Most entrepreneurs will tell you that the #1 rule for succeeding in business is, “Find a need and fill it.”
But you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to benefit from this advice.
The “Find a need and fill it” approach will help you write better resumes and cover letters, and it will help you ace your next job interview, too.
This method has two steps. Here they are …
Research and find employer’s needs.
First, create a shortlist of companies you want to work for. This is where many job seekers blow it. On the first day of their unemployment, most people open the classified ads or visit their favorite employment Web site and start looking for jobs. Wrong. It’s better to look for companies first, and jobs second.
Think about it. If you catch on with the right employer, even if it’s in the wrong job, you can find room to move up or sideways into a position that’s best for you. You and they will be motivated to find the right fit.
By contrast, if you take what looks like a good job at a company with dysfunctional co-workers, customers or both, you’ll likely quit in short order. And you’ll be back where you started.
So, start your search by making a list of 10-25 ideal employers and then look for positions within that relatively small universe.
Once you have this list of target companies, research to uncover needs you can fill. What are their biggest problems? Opportunities? Dangers?
Find this information by tapping your network of personal and professional contacts. A good tool for this is Zoominfo. Each of these websites is free.
Google Alerts are good, too. Use this free service to be notified by email any time your target company is in the news (Google.com/alerts).
Explain how you can deliver, based on skills and value.
After you find what employers want, tell them how you’ll deliver. This requires you to “know thyself.” Specifically, what are your three most valuable skills? Example skills: marketing, customer service and writing.
Then, quantify the value of your skills: How much money have you made or saved for employers? Think long and hard on this one.
Let’s say one of your skills is customer service. To quantify its value, think back on your work history until you find a success story. Example: You solved a problem and kept an irate customer from going to a competitor in 2006. That customer brought in $245,000 in annual revenue. By retaining that account, you saved $245,000 for your employer — this is the value of your customer service skills.
The total value of your skills may be higher or lower, but you’ll never know until you add up all the numbers. Think and ye shall find.
OK. You know your skills and have found at least one success story with dollars attached.
Now, you need to match your skills to employers’ needs. Example: Let’s say your research shows that your target employer, Acme Widgets, wants to open new markets and increase revenue.
How will you tell the folks at Acme how your skills match their needs? Usually, you’ll get two chances: in the cover letter and the job interview.
Let’s start with your cover letter. You will get an employer’s attention — and more interviews – when you prove that you know their needs and how to fill them.
Example cover letter language: “From what I’ve read in Minnesota Business Monthly and the interviews I’ve done with your employees, I understand that Acme Widgets is expanding to Italy. My knowledge of Italian, coupled with my five years of experience producing up to $710,250 in new revenue for widgets such as yours, can help me make an impact for you.”
In the interview, you should flat out ask, “Why are you bringing on a new person? What’s the one thing you want this new employee to do more than anything else?”
If the hiring manager gives you an answer, reply with a match to your skills and value. Example: They want someone to retain key accounts. You reply that you’ve saved up to $245,000 by doing that very thing last year.
If the hiring manager can’t say exactly what they want the new employee to do most, great! Simply walk them through a series of questions to uncover their needs. Is it cost savings? Higher revenue? Fewer mistakes in filling orders? What exactly?
When you agree on their main need, match it with one of your skills and success stories. At this point, you will be leading that hiring manager by the nose … directly to a job offer.
Now go and do your homework
You must uncover specific needs at your target employer. You must know your three most-valuable skills. You must assign a specific value to each skill, based on success stories. Finally, you must think on your feet so you can match your skills to employers’ needs in an interview.
It boils down to this. You can either invest a few hours of work this week to discover the needs of employers and communicate how you can fill them, or you can face a frustrating, financially crippling job search that lasts for months.
Which would you prefer?