It seems that almost every day, I get an email from a candidate that says “I’m willing to do anything”.
You would think this type of plea would come from a new grad with little experience. Not so much … I see the “I’ll do anything” tactic more often from people with 20+ years of experience than from rookies.
The idea behind this, of course, is to show a prospective employer that you’ve got flexibility, that you’re willing to do as you’re told, that you’ll grit your teeth and do what needs to be done, no questions asked.
On the surface, this probably seemed like a good idea to the candidate – In today’s job market reality, it causes your resume to be ignored.
Sure, this tactic used to work … when the job market featured candidate shortages, employers looked for “utility players” who could adapt to many tasks, who would be willing to carry out a wide range of instructions or duties.
In today’s job market of job shortages, employers look for a different type of new hire. Employers, generally understaffed in the “do more with less” economic environment driving profitability, need new hires that have already been trained in the key skills they need. Rapid technology changes and the ability to micro-target candidates cause employers to look for a subject matter expert, who has already solved the key problems the hiring manager faces today.
Basically, employers primarily look for new hires that can hit the ground running, with no training, no on-the-job training and minimum ramp up time – new employees that can add to productivity almost immediately.
When employers have needs for a new hire that can handle many different types of problems, they almost always first look for candidates who have already solved the key problems they face today. Secondarily, during the interview process (not the resume process), employers look for candidates who have the flexibility, initiative and learning skills to handle additional problems that may become a focus in the future. But the primary emphasis is still on today’s problems … ability to handle additional problems is a distant second.
So, if you use tell employers that you’re willing to do anything in your resume, cover letter, or conversation, you’ll find it difficult to gain interest.
Here are 5 reasons employers don’t want you if you’re “willing to do anything”:
- You look desperate: Saying “I’ll do anything” reeks of desperation. If you think employers discriminate against the unemployed, they really discriminate against the desperate. Employers see 1,000 candidates replying on average to each advertised job (500 average for small companies advertising on Craigslist), in an environment of job shortages – Hiring managers feel like they can secure the pick of the litter. Why would a hiring manager want to make an offer to someone who appears desperate?
- You don’t know what you want: Saying “I’ll do anything” or even “I can do anything” makes you appear like you don’t know what job you want. You also appear that you don’t know what you bring to the table – you don’t know what you do best.
- You can’t articulate the value you’ll bring to an employer: When you say you’re “willing to do anything” it’s because you don’t know what else to say. If you knew what the employer really wanted, you’d the hiring manager exactly how you could help them get what they want.
- You can’t provide what the hiring manager really needs Maybe you actually know what the hiring manager wants, but it’s something you have absolutely no experience in providing. By saying you’re “willing to do anything”, you’re asking for a chance to learn how to help the hiring manager get what they want – through on-the-job training. Training of any sort, even on-the-job training is a luxury that few hiring managers have, in today’s “do more with less” world.
- Employers want Subject Matter Experts, even for generalist positions: When hiring managers have a great deal of choices (like when they have an average 1,000 applicants per job), they can find candidates who have already solved similar problems to the ones they face today … and some of those candidates will also show the ability to learn and adapt to new tasks. That’s why hiring managers first look for subject matter expertise when screening resumes, even for generalist jobs. In order to succeed in today’s job market, generalists have to redefine themselves as Subject Matter Experts.
Realistically, the reason most candidates say “I’m willing to do anything” is because they haven’t taken the time to find out what the hiring manager really needs.
It’s probably not in the job description, which is obsolete by the time the ad goes up. Plus, job descriptions don’t underlying problems and needs, substituting criteria as a proxy … a poor proxy.
How can you avoid the “willing to do anything” trap?
Research, research, research – find out the hiring manager’s priority problems, discover the hiring manager’s goals, roadblocks, and opportunities.
In that way, instead of being “willing to do anything”, you can show a perspective hiring manager that you’ve already done the key things that are actually important to the hiring manager – demonstrating relevant experience that will help the department meet their goals.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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