Want the Job? Solve My Problem!

Solve-My-ProblemNo matter the job, the industry or the experience level, every hiring manager on the planet – whether they need a dishwasher or a VP of Rocket Science – has the same focus:

Solve… My… Problem.

How does a candidate know the recruiter’s immediate problem? How do you determine what challenge are they trying to resolve by filling this position?

In many cases, answering this question can be much easier than it seems. In fact, the recruiter gives you a map… called the “job description”. Granted, many job descriptions, frankly, suck. Yet, whatever my writing ability as a recruiter, I will:

  • Provide a relatively clear map of expectations for the position
  • List the technical, professional and soft skills the top candidate will possess
  • Deliver an outline of the problem needing to be solved (even if it means you need to read between the lines a bit)

Let’s be clear…

I have a job to do, deadlines to meet, my own boss’s expectations to meet. I need to hire the best candidates who will undoubtedly help me and my department succeed. And if you want to be that person:

Solve… My… Problem.

Sounds simple enough, right? Yes… but this is not some magic bullet advice that is going to change your job prospects or career overnight. This is work. You, as the job seeker, have a task ahead of you. To get my full attention as the best candidate, you must:

Identify My Problem

Use the map provided in my job description as a guide. Look through all the fluff and marketing to see what I really need:

  • Must be able to work under pressure”
  • “Can work independently”
  • “Needs extensive experience with HTML”
  • “A go-getter, who can meet and exceed sales goals

This map indicates to you that I have an intense, fast-paced office where there’s not a lot of time for hand-holding. This map also tells you that I’m looking to increase sales in a technical field, so I need someone who can sell, now. It may also tell you that I’m behind in my sales goals, or maybe even that the last person to hold this position was unable to work without a lot of training and supervision, and did not succeed.

That is my problem.

Next step: review your skills and experience to see if you’re really a good fit. In the example above, have you had a job where you worked well under pressure? Do you know HTML? Can you articulate and quantify your success story? (If not, you’re wasting my time – and mis-setting your expectations)

Tailor Your Cover Letter and Resume

In the resume and cover letter you’ll send to me (as well as your LinkedIn profile), use my words to show how you will solve my sales problem and that you will be a good fit within my no-nonsense organization. You have just  7 seconds or less to tell me your story… so unless they specifically relate to my challenge, do not show me your experience as a hostess at Olive Garden, or your work-study jobs at school.

Personally, I prefer your story be in bullet form at the top of your resume, perhaps listed under a “Summary of Skills”. That format helps me determine, in the short time frame I’m going to dedicate to your resume, whether or not you’re qualified and ready to solve my problem (rather than making me go through all the resume sales-speak and filter out the “blah, blah, blah”).

Include Specific Examples of Your Abilities and Approach

If you tell me you’re “detail oriented” and “a natural leader” without demonstrating quantified examples of your abilities, I will throw you in the “just like everybody else” pile. Don’t just say “I demonstrated excellent sales skills at my last position.” Show me… by quantifying your story.

Here are two examples of impact statements on a resume. The “before” blurbs merely tell; the “after” phrasing shows:

Before (Tell): Lead my sales team in all categories; consistently exceeded quota

After (Show): Consistently meet and exceed sales goals: top salesperson in 4 consecutive quarters; exceeded quota by 132%; added 7 new Fortune 100 clients in 2012

Before (Tell): Thrive in a fast-paced environment; think well on my feet

After (Show): Worked independently to deliver 92.5% of proposals and solutions at or before deadline

Notice that the “show” statements use nearly the exact words from the description? That helps me see your value proposition without having to translate your words into something I get, and need, right now.

Solve… My… Problem

Every job posting exists to solve problems for the recruiter, and for the company. To be seriously considered as a top candidate, change your focus from “here’s what I’ve done” to “here’s what I can do to help you”.

With that mindset, I’ll likely see you as a solution-oriented, results-driven, problem-solving member of my team – and you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting the interview, and the job.


Dave EllisAbout the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!



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