Speaking for a moment as a hiring manager, becoming my candidate of choice is not a matter of luck; it involves understanding my main motivation, which is to identify a candidate with a record of demonstrated—and where possible, quantified—accomplishments, which are strong indicators for future success in the position. It involves understanding that previous duties/responsibilities are of a lesser concern to me—unless those duties and responsibilities can be expressed as benefits of an expertise that led to valuable, higher-order strategic results for former employers. It means having some knowledge of my challenges, concerns, and expectations. And it means an awareness and understanding of my presuppositions, prejudices, and human factors that may come into play for evaluating potential short list candidates.
The job- or career-search strategy you employ must build on an existing professional brand that conveys to me an attitude of serving as my problem solver, solutions provider, and game changer who understands, anticipates, and responds to my business needs at every stage of the hiring process. In essence, the hiring process is always about me and what I (i.e., the team, the company) need, and never about you.
Becoming the hiring manager’s candidate of choice requires a basic understanding of an important marketing principle: What successfully connects the person with a need to the person who can fulfill that need is value. It’s the same whether you are selling vacuum cleaners, cars, or your professional expertise. If the person with the need perceives and believes that you offer real value, you have fulfilled that need and can make the sale.
The elements of the value you provide form a continuum of belief that strengthens your position as you move through the hiring process. As the hiring manager begins an assessment of your value through a cover letter and résumé, he or she begins the journey on the continuum of belief. Your value grows as you proceed to the interview stage and the hiring manager moves forward on the continuum of belief in that value you can provide.