Most job seekers realize that the job searching process is a marketing effort. It requires some degree of “sales” skills. However, a common mistake job seekers make is perceiving sales skills as imposing their will on someone else. This comes from thinking about selling abstractly, or thinking about how stereotypical (and often unsuccessful) sales people try to sell things. The truth is no one wants to be “sold” on something, and that includes recruiters and employers. If you think about times you came to decide you wanted to buy something, most likely it can be boiled down to one of two motivating factors: an opportunity and/or a challenge.
Think about kids who buy the Nike Air Jordan sneakers. They buy them for the *opportunity* to be like Michael Jordan. Challenges typically occur when there is a dilemma about living up to one’s image of themselves. For example, someone may buy a Mercedes because they felt an internal challenge about being successful and not having a car that shows that success off. In terms of personal negotiation and persuasion skills, offering opportunities is a less risky option than offering challenges, even though both can motivate people to make a decision. Offering challenges is best done subtly, because an obvious challenge can be taken as an insult.
Here’s an example of what we’re talking about: Let’s say you want an employer to make a decision to hire you within the next week. If you call them a couple days before the end of the week and inquire about whether they’ve made a decision yet, that would most likely not be successful because you have not inspired any challenge or opportunity in the employer’s mind. In fact, it could have the opposite effect because the employer might think you’re desperate and think you’re not such a rare opportunity.
However, if you do a good job of presenting yourself as a top-notch candidate, and you present the employer with opportunities to reach their objectives if they hire you, and you give the employer a reason why they have to make a decision within a certain period of time, you have then created a challenge. If the employer perceives you as a highly desirable candidate and thinks there is a chance someone else may hire you before them, a personal dilemma has then been created in their mind where they will want to live up to their image of being a desirable company to work for. They will also feel challenged in terms of their skills as a recruiter and being able to recruit a top-level person.
Presenting opportunities is necessary in effective selling, but it’s not just a tactic because it requires that you do some real work, and for it to be done well, you have to be genuinely committed to the opportunity you’re presenting. Offering an employer a compelling opportunity requires that you create a vision in your mind of the possibilities and that you share your vision with the them. And creating a vision requires that you understand the dynamics of the company and how your background can be helpful to what they’re trying to achieve. Researching the company before the interview through personal contacts and the Internet can help. You’ll probably also need to ask questions in the interview about the employer’s objectives and how they see you fitting in.
Your vision can come across as more credible if you share with the employer stories about things you’ve done in the past which illustrate your competency in terms of being able to do what you envision for them. This conversation should be a back and forth discussion, and the more the employer talks about how they see you fitting in to their plans, the better. The clearer the picture they have of you coming in to their building every day to do the job they’re considering hiring you for, the better.
OFFERING A CHALLENGE
Presenting an opportunity will take the employer a long way in the direction of making a decision in your favor. However, a challenge is needed in order for the employer to feel like they need to make a decision imminently. The challenge doesn’t have to come from you: it can come from an outside source. For example, if you’ve offered a compelling opportunity and their boss told them a decision has to be made today, they may feel challenged to make a decision for that reason.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross” with Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey, you may remember the line “ABC: Always Be Closing.” Offering a challenge is closely related with the idea of closing. However, no one wants to feel like they’re being “closed.” No one wants to feel like they’re being manipulated. But if the person feels like they have to make a decision, it can be beneficial to you (assuming the opportunity you presented is compelling). If you came across as very impressive in the interview and discussion of opportunities, the employer may already feel challenged to make a decision because they don’t want another company to take you first. You can subtly offer a challenge yourself by mentioning you have received another offer which you haven’t decided on yet (if that’s true). Remember, you don’t want the employer to perceive the challenge as artificial. If they do see it that way, they’ll feel like you’re trying to “sell” them.
In summary, effective selling in job search situations is about inspiring the employer to see you as being highly valuable and getting them to feel a sense of challenge when it comes to being able to hire you. Some ineffective selling techniques, such as calling after an interview to just “inquire” about your application status, can be counterproductive and can make you come across as less valuable. When it comes to interviewing, it’s more important to get it right the first time and make a good impression on the first try.