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The One Quality That Every Job Seeker Needs

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Posted on 3/11/2015 by Ngaire Wallace

It sounds like click-bait (and in many respects, it is – we do want you to read our blog, after all), but please bear with me.

There is one overarching theme that I see in every successful job seeker. I would argue that successful in-house and agency recruiters possess the same quality.

Empathy.

Think of it this way: traditional recruiters and hiring managers often talk about finding someone who is the right ‘match’ for their job role and organisation. What they really mean is that they want to find a person who fulfils their current needs. They are looking for a puzzle piece to fill a pre-defined hole.

Often, finding the right person happens by happy accident (although it is highly influenced by a recruiter’s innate biases – a subject for other posts).

Job-seeker sees an advert that appeals to them, and they apply. Recruiter calls job-seeker and inwardly lights up when a phone screening reveals the perfect marriage of skills, experience, knowledge, personality and circumstance for the organisation and job role they are recruiting.

An in-house interview with the team’s Manager confirms the recruiter’s judgment, and a job offer is made.

Wonderful – for everyone except those applicants who have been overlooked.

If you are one of those applicants, perhaps making a career change, reaching for a role higher than your current level or coming back after a gap in your career, then there is fast-track to job application success, beyond the usual CV-writing and interview tips.

Empathy. Find out what your recruiter needs, and give it to them. Then find out what your interviewer needs, and give it to them.

There is a famous scene in the film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ in which Leonardo DiCaprio instructs his audience to "sell me this pen." I won’t link the scene here, as the language could be deemed inappropriate for a professional forum, but you can find it on YouTube. And I would not suggest that DiCaprio’s character is in any way empathetic, but he does demonstrate one element of empathy, which is also a component of successful sales technique. He shows the importance of finding out what your customer needs, and then supplying them with it. In commercial terms - supply and demand. 

Here are four ways to apply empathy to your job search.

  • Read the advert, and the job description very closely. Look for the key requirements and pitch your application to fit them. Don’t just ‘sell yourself’ i.e. highlight your positive attributes without any thought as to whether they fit the actual requirement; market yourself as the solution to your interviewer’s problems.
  • Find out why the position is vacant. Are they expanding due to continued growth? In which case, they might have a job role that is somewhat vague, as the position has never been filled before. Show that you can work under your own initiative. Has someone resigned and left at short notice? Show that you are flexible to help out the team wherever needed, and that you don’t mind performing tasks outside of the assigned remit.
  • Recruiter hasn’t called you back, or sent you the information about the job that they promised? (Yes, we know this is frustrating, and I apologise on behalf of recruiters everywhere). Rather than expressing your frustration, empathise with them. "I know you must be busy – I have started my research already by reviewing the organisation’s website."
  • Hiring manager is called into a meeting at the last minute, after you have already travelled an hour to get there? Yes – this is out of order, and in a skills-short market, you may be well placed to simply write off the opportunity and apply elsewhere. But if it’s a job that you really want, think about the outcome you are trying to achieve (a rescheduled interview, and a grateful interviewer), and tell them that you understand their situation and are flexible at their convenience.

The take away point: rather than approaching your job application by pointing out your best features and demonstrating you can do the job, try to find out what the interviewer and the organisation need and market yourself as the solution. And be nice to everyone that you are in contact with along the way, even if they don’t deserve it.