The Art of Finding Work: Providing Solutions Is How You Turn on Employers

person being interviewed by a panel (source: https://alis.alberta.ca/ )

Physical goods or services are commodities. All commodities exist to solve a problem. For example, apples—a raw agricultural commodity—are a solution to solving your hunger. 

As a job seeker, you’re offering employers a commodity, your labour power, in exchange for a wage. In other words, at the risk of offending sensibilities, you’re seeking to serve as a commodity to employers. 

Supply and demand determine the market value of a commodity. The number of applicants versus the demand for their labour affects whether employers are willing to engage with job seekers to buy their labour power (read: solution).

The current job market is an employer’s market. I’d argue that since employers create the paycheques, it’s always an employer’s market; it’s just more pronounced nowadays. You may have heard the proverb, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” 

Understandably, with the job market flooded with job seekers, employers have become more selective and will wait for the right candidate instead of hiring a candidate who “will do.” Employers no longer consider a candidate’s potential. You’re either precisely what the employer wants or you’re not.

Our economy, which is driven more by level of confidence than statistics and data points, currently has an “unstable feel,” thanks to the media playing up, for quite some time, the possibility of a recession, daily headlines announcing layoffs, geopolitical conflicts that threaten to escalate, and red-hot inflation. This feeling of instability motivates employers to seek candidates who can guide them through the angst-ridden economic times we’re experiencing.

Regardless of the economy’s health, one thing remains the same for every employer: problems and ongoing challenges. Candidates who can solve an employer’s problems—problem, meet solution—are always in high demand, whether having minimal IT infrastructure downtown time, increasing revenue, improving safety, optimizing production efficiency, raising brand awareness, breaking into new markets, or retaining customers.

A professional salesperson understands this fundamental sales principle: Features tell, benefits sell. Employers aren’t looking for skills or experience (features); they’re looking for results (benefits). 

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” – Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School Professor.  

Employers are looking for candidates who offer “bundles of benefits.” Therefore, by not focusing on your skills and experience but on the employer’s problems that the position you’re applying for exists to solve, you’ll differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t let your ego prevent you from considering yourself as a commodity that can solve problems for employers.  

The next time you read a job posting, visualize the employer saying, “I (we) need help!” Then, think of how you can demonstrate to the employer the impact—solutions you’d provided—you can make on their business. This is how you turn on employers!

When I’m interviewing, I think of myself as someone aiding my interviewer in understanding what type of employee I am, which is different than what type of person I am and what problems I solve. Although I know my interviewer is interested in learning about me, they’re more interested in what I can do for them; therefore, I focus on this aspect. This is why hiring managers ask problem-solving questions, such as “Describe a time you had to deal with an upset customer or client” or “Describe a time when a project deadline was coming up, and one of your team members called in sick.”

By focusing on how I can solve an employer’s problems and challenges, I’m showing empathy for the employer’s situation, thereby establishing a strong connection with my interviewer. When meeting someone for the first time, the best way to connect is to ask yourself, “How can I help this person?” During your next interview, ask yourself this question and notice how it changes the vibe of the conversation.

Ask your interviewer questions that show you want to help the company, such as:

  • “Your job posting mentions “build and maintain strong relationships with clients and vendors to ensure positive reviews.” What are your reviews like? Are you happy with your reviews?”
  • “I understand this position is a backfill. Is there anything you would like the person filling the position to do that the previous person wasn’t doing?”
  • “Twice this week, I called your help desk. I found the average time to answer to be high. Are you satisfied with your call center’s productivity stats? Which do you feel needs improvement?”   
  • My favourite: “What’s the number one problem I can solve in my first 30 days?”

When you ask employer-focused questions, you demonstrate your desire to use your skills and experience to solve their problem, which’ll endear you to your interviewer.

NOTE: To “turn on” your interviewer, you must offer yourself as the solution, not merely ask questions and nod when answered.

Companies will always have problems to solve—especially in a lousy economy, which presents a great opportunity. Therefore, start offering yourself as a solution! How well does your LinkedIn profile and resume showcase your problem-solving abilities? In interviews, do you present yourself as someone who can alleviate the employers’ pain points?

About Nick Kossovan 45 Articles
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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