The Key to Getting a Job Offer

On 03/25/2010, in Finding a Job, by Jordan Wilson

Receiving a job offer comes down to only one critical factor.

It is the same regardless of the position. And is equally applicable for those just entering the job market as to those with 20 years work experience.

Yes, you need the requisite skills and experience for the job to which you apply. And yes, there may be better qualified candidates who beat you out for the opening.

But if you do not do the following, forget about ever getting a job offer.

You must meet the needs of the employer.

Not simply those listed on the job listing. But the real needs.

Most candidates possess the stated requisite qualifications for the position. What separates those that receive an offer from those that do not comes down to whether one can meet the employers’ subconscious desires.

And what are those primal desires, you ask?

Ability to Learn

Employers need to train new employees in skills, procedures, and processes. It is important to ensure that they hire staff who have the mental capacity to learn both effectively and efficiently (i.e. accurately, completely and quickly).

The longer the learning curve, the more costly it is to the employer in time, effort, and errors. Employers want staff who will learn quickly and completely.

Make sure that your resume, cover letter, and interview examples demonstrate that you have the ability to learn new skills. Show skills that you have previously learned in any area.

Emphasize the level of difficulty and how quickly you were able to get up to full speed.

Self-Motivated and Disciplined

It is not enough to be able to learn new skills. University is structured for learning. You read skill specific textbooks and attend formal classes with qualified teachers. There are labs and teaching assistants for additional learning. The school day is relatively short, so you have plenty of time to study. You have assignments, term papers, and exams to ensure that you learn the material.

Work is less structured. The person showing you the ropes may not be an effective communicator. There likely are no textbooks and minimal formal guidance. You may have to take the initiative and learn on your own. There are no set exams that you need to pass. It is up to you to learn.

Employers want employees with the self-motivation, focus and discipline to learn new skills.

Develop examples of things that required personal drive and great will to achieve. Demonstrate the obstacles that existed and how your inner discipline led you to continue on in your efforts.

Track Record of Success

The ability to learn and the motivation to do so are important. But there are many people who work hard and do not succeed. At the end of the day, being able to successfully complete your assignments on time and within budget is the most important factor for a company.

Employers want to see that you have a track record of success.

Show the employer that you are a success. Not just in one isolated instance. Prove that you have a pattern of success in your endeavours. Whether this be in school, part-time employment, or your extracurricular activities, demonstrate that you consistently excel in your objectives.

When possible, always quantify your success. Have evidence with you in the interview to support your contentions. Providing concrete facts is always better than a simple anecdote.

Team Player

In most companies, employees need to work in a team environment. You have to rely on your co-workers and they have to rely on you. Often teams work very closely together and it bodes well for staff to get along professionally.

As a result, employers want staff who possess adequately developed social skills, work well with others, and will be a positive influence on the group.

Leadership qualities are nice to have, but I do not think they are critical when first being hired. Rather it is the initiative and motivational aspects of leaders that is important now.

Again, think of examples in your life where you were an integral team member. Sports or projects at school are usually good for teamwork.

An Example of the Above

In Academics versus Extracurricular Activities, I cited a Swiss lady I hired. She was able to demonstrate all of the above criteria in a single anecdote.

She had taken Japanese studies in Switzerland and then moved to Japan to obtain her doctorate and strengthen her knowledge of the language and culture. A white, Swiss born woman, she had no prior involvement with Japan before starting her classes in Berne, Switzerland. When she first moved to Japan she knew no one.

To me, she demonstrated the ability to learn new skills. Learning Japanese is not easy, especially living in Switzerland where there are not many Japanese. If she could learn the language, I knew she could also learn any skills that I needed to teach her.

By moving alone to Japan, that told me a lot about her personal motivation and self-discipline. If I could harness the same enthusiasm for our tasks, I knew that she would be a great worker.

That she stayed and completed her doctorate indicated to me that she had the drive to succeed. As we later discussed, at times it was difficult to stay in Japan. Especially when all her friends and family were back in Switzerland. Again, this told me that if she were motivated for the job, she would work as hard as possible to make it a success.

Finally, the fact that she immersed herself in a foreign culture indicated that she should have good social skills. She would need to develop them to make friends and survive. And she did.

In the end, she became one of the strongest team members I had in the unit.

If all I cared about were the stated job qualifications, she would not have been hired. But she demonstrated to me that she met my real needs. And she was the right choice.


Getting a job is like writing an exam. You must hit the answer key or you cannot succeed.

I believe that the points above are the answer key for almost all employers.

When submitting a cover letter and resume and interviewing, make sure you hit the key.

Each anecdote should cover at least one of the points above. As resume space and interview times are limited, the more points that can be included in a single example, the better.

In the interview, expand on the examples and be able to back up your claims with hard facts.

You do not need to do so explicitly, but make sure that you clearly infer the points you are addressing. Like on an exam answer key, if the marker cannot make the link between your writing and the key, you will not get any credit. Make sure you get full credit.

Convince the interviewer that you have: the ability to learn; the self-motivation to do so; a strong probability to be successful in the role; the personality to fit into the corporate culture.

If you do so,  you will have an excellent shot at the job offer.

1 Response » to “The Key to Getting a Job Offer”

  1. This post is beyond awesome. I am always wondering what to do and what not to do so I will follow some of these tips.

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