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The Art of Finding Work - Part 9

Empathizing With an Employer’s Hiring Concerns Is a Competitive Advantage
opinion editorial

American professor, author, and podcast host Brené Brown once said, "Empathy fuels connection."

Empathizing with someone, especially with their concerns, is how you build strong relationships. Interacting empathically with employers is a competitive advantage since few job seekers do so.

All hiring managers have concerns. The times you weren't hired were likely because of a concern(s) your interviewer had that wasn't addressed during the interview. 

Employers don't care about your “whys” (concerns); they care about their “whys.” As a job seeker, focusing on an employer's whys will help you establish a connection with the employer and differentiate you from your competition, who, for the most part, are focused on their whys.
There’re three hiring facts job seekers would be wise to keep top of mind:

  1. Employers don't hire opinions (of yourself).
  2.  Employers no longer consider a candidate's potential. (Employers aren't in the business of growing careers.)
  3. Employers don't hire employees; they hire solutions. 

 Therefore, don't waste precious resume/LinkedIn profile real estate or interview time offering opinions about yourself, trying to sell your potential, and not providing solutions. Instead, boost your competitive advantage by empathizing with employers' three fundamental hiring concerns.
1.     Will you fit the company’s culture? 

Interviews are conducted primarily to determine whether you'll fit the company's culture, not just to assess your skills. Whether it's fair or not, employers generally hire based on the "fit" they believe a candidate will be to their culture.
Job seekers need to accept that the hiring manager knows best whether they'll fit (read: is compatible) with the company and employees and that they're not entitled to inclusion. Skills and experience are easy to evaluate and assess. (testing, reference checks) However, being deemed a "fit" is subjective. While you can't control the final "Yes" or "No," you can influence the possibility of receiving a thumbs up by:

  1. Before an interview, become familiar with the company's culture and visualize yourself working there.
  2. Speak the language. Every profession has its share of expressions and jargon—insider language—that, when used, implies "I'm one of you."
  3. Dress as if you already work for the company. All companies have an unofficial dress code, even if they have an official dress code. Know both and dress accordingly.

 A better option is to conduct your job search by prioritizing finding where you belong, which is the best compass a job seeker can use. Don't look for a job. Look for where you'll be accepted. Think: "I'm not looking for a job; I'm looking for my tribe!"
2.     Are you able to hit the ground running?
Imagine a leaking pipe in your basement. Who'd you want to fix the leak? An experienced plumber who can fix it quickly or a less experienced plumber who'll have to spend time figuring out how to stop the leak? When we deal with someone highly experienced (e.g., a painter, mechanic, lawyer, medical professional, waitress), we're more likely to experience quality work and service compared to someone who is just starting out.

All jobs exist to solve an employer's problem, like generating revenue, maintaining, and growing their client base, meeting government safety standards, and keeping profit margins healthy by purchasing raw materials at the best prices. When an employer posts a job, whether newly created or to backfill, the problem the job addresses currently exists, like the pipe leaking in your basement. Understandably, employers seek candidates who can provide an immediate solution, are self-starters with proven skills and experience, and have the confidence to take initiative without handholding.

Therefore, throughout your job search—networking, applications, your resume, and LinkedIn profile and especially during interviews—provide examples of when you were a self-starter and took the initiative. Give examples of times when you figured out what needed to be done and got it done without involving your manager.
3.     How will hiring you make them look? 
When making a hire, the stakes are high. Bad hires are costly. Have you ever considered this: What impression will you make on the hiring manager's boss, leadership team, and current employees if you’re hired?

I've made my share of bad hires. Firsthand experience has taught me that making a bad hire doesn't reflect well on me. Hiring managers will inevitably make a few bad hires, but they should be few and far between. Having their boss and the rest of the company doubt their hiring skills (read: judgment) is the last thing a hiring manager wants, something you should deeply empathize with. When preparing for an interview, ask yourself, What makes you the right candidate for the hiring manager to put their reputation on the line? Throughout your interview, speak to your answer.

Once, inspired by a line Tom Cruise spoke in the 1990 film Days of Thunder, I said to my interviewer, as we were wrapping up, who'd be my boss and who I felt was unsure about me, "I won't make a fool of you." The following day, the position was mine. Several months later, while having coffee in the company's cafeteria, he said that line was what sold him.


 Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 



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