This is part 1 of a series covering basic things employers look for in applicants. While every job, hiring manager, employer and situation is unique, there are usually common traits that employers look for, in almost every position.

Typically, candidates can’t easily see things through a hiring manager’s eyes (even if they have been a hiring manager themselves) … because the process of “telling your story” often gets in the way.

One commonly overlooked area that nearly every hiring manager looks for is … Can you help me solve my high priority problems?

Almost every employer wants to hire someone who can solve their priority problems, no matter if you are applying for a shop floor position or to be CEO.

Even if you are applying for an entry level or lower-level staff position, you’ve solved plenty of problems – problems in life, relationships, family, finances, school, for volunteer positions, or past employers.

But that won’t matter to an employer … unless you can show that you’ve solved their problems.

For example, you may have had tons of impressive experience cutting costs. However, to a hiring manager whose job (or goals) are to increase revenue, all the cost cutting experience in the world won’t matter – because you’ve solved someone elses’ problem, not their problem.

So, how do you show that you’ve already solved an hiring manager’s priority problems?

Identify their problems: Information rules! This is where you can gain a huge advantage over your competition.
Research before you send: Most candidates wait until just before an interview before conducting deep research. If you perform extensive research early in the process, before you send a resume, you’ll have better information about what the hiring manager’s problems are … so you can customize your resume to show how you’ve already solved similar problems

Private information beats public: To get the real scoop, you’ve got to get inside information. This means actually talking to people within the company … not about what jobs are being hired, but about what problems the company is trying to solve, the company’s challenges, goals, roadblocks. If you just rely on what Google and the company’s website (or annual report) tells you, you haven’t built any advantage over your competition.

Identify your hiring manager’s problems: The hiring manager you’re trying to reach probably isn’t responsible for solving all of the company’s problems. Even if your hiring manager is the CEO, who is responsible for all of the company’s problems, some problems are a high priority of your hiring manager while others aren’t. When you first understand your hiring manager’s priorities, you can focus your hiring manager’s attention on what’s important to them on your resume.

Highlight the skills important to your hiring manager: Different hiring managers, in different companies, with different problems look for different skills … even for the exact same job title. Listing broad skills and hoping they match the hiring manager’s needs leads to really poor odds.

Hiring managers rarely hire people “who can learn”: Unless you are applying for an entry-level position or your target company is targeting career changers, your next employer doesn’t have a budget to train you or give you time to learn on the job. With 84% of currently employer workers looking to change jobs this year (per CareerBuilder), employers look for people who have already solved problems similar to their most pressing issues. Why hire someone who can learn, when an employer can hire someone who already brings the necessary track record to the job … learned on someone else’s payroll?

Each employer is looking for different things … even for the same job title. Address what your next employer is really looking for and improve your odds at getting interviews and offers.

About Ivy Exec

This article was originally posted on the Ivy Exec Blog. Ivy Exec is a career resource partner of AESC/BlueSteps - a highly selective, invitation-only career site founded by a team of Columbia MBAs to address the unique career needs of top executives. Ivy Exec is a trusted recruiting tool used by companies such as JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Google, Prada, and other upper echelon firms looking to hire high-calibre executives.

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