Top Employers Hire Problem Solvers– Here's How to Brand Yourself as One in Every Step of the Hiring Process
We have ongoing dinner conversations about Elon Musk in my house. My 9-year old son is a big fan, inspired by his ingenuity and curiosity of space. My husband read his autobiography last year. I joined the conversation when he opened up about Asperger's syndrome and love for his mom as the host of SNL.
Outside of my dining room doors, the world tips their caps at Elon Musk for his success as an entrepreneur; I am most interested in what he has to say about hiring. Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space X, employs over 35,000 people worldwide and has unabatedly sought out problem solvers. He's known to ask every candidate: “Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”
Problem-solving is one of the few skills that transcends all industries. Here's how to show you are the problem solver your next employer needs in each step of the hiring process.
Tout Your Solved Problems on Social
LinkedIn is the spot to call out your specific problem-solving skills as they relate to the positions you want. Dial into your industry's needs and call out how your expertise is the perfect remedy in your headline and About Me section. I often encourage clients to throw in research and facts to display the scope of an issue within their industry and data to support their impact. Jam this into the first line with a punch. Here's a couple of hypothetical examples:
Indoor sports lost 76% of their memberships in 2020; my work as a lead-generating strategist has recovered Soccer World's deficit up to 93% and is set to exceed 2021's goals.
The average page view time is 9.3 seconds for most corporate websites. I have leveraged innovated user-experience methods to increase rogers.com's viewerships to over a minute.
Get Problem-focused in your Networking
Reaching out to hiring stakeholders at your dream company? Inquire about their problems. For instance, asking:
What have been the most challenging hurdles for your team/company this year?
Expand a dialogue on strategies they have explored, and don't be shy to share your ideas on remedying those pain points. Most importantly, ask questions to break open areas of potential problem-solving. Allison Wood Brooks is co-author of the HBR article "The Surprising Power of Questions." In an interview, she states,
"Follow-up questions are almost always good. They show that you're listening to what the person has already said. You're probing for more information, which shows that you listen, care, and want to know more, which is like the whole embodiment of empathy and perspective-taking. You look like a very caring person and, you're smart because you're going to learn more information. It's like all of the good things wrapped up into one question-asking strategy."
Embody Your Problem-Solving Essence in Your Resume
Don't just throw the word problem solver in your career summary and call it a day (yep, I'm wagging my finger at you!) Instead, weave your work in the problem-solving process throughout the entire document.
To bulk up your resume and interview content, journal 4-5 career stories answering:
What problems have I solved throughout my career?
How did my problem-solving impact others and our work?
Use the specifics of your journaling product to infuse problem-solving evidence in your career summary, skills section, and professional experience bullets.
Talk About It
Like in networking, you'll want to explore problems in an interview too. Research goals and potential roadblocks of the team and explain ideas backed by similar situations you've resolved in the past.
Describing problems you have solved during an interview is especially important for career pivoters to take advantage of because there's potential to lean into your transferable skills.
For example, your next company is having trouble retaining customers. Your background is in education, so you can elaborate on your skills/experiences explaining concepts, listening to concerns, and building relationships; these skills will serve their mission to retain customers. Make that point really clear and tell them directly.
An essential piece to this is walking your interviewer through how you work. Tell them about your triumphs as a problem solver and be specific. The more they can see how you work, the more enticed they are to bring you onboard solving problems for their team.
Go get 'em, problem-solver!