to be more confident in the person who can describe what they have actually done, versus the person who speaks hypothetically about what they would do. Even when an interviewer asks you for a hypothetical example about what you might do in a situation, you’re always going to be more convincing if you provide an actual example of when you’ve done it before. In this way we can help reduce the risk as perceived by the manager who is conducting the interview. So make sure you prepare for an interview by considering relevant examples of where you’ve demonstrated the kinds of capabilities that are required for the role. Having half a dozen examples up your sleeve will help you to demonstrate that you’re up for the challenge of the job.
But providing evidence of our relevant experience and capability doesn’t have to be limited to the interview. Many people make the mistake of using their resume to simply describe the jobs they have had in the past. The resume reads like cut and pasted sections of position descriptions. For a hiring manager, this brings with it a whole lot of risk. How do I know they were any good at that job? Did they ever go beyond what was required? How does this relate to the role I’m hiring for? Applying our principle to resumes means that actual examples are always going to be more compelling than simply listing job responsibilities. You might list some of the successes that you’ve had in each role, or perhaps how you have made an extra contribution to the organisation over and above just doing your job. It is important in this process to always keep the hiring manager in mind. Think about using tailored examples that best relate to the role you’re applying for, rather than simply printing off the same resume for every job. You might also highlight some of the key examples through your cover letter.
Reducing risk for the hiring manager is about using clear and compelling examples of how you’ve already demonstrated the capabilities required for the role. I trust these ideas will help you stand out from the crowd for the next role you apply for.