Over its history, Nike approached expansion by minimizing the variables it changed. Do the same in your job search, changing only what you must across your job and function, industry, geography, personal brand. and relationships. That focused approach will give you an unfair advantage over those trying to be everything to everybody.

Nike tackled expansion by changing only one variable at a time. For example, their first entry into any international market was with running shoes branded Nike.

The ideal candidate for any job has ideal strengths, motivation and fit.


  • Your talent, industry, function and other knowledge and skills add up to your strengths.
  • Your personal brand and geographic choices communicate motivation.
  • Past and future relationships are important indicators of fit.


With those in mind, the perfectly ideal candidate for any job has succeeded in the identical job, in the identical function, with the identical challenges, in the identical industry, wants to do that job in the geography in which the job is located and already has relationships with all the key stakeholders. Each and every piece of that puzzle that is less than identical adds complications to the selection, recruitment and onboarding of that new hire.

This is why the fewer variables you change, the better.

Let’s play those out:

Job Strengths

Gallup suggests strengths are a combination of inherent talent, learned knowledge, and practiced skills. While you can’t change your inherent talent, you can learn new knowledge and practice new skills.

The prescription: Focus now on jobs requiring your current strengths, while building new strengths for the future.


Again, you can certainly explore other industries. If you do, making sure the other variables match becomes more important. You’re going to find it easier to find another job in your current function and industry.


This is not about your current geography. It’s about the geography your potential employer wants you in. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t want to move early in our conversations. When I ask what if the opportunity was your ideal job in your ideal company for ten times as much money as you could make anywhere else and they’d relocate everyone you cared about. Inevitably they say they’d be interested.

The prescription: Don’t let geography limit the opportunities you explore. Wait to make it one factor in your final choice.

Personal Brand Positioning

Start with your personal brand positioning. To [organizations facing xxxxx problem or opportunity] [you] can [benefit/solution] because of [motivation, strengths, fit]. The only three interview questions go to strengths, motivation and fit. You have to nail those pieces. But they are support for why the person interviewing you should believe you are the solution to their problem or opportunity.

To be clear, this is 90/10 positioning. Done right, 90% of recruiters will rule you out immediately – as you want them to. You’re interested in the 10% that have the problem you can solve or the opportunity you can help them take advantage of.

The prescription: Focus your own personal brand positioning.


We’d all like to pretend we make purely rational hiring decisions. The truth is we’re influenced by the people we know and trust. If you happen to know someone the hiring manager knows and trusts, you’re better off. If you don’t, find them and get to know them.

Merge the circles in the Venn diagram

All this adds up to merging Venn circles. The greater the overlap between who you are, what you care about and what you can deliver and who they are, what they care about, and what they need, the greater the likelihood of their hiring you and you being successful.

The final prescription: The core of your job search target should be opportunities calling for someone with your strengths, personal brand, industry experience, geographical preferences and relationships. Start there while building new strengths, experience and relationships for the future.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.