The job search often feels like a black box -- you have no idea which inputs actually get noticed and make a difference in getting you that job offer.
But while the complex process of applying, networking and interviewing for jobs does require a strategic approach, I'm happy to share my four favorite phrases that quickly cut through the noise and dramatically improve my clients’ job search results.
In this article I share the four phrases -- and more importantly, the mindsets beneath them -- that drive not only job search success, but career success.
The 4 Phrases
1. “What I’m most interested in is…”
Too often when we’re asked the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question, we respond with chronological ramblings on our life until now. But in the context of networking and interviewing, you need to give people the takeaway, not the precursor.
And the takeaway is that what you want is exactly what they’re looking for.
Let’s say you’re interested in working as a social media manager at an education nonprofit, and you’re speaking with someone who works at one of your target organizations.
You might say, “What I’m most interested in is applying my expertise in social media to help make a real difference in early education for underserved youth.”
This tells your connection that you are meant to be speaking -- and possibly even working together.
And if you’re unable to articulate with certainty what you’re most interested in right now, that’s alright (most people are!). But you need to find the closest thing to clarity you can share with someone right now, or you’ve wasted your interaction.
Share what you think you’re most interested in today, and then invest more time behind the scenes figuring out your career direction (feel free to download our Career Direction Diagnostic if you need some help!)
2. “But I will say…”
This is the #1 phrase you need in your toolbox for pivoting away from a negative line of conversation.
When you get asked something controversial in an interview, such as “Who’s your least favorite manager you’ve had and why?”, or “It looks like you don’t have professional experience in X,” you can share your honest response, and then quickly pivot to the silver lining, like this:
“Jerry may not have been my favorite manager of all time, but I will say, I learned a tremendous amount from working with him, and the experience taught me how to use open communication to set up any working relationship to be positive and productive.”
Or, “I may not have extensive professional experience in X, but I will say, I’ve contributed to numerous projects related to X, studied the issue in school, and I’m personally passionate about it. I have no doubt that in partnership with the team I’ll be able to manage these projects to success.”
With this phrase, you reframe the conversation positively and reinforce that you’re the kind of person people want on their team.
3. “What’s the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?”
This question is the greatest driver of job offers, and I’ll tell you why:
First, it shows your interest in understanding and solving problems. And if there’s one thing managers want more than anything else, it’s employees who solve problems (NOT employees who create problems or expect their managers to solve them).
Second, in the networking or interview context, this question helps you suss out the issues your prospective employer is struggling with -- AKA pain points YOU could help solve. Once you identify a specific problem, you can speak to how you’re uniquely qualified to help address it once you’re hired.
Or even better (and this is something I teach in detail in my online course), you can take the initiative to solve the problem today, creating value before you even land the job -- thereby demonstrating you are the best and obvious choice for it. I call this the Job Search Silver Bullet because it most often translates into huge successes for my clients.
4. “I would walk through a wall for this job.”*
Why do you want to land the job?
Chances are, it’s because you want to get in there and do it, right? You want this opportunity to do what you love at an organization you admire.
But oftentimes our humility, nerves, or self-doubt get in the way of us telling a prospective employer just how motivated we are to do the job.
Instead, we beat around the bush, hedge our enthusiasm, and even set ourselves up for that offer not to come through.
I’m telling you, what your prospective employer really wants to hear is that you are going to take this position by the horns, own it, and succeed in it. That’s who they want to hire.
So don’t beat around the bush.
When you get to that interview, spell it out for them loud and clear (and practice ahead of time, repeating over and over “I will walk through a wall for this job”). It will demonstrate your passion, reinforce that you are that best possible candidate, and have them knocking on your door days (or even hours!) later with an offer.
The Bigger Picture
Of course there’s more to a successful job search than these four phrases. But these small tweaks to your language can produce serious results.
And if you haven’t noticed already, the best part is how applicable they are beyond your job search -- because at the heart of each phrase lies a mindset that can help in any realm of your life:
“What I’m most interested in” = Say what you want remembered.
“But I will say” = Focus on the positive.
“What’s the biggest problem you’re facing right now?” = Be a problem solver.
“I would walk through a wall for this job.” = If you want it, fight for it.
That’s the kind of person who lands the job and leads the life they want to live.