A marketing executive from an internet radio company contacted me recently to discuss hosting a career program on their network. Pretty early in the conversation it was clear their approach and philosophy was not going to be a fit. He was proudly telling me their goal is to “crush the competition.” Far from being a selling point, this statement and the aggressive tone used to express it highlighted what a poor fit this company would be for someone in a helping profession who loves working with clients who change the world for the better!
Two key points from this encounter that apply to your job search are:
1) Know your audience and customize your approach and message to them.
Do your homework and know something about your audience (if the radio exec had done just a bit of research, he might have avoided using the “crush the competition” motto). The way you’d prepare your marketing materials (e.g., résumé) and approach the interview for one company or sector versus another would likely need to be different. If you haven’t done enough research to know at least a little about their values, goals, culture, and norms, you could either fail to show how you match these or end up highlighting their opposites!
2) Any interaction, especially the interview, is an opportunity to evaluate “fit.”
In your interactions with the potential employer pay attention to the way they ask questions, describe their desired qualifications/ideal candidate, and the culture of the company. These will give you a sense of what matters to them, their vision, and the expectations for the position. Remember, the interview and consideration process isn’t just about them deciding if you’re a good fit (your skills, personality, etc.). It’s also your chance to think about whether this company and position match your values and preferences. Could you happily picture yourself working in this environment several hours each day? Do their goals and values align with yours? Would you be energized because of what you get to do each day (and how you get to do it), or drained by it?
Taking a bit of time to learn about potential employers early on allows you to present your information in a way they can relate to and find relevant, and can help you decide how well they’ll fit you.