The why-how-what approach to standing out in your job search

Whether you’re submitting a resume or answering a question in an interview, employers want to know: “Why should I hire you?” This can be a daunting question to answer.

Initially our instinct might be to say, “Because I want, no I need a job to pay my bills.”

Or perhaps when a friend or connection in your network asks you, “What are you looking for?” you might be tempted to reply, “Anything.” But that’s not really what you want to say. You know it makes you sound desperate and isn’t entirely honest: there are certain skills and interests you have that drive your search.

So how do you tell people who you are, what you’re looking for, and what you can do?

Author and speaker Simon Sinek wrote in his book, START WITH WHY that great leaders inspire great things because they start with why they do what they do, instead of just focusing on what they do. You can apply this kind of thinking to your job search. Getting a job, getting the ideal job, requires hard work, drive, passion, and creativity. So it’s important to start with your WHY. Why do you want the work you’re seeking?

I believe that every human being can change the world for the better; they just need someone to give them permission to be great. That is my WHY. I am passionate about helping people help themselves and change the world. But maybe your passion isn’t so long-haired and hippy. Maybe you’re passionate about numbers and making sure everything lines up and balances out. Or perhaps you really love interacting with people and making them smile. That’s your why. Start there.

Sinek next explains that once we’ve identified our why we can show or tell people HOW we make that why a reality. I have worked in nonprofit agencies my entire life; working with youth, adults, people who are disabled, immigrants, and LGBT populations. I have worked to teach them the tools they need to be self-reliant, empowered, and bold. If you’re fanatical about numbers you create systems to calculate and balance accounts, track records and manage databases with expertise and poise. If you get up every day to make people smile, then you go the extra mile to make sure that the people you work with get everything they are looking for and leave you each day feeling you’ve made their day. That’s HOW you make your WHY a reality.

Finally, Sinek points out that once we’ve established that why and how the WHAT becomes a simple matter; it’s just what you are looking for or what you do. I am a nonprofit consultant. You numbers folks might be accountants. The people-pleasers might be customer relations experts. Now you’ve completed your Golden Circle for your job search.

But how do you put that into a solid answer to questions like, “What kind of work are you looking for?” or “Tell me about yourself.” It’s as simple as START WITH WHY. Here’s what I’d say:

I am Nathaniel Eggleston. I believe that every human being can change the world for the better; they just need someone to give them permission to be great. I have worked in nonprofit agencies my entire life; working with youth, adults, people who are disabled, immigrants, and LGBT populations. I have worked to teach them the tools they need to be self-reliant, empowered, and bold. I am looking for a position as a Director in a Nonprofit Agency.

Now I’ve told potential employers, friends, peers WHY I should be the one they hire, HOW I do what I do, and WHAT I am looking for, and I’ve done it in less than 30 seconds.

Now it’s your turn! Use the comments below to tell us about yourself and your career.

Nathaniel is a nonprofit professional, public speaker, and facilitator based in New York. Nathaniel has worked across the US, in France, and West Africa to help enrich the lives of those he serves. Please follow him on Twitter @imagineboldly or check out about.me/nathaniel.eggleston

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Comments

    • Evan Chartier
    • September 19, 2014

    Great post! I love the way you frame the concentric “Why, How, What” circles. I believe this will come in handy during my job search. Thank you!

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