After recruiting sales people almost exclusively for the past 13 years, I have come to view the job-search process as a sales process. Here’s why I think you should too.
If you are looking for a new job, you will be required to sell yourself, your skills, experience and training. Like it or not, you are now officially in sales. It makes no difference what your background may be. If you make the connection and see the similarities between the sales process and the job-search process, it will be much easier to navigate through it.
Some people have a difficult time tooting their own horn. Others find it difficult to even list the successes they have had in their career on their resume. They become uneasy in their own skin when circumstances require them to do so. If it has been awhile since you have had to create a resume I understand how difficult it can be. And by ‘awhile’ I mean 10 years or more. Things have changed dramatically since the last time you had to dust off your resume. I’ll address crafting a resume in subsequent posts.
At its most basic, the sales process consists of only a few steps:
- Prospecting – What companies or people do you want to seek out? This also includes networking and getting referrals.
- Setting appointments – How many interviews are you scheduling?
- Making your presentation – Performing well in the interview.
- Handling objections – Address their questions about your background and sell your skill and experience as the solution to their needs.
- Closing the sale – Ask for the job!
Let’s start with prospecting:
You have lost your job and now you’re looking for another. Tell everyone you know. Your first thought might be to keep the information to yourself and I understand that. However, you need to overcome that initial instinct so you can prepare for what’s to come.
Telling your story often you will find you can never know where the next lead or opportunity will come from. They can literally appear from out of nowhere. Until you opened your mouth, you had no idea your neighbor of 15 years is a good friend with the hiring authority for that choice position you are after. Or, the high school or college buddy you haven’t seen or talked to in the past 20 years reaches out unexpectedly. You talk and find out he or she is well-connected in the industry you are trying to get into.
In these situations, you will need your connections to refer you to the people you need to get to. Likewise, the more people you talk to, the more referrals they are likely to provide. They can provide job leads you were unaware of, they can give you names and contact info of people at your target companies and they can uncover additional sources of leads. All of those activities can be considered prospecting. And you thought you weren’t good at sales.
Next is setting appointments:
On this step there is no direct correlation between the sales process and the job search. In sales, one can call prospect after prospect until they have the necessary number of appointments set to meet their goal. When looking for a job, unfortunately you cannot call every company you would like to work for and set interviews with the hiring managers. It would be nice if it worked that way but I’m quite certain those hiring authorities will have something to say about that. Instead, be ready when your phone does ring and a recruiter wants to schedule an interview. The goal is to have so many opportunities working at one time that you can have multiple interviews in any given week.
There is a good chance that your first interview will be a phone interview. If you successfully pass that test they will be scheduling the follow-up face-to-face (F2F) interview. And like the professional sales person you are, you want to schedule that next interview before you are off the phone. It may not always happen. But at the very least you want to ask the question: “Let’s go ahead and set that interview now. Is Thursday at 2:00 or Friday at 11:00 better for the hiring manager?”
Phrasing it that way is called the alternate advance. Give them an option to choose from. If neither of them works for the hiring manager they have to say so and will more than likely come back with yet another alternative.
Making your presentation:
This is the F2F interview. You are prepared, your resume is letter-perfect and you are exhibiting confidence and energy. Thinking like a professional sales person, what are they really good at doing? Asking questions. A professional sales person likes to get the other person talking. They listen more than they talk. Your job in the interview is to ask questions as well. What are the potential employer’s pain points? What are their biggest problems? If you were to start tomorrow what needs addressing right away? Find out by asking.
By uncovering their issues you can craft your responses specifically to their needs; all based on your skills and experience. It is important to keep in mind that nothing about this process is about you. It is all about them and their needs. Solve their problems and you will be certain to stand out above all the other candidates.
Closing the sale:
After you have made your presentation and overcome their objections it is time to review a few things before closing the sale. You should review the process with them and ask about next steps. Some good questions to ask are:
- Is there anyone else I need to speak with as a part of process? (Companies these days are notorious for not wanting to make a hiring decision. To support this behavior, many of them will throw in additional interviews at that final stage for additional reinforcement of their decision to hire or not hire.)
- What is the rest of the process? (Do they know or does it sound like they are making things up as they go?)
- When do you intend to make a decision? (Listen carefully to their answer. You will be holding them accountable to this if it drags on.)
- How many other candidates am I competing against? (You want to know as much about your competition as possible.)
- When can I expect an offer? (You know what their offer would look like because the salary has already been discussed. More on this in subsequent posts.)
If they dance around any of the questions pin them down. You can do that in a professional manner. Do not leave the interview not knowing the next steps and timeline. Sure, things can change but that just gives you permission to continue following up.
If you can envision yourself working there be sure to ask for the job. Tell them you can see yourself working there and would like the opportunity to do so. Keep in mind there are professional sales people who have difficulty doing this and it is their career. Feeling a little nervous is ok. But it is important to overcome that fear.
The salesperson that never asks for the business will never feed their family. It’s the same way in looking for a new position. When interviewing, you can never expect an offer if you do not ask for it. You would be surprised how many candidates never ask for the position at any point in the process.