How Aptitude Can Improve Your Job Search
If you have given yourself enough time to process the loss of a job and are looking forward to the next opportunity, then you are ready for the next important step to landing that job. Step 2 is Aptitude – knowing what you bring to an employer and what makes you better than your competition.
Let’s use the analogy of selling a computer. You would not try to sell a computer without knowing how it works and what makes it better than similar computers. When asked by a potential customer, “Why should I buy this computer?” you never would think of saying, “I don’t know!” or “It’s a good one.” Yet, too many job seekers update their resumes with only their job histories and then apply to various jobs without understanding their product (them). They are not able to articulate how they are unique and how the company will benefit by hiring them.
The Importance of Taking an Inventory
Job seekers should take time to inventory (discover and document) their abilities, accomplishments, strengths, values, interests, education and technical skills.
In addition to recalling this information from memory, job seekers should ask friends, family, former coworkers, and former bosses for input in addition to gathering information from previous performance reviews and correspondences. These external sources are essential. We humans tend to minimize what comes easily to us. We think that because something comes easily, it must not be a very big deal; in fact, the skills or traits that do not come easily to everyone are the very skills that make us unique.
Prior accomplishments are indicators of future performance, letting hiring managers know the value you will bring to their organization. This information will be useful to you in a variety of ways. Some of your accomplishments and skills will go into your resume and cover letter. Others will be used to answer interview questions. The balance will be used to remind you how valuable you are when you start to get discouraged. This information will also help you identify the environment in which you will flourish.
- Every resume should include previous accomplishments in bullet format, tailored to the corresponding job.
- The cover letter should list accomplishments that correspond to job requirements.
- When answering interview questions, especially behavioral style questions, job seekers should respond in STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format, leveraging their accomplishments.
When asked their top five strengths, most job seekers give the same reply: “I’m a people person, organized, results-oriented, multi-tasker and have a strong work ethic… blah blah blah.” To stand out as a candidate, identify and learn to articulate your unique strengths. One approach is to take a strength assessment test.
Values & Interests
The passion a job seeker shows in an interview sets them apart from other candidates. Find your passion.
Document your values to help you identify companies you would not work for based on the products they sell or the values they hold (ex. tobacco). Note the companies you would love to work for because of the causes they represent and forward (ex. ecology / green).
Consider how you can combine your skills and your interests. One job seeker wanted to pursue a job as a property manager. The same job seeker also had an interest in golf. That person is now a property manager of a resort. Please note that not all interests will align with your skills in finding the perfect job; consider it, though.
Education & Technical Skills
Most, if not all, job seekers know to include college education and professional certifications on their resume. Job seekers should record all training and development although this information will not make it onto the resume. These records should include seminars, webinars and extensive self-study.
List all technical skills (software, hardware and equipment) even if the technology is no longer current. Why, you ask, should you record education that will not be used on the resume and technical skills that are no longer current? The answer is, you can use this information in an interview. When asked during an interview if you know a certain skill or concept that you do not know well or have experience with (ex. MS Excel) instead of saying “no” you can draw on something similar that you do know (ex. Lotus 1-2-3-) to illustrate your ability with that skill or concept (i.e. spreadsheets).
This job market is tough and requires a more active sales approach. Knowing your product (you!) and articulating what makes you a perfect fit for the job will increase the effectiveness of your resume, your networking and your interviews.