Convincing “them” to hire you

Over the course of a weekend’s worth of Career Linguist activities at the Linguistics Society of America annual meeting, the question that sticks with me is the one I received last night at the networking mixer: “how do I convince them to hire me?”

Apart from the discursive othering that this question involves, I am honestly stymied by who the “them” in this sentence is meant to represent.  Who are “they”?  Who is the “them” in your jobseeking interactions?

Well, for starters, when it comes to getting hired, it really does behoove us as jobseekers to take the time to identify the interactions that lead up to getting a job.

When we pay attention to these, we can pay attention to the people we would be talking to, and then think about the language that might be used to persuade “them.” In bringing our attention to our language in these contexts, we can be career linguists for ourselves and do what this blog has been designed to do: bring our heightened awareness of language and all of our critical analytical skills to the meaning which we construct about our skills and abilities to ensure that the language that we use to talk about ourselves in jobseeking interactions is the very best that it can be.

As I say often: we are language experts, there is no reason why our resumes and cover letters shouldn’t be the very best ones out there!!!

Start with a job ad

If we have to start somewhere, may as well start with a job ad.  In an ideal world, this would be a job that is actually one that you might actually apply for, and perhaps you found it by plugging in some keywords to LinkedIn that led you to a person of interest, which then led you to an organization of interest, which now helped you to identify a job of interest.

So here you are, looking at a job ad that interests you.

The linguistic task at hand is now to look at the “tasks, duties, and responsibilities” that they are asking for to then figure out how these map on to the “skills, abilities and interests” that you actually posses.  Some of these may have been cultivated by your background in linguistics, and some might belong to other interests and experiences that you have accumulated along the way.  Either way, your training in linguistics has equipped you for the task of translating this experience into language that your addressee understands.

Audience design anyone?

Talk about your skills

Basically, it all comes down to being able to translate the things that you do in terms that the employer will understand.  This will come from practice, especially practice gained through informational interviews where you ask people who have the jobs that you want how it is that they would understand your experience.  They are uniquely equipped to helping you articulate your “value add.”

All linguists manage data

For example, when a job asks for “project management” experience.  You may not think about work that you did as part of your dissertation research as project management, but really what did you do as part of that work?  You collected, organized, catalogued, transcribed, analyzed, and presented data.  You may have managed a team in the process.  You certainly coordinated meetings (with research participants, team members, lab staff).

Ultimately, what you need to become really good at as a job seeker is talking about yourself.  It’s all about being able to describe your skills.

  • Ideally you can do this is 15 second chunks.
  • Ideally you can do this in ways that convey your passion.
  • Ideally you can do this in ways that help someone who would seek to hire you to be able to picture you doing the things that you love to do in a way that might help THEM better achieve their goals.


This is what I am playing with these days:

My job is that of a “conversation protector.”  I am uniquely invested by virtue of my skills and training as a linguist which teach me to be vigilant for conversational opportunities, and to defend and protect them when they happen. I am always looking for places where conversations could be happening but aren’t or aren’t proceeding as smoothly as they might do.  When I find one such, I will work with you to 1) identify the barriers to communication and understanding to 2) create and promote contexts for interaction that will engender understanding.

Let’s hear your 15 seconds!  🙂

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