Most recent grads applying for their first jobs don’t understand why those jobs actually exist. If you want to get the attention of a hiring manager, you need to think this through from his or her point of view. Keep these following two thoughts in mind and any hiring manager will see in you a degree of professional awareness that few of your peers possess.
Understand why companies exist
Companies exist to make money, as quickly, efficiently, and reliably as possible. Companies make money by selling a product or service. They prosper by becoming better and more efficient at it. When a company saves time, it saves money, and then has more time to make more money – this is called productivity.
If a company can make money without employees, it will do so, because that means more money for the owners. Unfortunately for the owners, a company requires a complex machinery to deliver those products and services that bring in revenue. Every job is a small but important cog in a complex moneymaking machine, and every cog has to mesh with other cogs. The cogs also have to be oiled (salary) and maintained (vacations, benefits). This all costs money; payroll and benefits are generally thought to account for by far the largest slice of a company’s income. If a company can redesign the machinery to do without that cog (automation) or can find a cheaper cog (outsourcing oversees), of course it is going to do so.
Get inside your customer’s head
Understand your customers and find out what they want to buy. There are two reasons jobs exist. First, as I’ve said, every job is a small but important cog in the corporation’s complex money-making machine. Second, the company hasn’t been able to automate that job out of existence because in your area of technical expertise, problems arise.
Consequently, the company hires someone who has the technical skills to solve these problems when they occur and who knows the territory well enough to predict and prevent many of these problems from arising in the first place. It doesn’t matter what your job title is; you are always hired to be a problem-solver with a specific area of expertise. It is why your job exists and what you are there to do: anticipate, prevent and solve the problems that get in the way of helping your department do its job in contributing to company profitability.
Think of all the summer jobs you’ve held. Whatever the job, it always comes down to anticipating, preventing, and solving problems. This enables the company to make money for the owners as quickly, efficiently, and reliably as possible. School didn’t work like this, but the professional world does: anticipate, prevent and solve problems for your manager and everyone comes out ahead.
Critical thinking, or problem solving, is one of a set of specific transferable skills and professional values that help successful professionals execute their responsibilities well, whatever their profession or challenge facing them. When that hiring manager is looking to hire someone, her goal will be to find a candidate who understands why the job exists, the problems it exists to solve and how the person in that job helps contribute to the bottom line. Your technical skills may help get you an interview, but if you want to set off light bulbs in the interviewer’s head and get that offer, you must show that, unlike your peers, you understand the small but important role your job plays in helping the company profitability. For more insights on how to outperform the competition at a job interview, check out Knock Em Dead – Secrets & Strategies For First-Time Job Seekers.
Martin Yate, CPC, is one of the world’s foremost experts in the business of job search and career management. The author of Knock ‘Em Dead 2013: The Ultimate Job Search Guide and fourteen other career books, Yate is published in countless languages around the world and has helped millions change the trajectory of their lives. Learn more at www.knockemdead.com.