The Venn Diagram That Might Put Me Out of Business

I mentioned in last week’s entry that I would discuss the job interview process today as part of a series of entries on our recruitment of a new career advisor. But because those interviews have not actually happened yet, I thought it would be better to wait until next week, at which point they should all be done.

Today, I’d like to share with you a simple diagram that, I believe, communicates many of the concepts that I cover with students (particularly job interviews) more concisely and effectively than I ever could in words.

Isn’t it great? I’ve printed out a large copy to hang on my office wall, and I expect I’ll be referring to it often. I find myself drawing out this diagram nearly every day during explanations of job search concepts to students. The only surprising thing is that it took me a year and a half to make a poster out of it.

Why a Venn diagram? It’s simple: job seekers too often focus their efforts disproportionately on either one circle or the other. In an interview question about strengths, they might give a laundry list of traits that all make them sound great, without linking any of those traits specifically to the job at hand. In their cover letter, they may write at length about how much they admire a company’s mission and values, without bothering to mention that they live by those same values in their own lives.

Here’s the thing: employers don’t want the person with the most experience. They don’t want the person with the best skills. They don’t want the most likeable person, or the hardest working. What employers want is the person who best fits their particular needs at that moment in time.

You might have lots of great experience, but unless you illustrate how that experience is going to be of specific value to the company, it’s not so great at all. You might have a good personality, but unless your personal qualities mesh with the culture of the organization and nature of the position, it doesn’t matter.

Essentially, the qualities that make you a great candidate are fluid—they can and should adapt to the company and job that you are applying to. If you want to go above and beyond in an application, stop thinking about yourself and the job as separate. Instead, look for areas of overlap where you “match” the job, and stress them over and over again in as many different aspects of your application as you can.

After all, the person who has the biggest overlap is most likely going to get the job.

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