In my last post, I shared what I believe to be an absolute truth in a job search. One has to sell oneself, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. It’s a crucial non-negotiable in your search. Forget about whatever definition you have of selling. Focus on what you want, why it’s good fit for you, where that might be and why they need you. I often coach my clients on using a three-step “selling you” process: Give them reasons to want you, tell them stories about yourself and cultivate your social skills.
Job Search Sales Step #1:
Give Them Reasons to Want You
Let’s talk about this in the context of the interview, although it (and the other selling steps) hold true throughout your job search with networking, informational interviews, job interviews, follow-up activities – all your interactions.
The interview is not an interrogation room. The interviewer is not your opponent. Interviewers want you to succeed, to be the right fit for their company. It makes their job easier. This doesn’t mean they’re always friendly, or even clear about what they want. That’s usually because they themselves might not have perfected their own interviewing skills. But deep down, they want you to be the best candidate for the job, because if you are, their task of hiring for that role is accomplished. So, the first rule is to give them the whys and the wherefores to want you.
Okay, you have a great resume. The interviewer has read it, along with your other qualifications essential to the job. But let’s assume that the other candidates who have made it this far have comparable qualifications. So it boils down to you asking yourself, “How can I differentiate myself from the pack of candidates?”
As your interviewer, I am looking for something special about you. A reason to be interested in you. Your job is to help me discover it. Plant a seed of thought in my head. Give me something to chew on. Something beyond your “features” of degree, credentials, job history. Something besides a wishy-washy comment like “I love accounting!” Grab my attention with something that speaks to the pain my company has and the need it has to fill. Tie something about you to your understanding of the job you’re vying for. Speak to me!
Some of my clients have shared statements they’ve made that were game changers:
- “I know your major suppliers, and could get you great prices with the facility expansion project you’re planning.”
- “I’m a very patient person with difficult people. I could troubleshoot even the toughest issues at your call center.”
- “I’m always the data keeper. It’s part of my nature and I’ve done it in every position. I could get your information overload under control.”
- “With heavy competition for funding, I could use my grant writing to find dollars for your product research.”
My clients had not pulled these statements out of thin air, nor were they being patronizing. The assertions were made after they as candidates, had analyzed the company and the job at hand.
Say something that highlights a unique differentiator in you that perhaps the others cannot offer.
What could you tell the interviewer that will help him or her remember you? What if nothing is coming to mind? Or what if you don’t believe there is anything in your background especially relevant to the job? Try asking yourself this checklist of questions:
- What skills do I have that are similar to those required in the job?
- What personal traits or qualities do I have that would be especially helpful in this job?
- What personal experiences have I had that connect with this job?
- What type of customer / colleague / supervisor / vendor, etc. have I worked well with before?
- Do I have knowledge of their competitors?
- Which types of projects and programs in that department am I familiar with?
- Who might I know who would be useful contacts for this work?
Janet had wanted to work for XYZ Company for years. The company had a great reputation and was near her house. She wasn’t sure where she fit, however. Her degree was in Political Science, and XYZ was a technology manufacturing firm. She did some research (a skill perfected in college courses). Then Janet heard from a contact (and XYZ employee) that the reporting by the business analysts was not clear and often incomplete or inaccurate. When an opening arose for a management trainee, Janet landed an interview and made her pitch. “I have ace writing and research skills. If you’ll teach me the technical aspects of your products, I can produce reliable, top-notch reporting.”
Janet was hired. She worked at XYZ for five years, moving from trainee to manager. Now having developed a great reputation with industry contacts, she was recruited by an XYZ vendor as a Vice President in technology product development.
This is important. Against the competition for the trainee role, Janet was not the best qualified. In fact, she was perceived as not qualified for the most part. She got in the door because she got her resume to the right people (she was recommended by a current XYZ employee in a referral program). She walked out the door with an offer because she gave that hiring authority a reason to want her.
Be ready to give your “reasons to want you” whenever opportunities surface. In my next post, I’ll share Job Search Sales Step #2: Tell Them Stories About YOU!
Photo: Chris Owens