Job application conundrums: Be you. Be who they want you to be.
The secret to any successful job application is to be both authentic to yourself in addition to being perfectly aligned to the requirements of the job. This perfect symmetry is like the holy grail for any job applicant. If you are lucky enough to find such a role then you just hope the recruiter is not half asleep when they read your CV and gives it the full due attention it deserves. In reality, we need to be practical. Getting the interview should be our first priority. Then we are best placed to decide whether the job and organisation are right for us. So, let’s look at the two ends of the spectrum first.
Being authentic to yourself is vital. Your long term wellbeing and happiness rely on you being able to think and act freely within the working environment of your new employer. If you feel comfortable and at ease, you are going to work more effectively and be more productive. Therefore, you should always research an employer values and culture before applying for a job. Many organisations will have pages on their websites dedicated to their employer brand and culture.
Be who they want you to be
Every recruiter is going to assess applications according to a set of criteria. Usually these are detailed in the person specification. The more closely you can align your application to the criteria, the better your chances of securing that interview. Therefore, it stands to reason that candidates that can best adapt their applications in this way are going to get the most interviews. You are making the effort to show you are the person with the right experience and skills to do the job. But in doing so, how far are you reaching away from being your authentic self?
Technical skills v the right cultural fit
Some jobs are very technical by nature – for example a developer, actuary or data analyst. These skills can be usefully harnessed in many organisations and industries. However, even for roles that are highly technical, your long term happiness and productivity still rely on those emotional and behavioural traits being in tune with the organisation. In short, you are much more likely to stay longer with an organisation you feel at home with.
Finding the middle zone
For most job seekers, the practical solution is to find a middle zone. Somewhere between doggedly pursuing a role that perfectly fits your person, to selling your soul to an organisation for the sake of meeting their requirements, lies a middle zone. This middle ground might be bigger or smaller depending on your situation and preferences. The more adaptable you are, the bigger the sweet spot and middle zone may be.
Aim to get that interview first
All interviews are useful experience so it makes sense to extend this middle zone as far as you can when applying for roles. You will be in a much better position to decide on whether an organisation is right for you having met people and experienced a little of the culture first-hand. Tailoring your CV and letter for every application will greatly increase your chances of interview. But make sure you have researched the organisation first and are comfortable with their values and culture.