How to Become the Most Attractive Job Candidate

Why understanding your strengths will help you stand out.

Posted Feb 16, 2015

Paul Bringham - One Way Stock

We often think that because we have a great academic record or went to the right schools, we’ll be great at any job and will impress any potential boss.  But, in today’s world, standing out takes much more than just relying on a good resume.  The key is knowing your strengths and figuring out how they will fit into different work environments.  Knowing yourself and maximizing your talents will separate you from other candidates and help you find a job that will actually make you happy.

The key to finding and landing the ideal job is connecting intelligently with potential employers.  This isn’t just about emotional intelligence but about connectional intelligence, using your creativity and all the resources available to you to identify and show your strengths.  Here are some key questions to ask yourself when on the job search or when starting at a new job:

How do you best communicate: in person or virtually?

With all the technology available to us, the way that we communicate with each other is changing and opening up. If you are a powerhouse public speaker, look for jobs that gives you the opportunity to connect with crowds.  Or, if you know that a large in-person audience will impede your ability to communicate well, there are many different opportunities to engage lots of people and get your message out in different ways.  You can start hosting a weekly or monthly webinar in which you discuss what you’ve accomplished over the past month and what you hope to accomplish for the next month.  Link other employees or business contacts so they get that personal connection without having to be in the same room.

If you are better with more intimate gatherings, webinars and videoblogs are an extremely effective way to reach an audience and use your strength of building intimate bonds.  Or host a small monthly gathering with contacts in your industry if you feel better in conversation than in the formal context of a speech.   

Maybe you feel that you can most effectively get across your ideas in writing rather than speaking engagements. Send out a newsletter or start a blog.  

The key is to find what works best for you and take a risk in implementing a new forum that maximizes your strengths, even if its not the norm in your industry.

Which part of the creative process most excites you?

Every product, whether its a desklamp, a magazine, or a social activism campaign goes through many different stages of development.  We often look for jobs based on what industry interests us or what we think we are passionate about, but knowing where your strengths are in the creative process can be even more important in determining job success and satisfaction.  If you are passionate about the environment but find yourself stuck writing e-mail campaigns when you know that your real strength is in face-to-face communication, you will not be happy or successful even though you’re working in your chosen field.

What’s more important is to place yourself in the aspect of the creative process where you will thrive.  If you are more of a thinker that can help spark and generate the big ideas, focus on the development stages of a project.  If you are more of an enabler, better at creating the structures and forces that facilitates day-to-day implementation of a project, then find something more hands-on.  If your strength is in analysis after a product is out in the world, find somewhere that you can use your skills to evaluate and deliver recommendations for future iterations of a product.  

Do you want to lead a team or be part of a team?

There is a lot of focus in our work culture on becoming a strong leader.  CEOs seem to be getting younger and younger and more and more people are going out on their own and starting their own company.  Being an executive is a great aspiration but its not the only way to be successful or to find happiness in a job.  It also takes development and years of apprenticeship with already established leaders.  Maybe where you are in your career, the best thing for you to do is continue to learn until you feel ready to lead others.  We rarely focus on developing our strengths as collaborators, but the only way that we can build something is if we have leaders and smart, effective team members.  

Being the boss also has its stressors and responsibilities that being part of a team doesn’t carry.  We may all want to own our own company but being realistic about where you are in your development will set you up to be the best CEO possible in the future.

The main question to ask yourself is: where you will be the most valuable?  Are you great at giving direction and having other people execute tasks for you or are you better at taking someone else’s idea and doing the hands-on, exciting work of executing it and making it a reality?

One often overlooked aspect of understanding our strengths is recognizing that they will change and develop throughout your life.  The key is just knowing who you are right now. Unless you identify strengths and weakness at this point in your career, whether you’re just starting out or own your business, you will never be able to grow. When you focus on your strengths at this point in time, it will give you the confidence to confront and work on your weaknesses further along on your path.  

Erica Dhawan is the co-author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence by Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole Joni.  She is CEO of Cotential, a global consultancy that accelerates the connectedness of employees, teams and clients. Follow Erica on Facebook and Twitter.