When I consider job candidates, I think about a lot of things. Will this job make the applicant happy? Will I be creating a good team fit? How much training might this person need?
I try to elevate my thinking to see the bigger picture and understand both sides. But even with such raised aspirations, I always wind up thinking the simplest of employer thoughts: "What’s in it for me?" Selfish? Sure. But WIIFM is one of the basic realities of job hunting. And the sooner you embrace this employer perspective, the sooner you’ll begin finding more success in your search.
The employer’s perspective should be applied to each stage of your job search. Understanding the mindset of potential employers is key to getting your resume noticed, landing the interview, and receiving an offer. That’s why you must focus on employer WIIFM at all times.
Reconsider Your Resume
The good news is that most employers list a lot of WIIFM right in their job descriptions. You must use this job-description WIIFM to create a carefully tailored resume. Just to be clear, I’m talking about a different resume for every single job.
Seem like too much effort? Not in today’s world. Using one resume for everything belongs back in the days of typewriters and correction fluid. If your job search is really important to you, make a promise to yourself right this moment. Say it with me. I promise…not to send out my resume…unless it’s specifically tailored…to the opportunity at hand.
Here’s how to do it. Start by putting the job description in front of you. Then think about yourself in parallel with that job description. Consider every skill, job responsibility, experience and achievement you have, and decide what aligns with the job listing. The top third of your resume should include the most powerful, noteworthy matches between what the employer wants and who you are.
As a farfetched example, let’s use Arnold Schwarzenegger to represent a guy with a wide variety of skills and experience. Perhaps he’s applying for a humanitarian ambassador position. He’ll need to make sure his resume is focused on his diplomatic and political activities, not his bodybuilding titles or his filmography. "Well, of course," you say – and in this outrageous example, it seems pretty obvious. And yet so many people make the same ‘obvious’ mistake by submitting identical resumes for both a sales manager opening at a hot-tub salesroom and a sales manager position with a restaurant equipment manufacturer.
Impress at the Interview
Interviewing is a crucial time to think in detail about what the employer needs. You intuitively know that they will want a sales manager who can make sales and motivate a sales team. But you’ve got to dig deeper. A hot-tub salesroom requires someone who can sell luxury items to homeowners; a restaurant equipment manufacturer requires someone who can develop long-term business-to-business relationships. Thinking like this will prepare you to showcase your skill sets that are most relevant to the employer at hand.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t apply for both sales manager positions. I merely stress that your interview preparation should be uniquely employer-focused and tailored, just like your resume.
You must do a lot of homework to be ready for the WIIFMs that will unfold during an interview. Research everything you can about the company. Be ready to sell yourself in quick, demonstrative stories that will help the employer visualize you successfully performing the role.
An interview is a window that is open for only a short time. And then it’s closed. So, you can choose to spend ten precious minutes rehashing your resume and describing what you did at your last job. Or you can sympathize with the interviewer and actively address those unspoken WIIFM questions that may be on her mind:
- Can this candidate really bring in sales of $5000 a week?
- Will she be able to take some of the pressure off of my overworked technology team?
- Does he have the knowledge and skills to compile a marketing report in two days?
Interviews can feel very one-sided and intimidating, but they don’t have to be that way. With a strategic and diplomatic question, asked early on, you might discover a WIIFM that allows you to focus your discussion on a topic that matters a great deal to your interviewer. Before you know it, you might find her nodding in agreement while you drive the interview in all the right directions.
What‘s In It for You?
When all of your employer-focused thinking pays off in a job offer, there’s one more thing to consider from the employer’s perspective. And it’s really good news for you.
All hiring managers have a wish list for qualities of a job candidate. And it’s not unusual for those lists to be loosely based on the qualities of the last person who held the job. They may want to replace a great employee – in that case, you are the one applicant who matched the many criteria that they know have worked in the past. They may want to replace an underperforming employee – in that case, they see you as the one applicant who has exactly the right combination of "more of this quality" and "less of that quality."
Either way, if you’ve made it to the job-offer stage, you are in a great spot. The employer has clearly seen "what’s in it for me," and you’ve made yourself a highly desired commodity. Now they’re ready to agree on what’s in it for you.
Though some job offers are hard and fast, with no room to play on salary, benefits or perks, you should still consider the job-offer stage as a moment to wrap up any loose ends. Before you agree on the final deal, is there something you need to clarify about career advancement opportunities or reporting relationships? Do you need to request some specific days off for a vacation you already have planned? If you didn’t get the salary you hoped for, could you negotiate a salary review after six months?
You may find that, after you’ve invested so much time impressing the employer and focusing on what the company wants, they might surprise you by helping you get more of what you want.