When it comes to your job search, you think that you play by the book.
You always tailor your resume. You follow every single application instruction to the letter. You invest tons of time into researching the company. You even practice your best answers to common interview questions in front of the mirror.
This thorough approach has pushed you through to many interviews. But, for one reason or another, you can never seem to clinch the deal.
The first couple of times you got that dreaded “thanks, but no thanks” email, you chalked it up as normal—maybe you weren’t the best fit for that open role or perhaps they found someone who requested a lower salary.
Now? Well, you’re starting to get a little more self-conscious. When you’re repeatedly coming close but are still unable to land a job, you know there has to be more at play than an employer who’s a bit too selective.
So, you read through your resume and your cover letter again. You replay every last detail of the interview in your head.
“I can’t find a single thing I did wrong!” you tell yourself, “I knocked this out of the park.”
But, hold on for just one minute. There’s one fatal mistake you could be making. And, even worse? This mistake is often disguised as something positive—something that you think is actually helping you in your job search.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
I think I’ve built enough suspense already, so I’ll cut right to the chase. All too often, job seekers fall into the trap of rambling on and on about how much they admire the company or how much they’d love to score a certain position.
Hey, talking about how much you respect the culture or how eager you’ve been to land a job in this field is a good thing, right? It demonstrates your passion and your high level of interest in the opportunity.
But, here’s the thing: That’s not what that company wants to hear from you. Prospective employers want to know what value you’ll bring to their organization. Basically, they care about what you can do for them—and not what they can do for you.
Sound cutthroat? Maybe. But, in all honesty, it’s human nature.
Emphasize Your Value
Imagine that you were going to get a daring new haircut, and you had your choice between two different stylists—Stylist A and Stylist B.
Stylist A told you all about how much he loved cutting hair. While seeing your glorious mop in front of him, he explained that he knew that your head of hair was something that he just couldn’t wait to get his hands on. This was the opportunity of a lifetime for him.
Stylist B? She told you about her eight years of experience cutting hair, she discussed the additional courses she’s taken to refine her skills, and she even showed you pictures of past styles she’s created.
So, it’s decision time: Which stylist are you going to go with? Who are you going to trust to take a scissors to your precious hair? Stylist B? I thought so.
You see, employers feel this exact same way—they’re aiming to build a solid team of talent, and they want to know that your skills, experience, and expertise will add a significant amount of value for them.
Striking a Balance
This doesn’t mean that you can never mention that you love the company or that you’d relish the opportunity to work there—that’s still all well and good. The key here is that you don’t want your glowing review to monopolize your cover letter or interview answers. It’s all about balance.
For example, when you’re asked that infamous “Why do you want this job?” question in an interview, you can briefly touch on how much you admire that organization, and then transition into talking about how your skills are a seamless fit and how your past experiences have been leading you to this new challenge.
Or, instead of blabbering endlessly in your cover letter about the company’s culture, pick an aspect that resonates with you most and then describe how that fits with your own personal values (this article explains how to do that). It’ll show you did your research, while still keeping the majority of the spotlight on you.
I get it—showering that prospective employer in compliments seems like a surefire way to establish rapport and make a positive impression. However, it’s always better to keep the majority of the focus on you and what you bring to the table.
After all, you don’t want a haircut from the inexperienced guy who’s drooling while lustily eyeballing your locks—and employers don’t either. Can you blame them?
Photo of job interview courtesy of Erik Isakson/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author