Sales Tips for a Job Seeker

A job search is a sales activity.  You are selling yourself and trying to persuade a company to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for your time and effort.  You need to present an advertising, marketing and sales material to get land an interview and need to make a better sales presentation than your competition.  If you don’t, someone else will land the sale and get hired.

There are a lot of people who detest sales.  They think it’s dishonest and unethical.  This view is completely wrong, but it exists in our society.  If you hold this view and refuse to try to sell yourself in your job search, you will be placing a huge obstacle in your path.  Selling is an activity that helps the buyer.  Buyers are not experts on the products they are buying – the sales people are.  A good sales person will help a person find the right product or service to buy.  You need to do the same in your job search.

A hiring manager is a buyer.  The hiring process is designed to assess candidates, learning as much as possible, so the hiring manager can make the best decision.  You need to make sure you are providing the information the hiring manager needs and show them the value you offer.  If you don’t do this, you won’t get hired.  There are a few key steps in the sales process you need to execute effectively:

Give a Reason To Buy:  The number one task in your job search is to give a hiring manager a reason to hire you.  This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how few people actually do this.  You need to show very clearly why you will provide more value to the hiring manager and employer than your competition.  Imagine going into a car dealer and the sales person shows you a car.  You ask why you should buy it, and the only answer is the car drives and will get you places.  This is what many job seekers do.  Their sales pitch is that they can do the job.  Meeting the absolute minimum requirements is not a sales pitch.  This is essentially saying “I offer the least value possible while still being able to do the job.”  Not very impressive.

Know Your Limitations:  You are not an ideal fit for every job.  There are plenty of positions where other candidates have a better combination of skills and abilities.  This isn’t a bad thing.  You can’t bet the best at everything.  You need to be the best at something.  Too many people try to cover every base possible.  Focus on what you are truly good at doing.  If a hiring manager wants someone with a different skill set, be honest.  You won’t land that job, but your honesty can make an impression and lead you to other positions with an organization.  The hiring manager may have the perfect job for you.  If you aren’t honest about your strengths and weaknesses, you may never discover this position.

Focus on Benefits:  One of the most basic lessons taught in sales courses is to focus on benefits not features.  In a job search, this is showing the contributions you will make.  To do this, you need to show the hiring manager similar contributions you have made in the past.  For example, in some cereal ads, the actors talk about how after eating one type of cereal, their cholesterol was lower, and their family was happier as a result.  Can you show how you exceed the expectations of a former boss and delivered specific results to the company?  This is what a hiring manager wants – the results that will allow them beat their budget and goals.  If you show how you will do this, you will be much more likely to get hired.

Listen:  Great sales people listen much more than they talk.  They learn as much about the needs of the customer as they can.  Because interviews are typically a series of questions by the interviewer and answers by the job seeker, it may seem difficult to listen to the needs of the hiring manager.  It’s much easier to learn what a hiring manager wants if you put forth a little effort.  The first step is to network with people who understand the company and job and learn as much as you can.  This will give you insight into the hiring manager’s perspective.  During the interview, pay attention to the type of questions being asked and ask questions to learn about the position.  For example:

  • What are your goals for this position?
  • What is the biggest challenge for this position?
  • What do you want to see a person in this role accomplish in the first 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  • How will I be assessed and evaluated in this role?

Answers to these questions will show you what a hiring manager wants.  Listen closely to the answers and show how you will meet these needs.

Follow Up:  Good sales people follow up, even after being rejected.  Make sure you send thank you notes after interviews, and stay in touch with hiring managers.  It may take months or years, but each relationship you develop and maintain has the potential to lead to offer. 

If you focus on selling your potential, you will maximize your chance of success.  If you don’t want to do this, you will help your competition gain the edge over you.