Embrace the Salesperson Within and Ace the Job Interview

By Eric P. Kramer
Senior Consultant, Career Potential, LLC

When working for one of the big three global outplacement firms, I was trained to avoid referring to an interview as a “sales” call. The company’s belief was that people are intimidated by having to sell or play the part of a sales person, and that thinking of the interview as a sales call would make the interview more stressful. Therefore, we taught our clients that an interview is a unique situation unlike selling, or presenting, or persuading, or convincing, or any of the other activities that make up a sales call.

After several years of additional experience and reflection, however, I can firmly state that an interview IS a sales call – a “consultative” sales call. This is actually good news because a consultative sales call has a well defined and highly researched structure that works. In addition, like any good (healthy) sales situation, the sales person and the buyer have a mutual interest in making sure that the buyer is satisfied with the selection, and that the product or service is appropriate for the situation and performs well. Certainly, both buyer and seller want to avoid the hassle and expense of a “return.”

When most people think about sales, they think of selling a product like a vacuum cleaner, a TV, or a car. This is a “transactional” sale, where most of the focus is on the product’s features. In this type of situation, all sorts of slick sales techniques may be used to “close the sale.” Another type of sale is a “consultative” sale, where the sales person takes time to understand the buyer’s needs and then links the product’s or service’s benefits to the buyer’s criteria. This approach requires a deep understanding of the buyer’s needs and requirements, and how the product or service can contribute to the buyer’s goals.

In a job interview, the candidate (sales person) is selling himself or herself (the service) to the hiring manager (the buyer). In order to be successful in the interview (sales call), the job candidate has to:

  • Do up-front research to understand the needs of the buyer, both at the organizational and individual level
  • Spend time in the interview getting a deeper understanding of the hiring manager’s specific needs
  • Know his or her own unique selling points and “value add proposition”
  • Present his or her benefits clearly, and powerfully link those benefits to the hiring manager’s needs
  • Handle objections effectively
  • Ask for the sale
  • Follow through on the sales call

This consultative structure provides excellent direction for interview preparation, interviewing and follow-up. All the pieces are here to make an effective consultative sales call, and win the job (sale).

From the other side of the desk, buyers have a responsibility to be sure they are purchasing the best available service. To accomplish this, they need to know specifically what the service provides (the critical job requirements). Once the hiring manager knows the critical job requirements, her or she can assess the degree to which a candidate’s qualifications, experiences, skills, and education match the critical job requirements. Without a specific outline of requirements, it is very difficult to select the best candidate. Additionally, without detailed requirements, it is difficult for the candidate to make a good, focused sales pitch.

Selling is an integral part of everyday life. Whether we are selling multimillion-dollar deals, selling our ideas to a colleague or boss, or selling a family member or partner on seeing a movie of our choice. Selling is an important skill and it comes in very handy when we are selling ourselves in an interview to a prospective employer. My suggestion is to embrace the sales person within you and “ace the interview!”

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.

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