What Is Your Superpower? Eight Tips for Job Applicants

Leader, or someone looking to be one, do you know how to stand out and describe your skills so that you can find just the right job for you? Executive Search Consultant Jouko Pitkänen provides his tips.

"Results can be easily recognized, but it is not nearly as easy to point out why something happened," says Jouko Pitkänen. Photo: Heli Blåfield

Reetta Räty, 03.11.2022

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Don’t just list jobs and tasks. List your accomplishments in them.

“A candidate’s expertise is most evident through their accomplishments at work. This knowledge helps us to assess the person’s skills and understand their chances of succeeding in new challenges.

Interviews also include questions about previous workplaces and what has taken place there, the changes and projects the candidate has managed. Then we evaluate the skills and capabilities you used to achieve this or that result.

In other words, we aren’t primarily interested in a list of previous jobs, but rather the results and abilities that you use to solve new challenges.”

Be specific when describing your skills.

“People can usually verbalize their achievements on a general level: sales grows, and profitability increases. Results can easily be recognized, but it is not nearly as easy to point out why something happened or what your personal skills were in a particular situation.

Sales grew, but it is important to understand WHY this happened. This is a key piece of information in evaluating whether a person is fit for certain future challenges.”

In other words, we aren’t primarily interested in a list of previous jobs, but rather the results and abilities that you use to solve new challenges."

Analyse the lessons you have learned from failures.

“A certain level of directness and honesty is good. An experienced leader will have experienced not only ups but also downs and disappointments.

I appreciate it when I’m told fairly about what happened in a certain tight spot. I would approach this as a learning experience: what the tricky situation was, what is your assessment of what you learned.”

Write 6-10 success stories from your career.

“This task helps you identify your abilities and superpowers. When you list your achievements, you begin to outline the elements of your competence.

A success story can be small or big: solving a conflict, managing a situation in a way that made a team member blossom in a new way, accelerating sales, a project management case, developing a new business model… Practical examples powerfully highlight your personal achievements. This type of exercise can also boost your professional self-esteem.”

Identify and verbalize your personal areas of development.

“One essential quality of skillful leaders is having a strong mindset for growth and development. Lifelong learning is a key starting point. It is hard to see someone without this mindset succeeding in our perpetually changing world, where competition can come from surprising corners and there is little predictability.

Companies have been made to grow and change, and leaders must grow with them towards new realities. The point is, this kind of dynamic of growth and development creates potential – a leader has the ability to receive new, rapidly emerging challenges. Identifying personal areas of development, and self-knowledge in general, form an important part of the leadership mindset.”

Prove that you have a hunger for growth and resilience for taking hits.

“The above-mentioned growth and development mindset strengthens resilience. When you have internalized the notion of growth and development, you can take a hit: when the hit comes, you can recover quickly, alter the course, be flexible, sort of grow into the new situation. This connection and combination is important: growth and development, and the flexibility that follows.”

Remember what a headhunter looks seeks.

“Our job is to find people who get things done. We are not looking for someone who simply meets the criteria and job description, this is not enough. Remember this notion: If you want a certain job, you will need to show and tell that I can, and I will. If you cannot answer with this level of certainty, you won’t be selected.

If you want a certain job, you will need to show and tell that I can, and I will. If you cannot answer with this level of certainty, you won’t be selected."

We assess candidates’ skills from several perspectives: we consider, for example, cognitive and social skills, perspectives on business skills and strategic thinking. We verify these things through interviews, personal assessments and references.”

Take care of your skills.

“Career path steps are getting shorter. The stronger the focus on technology, the shorter the time spent on one job. People must take responsibility for looking after their pool of skills. Companies train basic skills, but you need to be interested and curious on your own, participate in courses, listen to podcasts, take care of your market value.

Ways of working are evolving: employment and entrepreneurship exist side by side, you can alternate between leadership and expert work, and horizontal changes are increasing. These change trends impact career planning. It’s important to be realistic about where you are now, what you have learnt along the way, what goals you have and how they can be achieved.

In this sense, too, it’s good to have some resilience: you need to be prepared to switch up and learn new things. Strong self-knowledge helps in setting realistic career goals. Leaders need to have room for growth.”

EMBA Jouko Pitkänen is Senior Partner at JFP Executive Search. He is specialized in executive search for management, middle management and board members, along with career guidance. Pitkänen is working on a DBA degree at Aalto University Executive Education. In his doctoral thesis, he researches changes in business models. What types of skills should organizations cover, so that the needs for renewing business models can be identified and their realization enabled? Read more about the Aalto Executive DBA program

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