Skip to main content

The Seattle Times Career Center

In-depth info by local experts for job seekers and workers.

May 13, 2014 at 1:00 AM

If you want a dream job, describe it yourself

Much of the effort in today’s job-search market is spent matching your skills to the myriad specific duties described in each job listing. Some hiring managers these days write page-long job descriptions, listing all the minutiae a job candidate would ever be expected to manage.

Others, however, don’t quite have this gift of gab. “F/T systems analyst needed for growing software firm,” was one I saw recently. “Business Development Consultant; min. 3-5 yrs. exp.; project management skills req’d,” read another.

Some of these employers are probably paying by the word and just want to save a few bucks. Others are being deliberately vague so they can keep their options open. Whatever the reason behind these short-and-sweet descriptions, they provide an opportunity for job seekers to assert control over the process. Here’s how:

1. Find out their needs. In some cases, hiring managers may not have an exact position in mind, but they do have a problem they need solved. Don’t wait for them to reach a conclusion; it’s up to you to tell them how you’re the only person to do the job. Ask what strategies were tried in the position you’re seeking. If it’s a new position, ask why it’s being created. Get them to enumerate their goals for the next year and let them know how your particular skills can help them hit those targets.

2. Define the job you want. A colleague of mine described a recent experience he had interviewing for a company that needed to beef up its web presence, but had no firm strategy in place. “Everyone realized a need for the job, but nobody seemed to have an idea how to define it,” he said. Sensing an opportunity, my friend (a web developer) made up his job description during the interview, telling the hiring managers what his ideal work situation would be. He got the job soon after.

3. Show them what kind of results you can provide. Now it’s time for the all-important follow-through. Describe with confidence how your skills have solved problems, and how those actions can be transferred to the company. “When I came in, I more or less told them exactly what I was going to do,” my friend said. “Then I did it and got results. Now nobody asks me much.”

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: goals, interviewing, job search, skills

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►