9 Lives for Women Blog

Search for a Fit, Not a Job | May 29th, 2013

If you’re a job seeking “circle” you’re not going to fit into an employer “square”.  It’s all about a snug fit—and as a job seeker, your mission is to convince employers that your skills and experience match all or most of their increasingly specific needs.

This point was very well illustrated in a New York Times article, “It’s a 401(k) World”, written by Thomas Friedman (best known for his book, The World is Flat). In the article, Friedman quotes labor expert Peter Capelli of the Wharton Business School: “companies now regard filling jobs as buying spare parts—they expect a fit.”

In job markets of other eras, employers were more willing to give people a chance, see future potential or offer on-the-job training. Now employers want what they want now. And in a tight job market, with so many people still unemployed, companies can find candidates who are pretty close to “ideal”.

In this world that strives toward perfection, it can seem impossible to find a job. Women tell me they’ve tried to land hundreds of jobs, with little or no response. And that tells me that they’ve been more focused on searching for jobs than searching for the right fit.

Though it may seem counter-productive, it’s better to spend more time researching positions and companies where you would be the best fit—and less time chasing jobs overall. People often get caught up in the idea that job hunting is a numbers game, and that’s a superficial view. You don’t find a job because you’ve tenaciously sent out hundreds of resumes every month—you find a job because you’ve strategically targeted companies and positions that are the right fit.

Once you’ve done the research to determine if a job is a strong fit for your skills and experience, you have to make sure that you present yourself as that much needed spare part. That means, in simplest terms, very closely matching your skills and experience with the responsibilities and requirements of the job.

There will be few jobs where you’ll find a 100% match—but I advise you strongly to focus only on opportunities where you have at least 80% of what employers want.  If you do a great job of convincing employers you’re a great fit for most of their needs, you have a shot that they’ll give you a pass for the other 20%. The trick is not to ignore your shortcomings—be up front, be proactive and let employers know how certain strengths, skills or accomplishments are similar to or foundations for the requirements you don’t meet.

In the final analysis, job seekers at every level are successful when they simply follow directions. A job description is actually an RFP—a Request for Proposal about your fit for all aspects of the job.  In an RFP you have to address all the requirements—and your cover letters and interview discussions should zero in on—and sell your strong fit for–each “spare part” the employer is looking to find. —KAS

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