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.