My Job Application Philosophy

As we're learning in my Corporate Strategy course with Geoff Lewis at Melbourne Business School these days, corporations should constantly be asking themselves two basic questions:

  1. Are we really adding value to the businesses that we own? 
  2. Would some other corporate owner be able to add more value to these businesses?

And if it turns out that we're actually making one (or more) of our businesses worse off by owning it, then why aren't we divesting that business?

I know it's a bit of a stretch but, at a very fundamental level, my job application philosophy is based on a similar concept. When I look at a job opening, I ask myself:

  1. Can I really create value in this role -- both for the company (can I do this job well) and for myself (do I want to do this specific job)?
  2. Would someone else be able to create more value than I would?

If I am able to convince myself that I can do this job, I want to do this job, and I can do this job better than most others, then I apply for it. If not, there's no point: I'll just waste my time carefully crafting an application that matches my background, skills, and experience to the job requirements; I'll waste the time of the recruiter who'll assesses the application; and, at the end of it all, I won't get the job anyway.

In fact, a couple of times I've liked a job opening; started writing an application cover letter that justifies why I should get that job; realized half-way through that I can't or shouldn't do this job (i.e. I can't justify it); and stopped.

Of course, all this is a bit of a simplification since a lot more thought does go into each job application decision that I make but, fundamentally, that's the thought process I follow.

FYI, among the other things that I take into consideration are: learning and career progression (short term and long term); company culture and values; company fundamentals (financial state, market position, etc.); details of the role that I'm applying for; and so on.

The View from the Other Side

The good thing is that my philosophy nicely complements the three things recruiters are looking for in an applicant:

  1. Can you do the job? If yes, you get to the technical interview stage.
  2. Will you do the job (and do it well)? If yes, you progress through the technical interview stages to the management interview stage.
  3. Do you have a good 'fit' with the organization? If yes, you get a job offer.

My philosophy, then, gets me to work through a lot of this stuff before I even start my application. To give you an idea of how this works, here are some jobs that didn't make it past one of these hurdles:

  1. An internal communications job that required a lot of Knowledge Management theory and experience (that too with the latest KM tools and practices). I didn't think I could do this job.
  2. An external marketing job that had a good bit of online community work but a much bigger focus on print stuff, media liaison, and event management. I knew that others could do this job better than I could.
  3. An interesting external marketing and community management job that was to be filled by a junior person (with 1-2 years of experience) and in area that I have absolutely no interest in. I didn't do an MBA to get an entry level job and I don't want a job in an area that doesn't excite me (or, at the very least, one that I have a passing interest in).

In other words, when I do actually apply for a job, I am convinced that I am the right person for it. Which, I guess, is a good thing.

Any thoughts, comments?