Standing Out in a Sea of Applicants

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: June 6, 2011 - 8:11 AM

How you present yourself in a résumé and interview is just as important as having the right education, experience and skill set.

Dear Matt: I've applied for what seemed to be the perfect job. I had all the qualifications but didn't even hear back to get an interview. I've also been in a few interviews and felt I was the perfect candidate but didn't get hired. What's going on?

Matt: Catherine Byers Breet, Twin Cities-based career coach (arbez.com), has helped employers find talent for more than 14 years. She tells the story of a client named Gary who was the perfect fit for a job she was hiring for. He had the right skills, tremendous talent and passion.

And right before her eyes, she watched it all fall apart in the interview. The reason? He was not conveying his message, skills and talents the way the hiring manager wanted to hear it.

"Gary needed and wanted the job," said Byers Breet. "But he wasn't speaking the hiring manager's language. It's tragic. It should never happen. But it happens all the time."

Byers Breet teaches a workshop titled "Lost in Translation," where she talks about the importance of translating your expertise clearly and concisely, while at the same time understanding what the employer wants in each candidate. You can find this out by reviewing the company website, reading press releases, multiple job postings within the company and by talking to those who have worked or do work with the company. What trends do you see? What are you hearing? Is there one thing they emphasize with all job openings? Do they prefer MBA candidates in most upper-level jobs, or are there certain technical skills they seek? Do you have a career in sales, but they are seeking an account manager? Match your sales background language to fit their account management needs.

If you lack direct expertise or experience, find and show the transferable skills, like moving from one highly regulated field (finance) to another (health care). If there is no way to fill the gap, ask this question: Is this skill critical to the success of someone in this role? Do they think it is? How will this realistically affect you?

In the interview create a "STAR" story for each required skill. STAR stands for Situation (What was the business situation or problem?), Task (What task needed to be done?), Action (What action did you take?) and Result (What was the result of your action?).  "People want specific examples of your accomplishments," said Byers Breet. "But think beyond skills and experience and clearly translate how it all relates to the audience at hand."

- Matt Krumrie
Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice

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