In case you read no more of this article, please read the following sentence. The reason a company hires you is because it expects to obtain more value from you than it pays out to you in the form of wages and salary. If you understand that one point, you are well positioned to apply for a job and capture the right tone in your application.

Your main message of the application should be: I will bring massive value to you and cost much less than you will gain from employing me. Implicit message should be there too: by not having me on staff, you are missing the great benefits that will come from hiring me. I will bring more in the door than I will take out.

Your interview should also emphasize this point.

On the other hand, you will not be hired by a company because:

  • You are super qualified
  • You hate your current job
  • You need money
  • You are willing to be affiliated with the company
  • You have had a tough time in life
  • You have an easy commute
  • You are a great person
  • You have “people skills”
  • You are from an underrepresented demographic group
  • You will fix all the things wrong with the company
  • You have done amazing things in the past that no one appreciated

On the first point about formal qualifications: they are less and less valuable today. Qualifications are just too easy to fake. Massive schooling, for example, can be helpful in being considered but there is also a downside. No employer wants to hire a desk rat today.

Under some conditions, too much in the way of on-paper qualifications can raise alarm bells. Every letter after your name needs to be matched by real-world experience and knowledge.

As for your views on how your hate your current boss, keep them to yourself. No potential employer can read kvetching about your current job without thinking: I guess I’m next on the enemy list.

As for the money you need, it is a universal truth that everyone wants money. Everyone wants more money. That is a given and it doesn’t need to be said.

Your willingness to be hired is a given and never needs to be said. As for the other items, your commute is irrelevant, “people skills” is a cliche that triggers the thought “no skills,” and your demographic group by itself adds no inherent value on its own. And it serves no purpose to put down the current product or marketing of a company for which you want to work.

Every aspect of your application should seek to show that you can add value to the company, and more than you take away. This is all that the private sector really cares about. That’s all your boss cares about.

What’s more, you probably won’t be able to deliver on your promise immediately, and everyone involved in the hiring process knows this. You will be a net cost. You must be trained. You must get to know the process and culture of a company. But if you stick around, that situation can change over time. That’s the hope anyway, and the only reason you are hired. If it fails to happen, you won’t last.

A quick story from my own work life. I was working in a men’s store in high school. The boss walked by and asked a coworker to please straighten the ties on the table. This employee whispered to me that there was no way that he was going to straight ties for $5 per hour. He refused. This fellow lasted only a few weeks.

What was his mistake? He had the situation reversed in his mind. He imagined that the goal of a company was to pay him to do work. Actually, the goal of the company was to serve its customers, and the purpose of employees is to make this possible. The goal of the employee should be to work like crazy and make himself or herself indispensably amazing in exchange for which he or she is paid — receiving less from the company than he or she is putting in.

If you keep up that attitude and behavior, you will receive raises, praise, and rise up. You value talks. Nothing else does.

The sooner you come to terms with this reality of the marketplace, the better off you will be.

The job application needs to show that you understand this.