Job seekers often start with the false premise that companies want them. In fact, the main point of job hunting is to acknowledge that the hiring company doesn’t want you.
Buyers of anything don’t want the thing they’re buying — they want a solution to their problem. The same principle applies to recruiting.
The hiring company does not want you. It wants its problems solved through hiring great talent. This is job seekers’ central selling point. To reach the stage where they’re convinced they need you, job seekers have to go through a process. It’s the “Selling You” process.
Almost 50 years ago, I attended the Dale Carnegie Sales Training program. It was one of the wisest investments I’ve made. The program is based on five principles of selling that I’ve never forgotten:
- Getting the buyer’s attention.
- Generating interest in your product on the part of the buyer.
- Convincing the buyer that your product is the solution to their problem.
- Building desire on the part of the buyer to purchase your product.
- Closing the sale.
Job hunting is an exercise in selling. One of the most difficult aspects of making any sale is overcoming the buyer’s objections. That’s a confrontation you don’t want when job seeking.
The secret is to avoid objections. You want to control the conversation rather than just respond to the interviewer’s questions. To make this shift, you have to do some homework. It’s easier to convince someone to hire you if they see you understand their business.
Before you apply to a company, research the firm and industry. You’ll find historic data, news stories and press releases telling you what the company is about. You’ll come across information concerning its strategy and future plans. If you’re lucky, you might find something about the person interviewing you. This shows you’ve done due diligence and are sincerely interested.
Then comes the process. The first step is getting attention. Remember, your application is one of hundreds they’ve received. You must reach the top of the pile quickly.
Your research revealed something about the company that you can use to gain their attention. At this stage it’s about them, not you. Start by citing something you read or heard about them. You could turn the conversation your way by asking them if they know specific costs related to employees. Do they know their worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance expense, or what it’s costing to hire and retain people? Usually they don’t.
Next, what do you have to say in one or two sentences that will begin to generate interest in you? How will you solve the problem you’ve gotten them to reveal? Is your experience in line with what you’ve learned about their plans? If not, how can you redirect their interest?
In 1974, I wanted to move from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley. I worked for a bank in L.A. and knew nothing about computers. When I approached a computer company, I made it a point that I was going to bring in some innovate ideas that would help this small company grow quickly. That made a strong impression on the chief financial officer, who was interviewing for a new head of human resources. It separated me from the applicants in local electronic firms. He wanted to know more.
That one point drove our conversation through the interest and conviction stages. Now we were working together. It wasn’t a job interview; it was a joint problem-solving session. He saw how I was qualified to help them grow. Gradually, we switched from my selling him to his seeing me as part of his team. After that, he closed the sale for me. I was hired at a significant increase over what I’d been making.
Some day you may want to change jobs or a recruiter might come after you for an opportunity. Even if you aren’t interested now, you want to make a good impression. There might come a time in the future when you want to or have to move.
If you’ve made a good impression today, it will come in handy later. Remember, buyers are looking for a solution to their problem. Make sure you’re the solution.