Be a Solution-Oriented Candidate

Dear Alex:  I am graduating this month and still don’t have a job. I have been told to come to target companies with solutions to their problems, not a request for a job.  How can I do that without seeming presumptuous and like I’m trying to show off?

I believe this is true for the most part.  Employers don’t want to hear about what you need, they want to hear what’s in it for them.  The most successful candidates target prospective companies carefully, using the Internet and their networks to learn about organizational culture, history, financial performance and recent news.  By the time the interview takes place, they are able to have an intelligent discussion about the value they bring to the position, and the employer can easily envision them starting tomorrow.

You can avoid sounding presumptuous by waiting for the interview to get ultra specific about your plans.  Then, watch your tone (be earnest and enthusiastic rather than arrogant) and speak in hypothetical terms.  Instead of telling the interviewer what the company should do, tell them what they might do and how you could help.

By the way, other ways to increase your attractiveness to potential employers is to focus on personal qualities like a service orientation. Explain to an employer how you are involved in your community, and if you have a legitimate interest in what the company is doing from a social-responsibility perspective, discuss that.  And of course, every employer today wants to hear that a candidate is flexible and has a wide range of experiences.

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Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current contributor for Fortune and Metro US, Alexandra has authored several books, including the bestselling They Don't Teach Corporate in College, How'd You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. Her book on the top myths of business success is due out from Penguin/Berkley in the fall of 2011. Since serving as a member of Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration on current workplace issues, Alexandra produced the critically acclaimed JobSTART 101 (, a free online course that better prepares college students and graduates for the challenges of the workplace. She is a frequent national media spokesperson and has been featured in thousands of outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, ABC News, Fox News, CNBC, the Associated Press, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. In 2010, she was named Money Magazine's Online Career Expert of the Year and the author of one of Forbes' best websites for women. Known as one of the premiere spokespeople of her generation, Alexandra regularly speaks at conferences, universities, and corporations around the world including the American Society for Training and Development, Campbell's Soup, McDonalds, and Whirlpool — on issues facing modern employees such as how to communicate effectively between generations.

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