Remember: WIIFM?

Job seekers should always  keep in mind the perspective of the employer. As an employer reviews cover letters and resumes, asks interview questions, or scans your online presence they always have in the back of their mind, WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?

I have read the most beautifully written cover letters about applicants’ work histories or career aspirations. Nevertheless, no matter how well candidates write these letters, it only tells employer what you have done or what you want to do in the future.

It does not let the employer know what you can do for them right now.

Most busy HR professionals or hiring managers do not care about your past or your future, unless you tell them how either of those things can benefit their organization right now. That sounds a little harsh–it isn’t  meant to be.

Someone assessing candidates’ abilities has limited time, as we all do, and must make a decision about who is best for the available position with relatively little information. Job seekers should never assume an employer will make the connection between what they have achieved in the past to what they can accomplish in the organization.

It is a candidate’s responsibility to “sell” his/her skills – illustrate clearly and vividly how past accomplishments will benefit the employer in the role for which they are hiring. Articulate what you have achieved and how it will bring value to the prospective employer if you are hired into the available position.

This is especially true for career changers, or when applying to a job you are confident you can do, but on paper, your experience doesn’t appear to be related enough – a common scenario for college students.

Remember, a cover letter or interview is rarely about you – it’s about what you can do for the employer. Put yourself in the mind of an employer and think, WIIFM?


Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Previously, she worked with liberal arts students in career services and multicultural affairs at Lawrence University. Kelly is a 2007 graduate of the Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration masters program at New York University, where she worked in both student leadership programming and career services. In 2003 she completed her undergraduate work at UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies and was active in several campus organizations dedicated to social justice. When she’s not at work, Kelly enjoys volunteering, running, attempting DIY projects in her new home, hiking and cheering for the Green Bay Packers, her hometown team. Connect with Kelly on Twitter (@kellycuene), LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist

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