IT Employment

Ask not what a company can do for you...

Hiring managers are out to fulfill one goal--to find someone who can help them meet business goals.

I've tried to make this point in various ways in this blog along the years I've been writing it, but now and then I feel the need to bluntly state it:

Hiring managers don't care about what they can do for you.

I'm not trying to make them sound like unfeeling monsters. The fact is, they are out to fulfill one goal-to hire a person best suited for the business goals they need to achieve. They don't have the time to choose the person who will change the business with his or her great ideas-unless it's a panel of shareholders looking for a new CEO. And they most certainly don't have the time to interpret your resume. "I'm looking for a data center person, but this guy is a steeplechase champion. But from what I can piece together, he may have project management skills that can transfer to what I need!" That may actually be true, but it's your job to make that obvious, not a busy hiring manager's.

Let me use an example from my little corner of the world. I get article pitches on the average of 5-10 a day from people I've never met. Some are, I hope, just PR mass mailings hoping to hit some interest somewhere; otherwise I'd be ticked off. (Like the recent pitch I got from a company who designs a resume building app for artists and designers. Um, have you even bothered to look at TechRepublic?)

Some are from people whose only goal is to get a piece published on a high-profile web site to pad their resume or get their name out there as an expert. But they're pitching a topic like "Security is important in IT." Well, yes, but if you take a moment to look around the site, you'll see that we have already taken that broad topic, split it in about 400 ways and covered it every which way you can. Those kind of people don't take the time to look at the content already there to make an informed pitch. That's a little lazy and frankly, to a managing editor, a little insulting.

Now the third person is the one who makes me want to pound my head against my monitor: the one who wants to argue about a pitched topic. "I know you don't usually run pieces about hydrodynamics, but I think your audience would really like it." True, they probably will. But that topic does not fall within our business model. We also don't run pieces on foot fetishes, for the same reason. The assumption that the person to whom you are pitching a topic knows less about his or her company's business model than you, a virtual stranger, is beyond insulting.

And last is the perfect pitch. The other day someone emailed me with a piece he wrote in which he referenced a piece already on the site and explored one of its points more in depth. The tone he used was conversational (not white paper-ish as we've been known to get from people more concerned with how smart they sound than how they fit within the existing tone of the site). And he went to the bother of using the same styles we use on the site (initial caps on titles, larger, bold font for subheads)! I couldn't sign him up fast enough.

So the bottom line is that you must know all about a company when you go into an interview. Speak to that company's goals, not your own. Talk about how your experience can benefit a company, not how a company should change to fit your experience. Trust me on this-you might get a veteran interviewer who is as seasoned (gristled) and discerning (crabby) as me.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

14 comments
peteystock
peteystock

Interestingly enough, I sort of had this exact experience today as a non-looking potential candidate. This is why also I say above "still calls for HR competence" -- if, for example, you are going to sell your company in a phone conversation as made up of SMEs, tech experts, field engineers, etc., you really need to be sure that your target fits one of those bills. Honestly, I would love to be considered an SME. However, as someone who has worked operations-side, handles lots of tickets on a daily basis and needs to handle many and varied projects as they come up, frankly I don't have enough time to deep-dive into SCOM, Cisco, VoIP, AD, SolarWinds, etc. -- and then don't get me started on hardware with HP, Dell, EMC and the like. Sure I can be an SME on these but, probably, only at the detriment of many other technologies and tasks that I already need to use every day. Message to HR and recruiters everywhere -- if you need SMEs, great, but you really need to parse those resumes before calling me. Just because I know how to set up an IP phone, does not make me a guru on Cisco VoIP implementation!

roleat
roleat

I agree that it is a candidate's responsibility to understand what, and to whom they are targeting their skills to, but I find the examples speak to a different matter entirely. Someone with little skill writing (interesting) articles and then attempting to get on Tech Republic is not the same as someone who writes well and expects you to give them a credible source to launch their journalism. From my experience in the Web development world a hiring team will entice candidates with precise reasons why one should apply. The confidence suggested by such great perks should translate to; "We know we are a great company, here's what we bring to the table, now how about you?".

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

that if there isn't enough customer money flowing in, or if there isn't enough corporate welfare (I don't mean bailouts), then wages will go down. Don't expect them to train either, even if they whine and bleat nobody's qualified. They want everyone and everything for nothing, since anything else means their profit goes down. Everybody, keep bending over. /cynicism

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

....that you can't get that kind of blunt feedback on an interview itself. Now, we have to care about everyone's FEEEELINGS. Thanks for the refreshing take on things, Toni.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Two of my best qualities. Any competent hirer does care about what they can offer a potential candidate. If they don't, unless their god smiles on them all the candidates they'll get to choose from will be, well not as good as they could be... When I do my resume, a cover letter, go in for an interview, do a test. I'm selling myself. Why would I deliberately do a poor job of that? Of course I'll do research, of course I'll try to present myself in the best possible light, of course I want to make it easy for them to pick me. They show the attitude enshrined in the sentence "Hiring managers dont care about what they can do for you", none of that will matter, because I'll be going to my next interview where hopefully the other persion will have a functioning brain. The best person for the job, doesn't have to take that Toni. I'm competing with other candidates for a role. They are competing with other potential employers for me. The whole point of being good at what you do is to be in demand, not supply... Marketing 101... I deliberately seeing as we've covered it ad nausem, didn't go in to how difficult in general hirers make it to present yourself in any possible light. You've done a couple of pieces on that, I think you might want to do them more bluntly as well, because naff all has changed on that front, either.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Very well said, Toni, I couldn't agree more. One of the skills I used to teach job hunters was to research a company (before the Google days) and find out what value they add to the company. When you call to 'pitch the boss', as I always suggest, you then have a value added proposition, not just a lit of personal qualifications, to put forward. When I research a company the very first thing I look for is image, website design and SEO success, logo appearance, color scheme vs marketplace etc. Its just a starting point though, while talking to the boss if the conversation allows for it or leads to it, it is 'something else I can help with". Research the market, then I can offer insight as to how I would approach it, beside just saying I can target market for them etc. In sales, there's an old saying (very true too) that people don't buy features, they buy benefits. If I was selling a retractable ball point pen, a push button and a pocket clip are features, so what? Not having the pen dry out because you can retract the nib and always having it handy because it is clipped on your pocket are the benefits people buy. Likewise, when job hunting, qualifications (features) means absolutely nothing without an application. Everyone knows that when you write a resume, include ways that skills have benefited the company or goals you have reached, not just the knowledge that got you there. Add BENEFITS to your features, by researching the business and looking for ways you have helped companies in similar positions before, you add value to your proposition, which is EXACTLY what an employer will look at over and above formal qualifications. They don't care if you have a BA in computer science if you haven't done anything with it. They will hire the guy with no formal training but who has applied the same level of knowledge into resolving a problem and showing value. The only way to know what you can offer a company is to actually research them, not just a quick look at the website but try some odd searches, things that are negative and look for the forums and rants people have had, then pitch a way to help the company, without pointing to where you got the knowledge that they need help. Just slide it in as something you have done for someone else.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Inserting logic and reason into the debate. Thank you. :)

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

An employer has placed an ad, hired a recruiter or whatever means to find candidates. You have already been told what the company will offer you, of course fine details are left for negotiation, which you can also ask about in an interview. I think Toni's point was that they are not focused on selling the job at that point, as much as they are focused on finding out if you fit their needs. As an applicant, it is your job to also have done your homework and have those relevant questions to ask for yourself. If they won't answer you or are evasive in what they offer, then there's a red flag indeed.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I've been tring to do the new thing and use emotional intelligence. I must be too thick to get it. :p

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Might be able to attract a better class of candidate, and more to the point keep them. Silly idea I know...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's been my contention that you are just as, if not more likely to get a better quality choice of candidate by choosing randomly from those that apply. At least then the better ones wonlt have been binned by the misguided and the ignorant. UK companies do believe in recruiters, mainly their HR people admittedly, which sort of puts this "thinking" into perspective...

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Was it keywording perhaps? Heuristic scanning of resumes has become so widespread now, I wonder how it ever took off yet alone became popular. There are even companies where you can get a monthly membership and they give you a list of keywords and employer's BOT is looking for in order to qualify resumes. Recruiters have also got software that places specific keywords in a search so that they can identify the 'cheaters' and nix their resumes from the list. It's just so low end and cheesy. Initially I felt almost sorry for people looking for work via recruiters, as they would send off a gazillion resumes and get nothing for years. Knowing that the recruiting racket was...well, a racket, made me mad at recruiters and feel empathy for job seekers. Then my right minded reality hit hard and I thought that if they were too stupid to know how to market their skills, I wouldn't want to hire them anyway. Having faith in recruiters, to me, is not that much different than having faith in religion. You hear of things that once occurred but have yet to see proof of it yourself. People tell you it works for them but you don't see it working for you. The strong get ahead, the weak will always be weak, no matter how many times they went to school and no matter how many certs they paid for.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Their criteria, for top ten. In one of my rare stints on the other side of the table, I ended up with two out of nine after telephone interviews. That wasn't some HR restriction, it was that one was a junior and the other six were lets say not really up to scratch. How they got on the list puzzles me, never mind the top of it. One of the two is one of the best young developers I've ever worked with, but I was left with the feeling that was more luck than judgement. It's not that rare a skill mix, after all I can do it. So I suspect they turned down some good candidates through ignorance or incompetence. My usual approach is to tell the recruiter whether I think I'm suitable, their opinion on the matter, is at best not worth considering. I sell myself as competent, brilliant I leave to those that are, and those that claim they are...

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I'm sure that you already know, it doesn't make any difference how perfectly matched you are as a candidate, they take the top ten that they think will sell themselves to the employer an put them forward. That's another itch I have with recruiters, no matter what your experience, they will only put forward candidates that they think will sell themselves to the employer. Several recruiters fight to fill a role, the one who submits the best salesman wins the contract for the year. Even if you are brilliant, if they think their competitor's selections will outsell you, they will find someone else to put forward. They don't get paid unless you get hired, if you can't get the job for yourself, you're not a viable candidate.