You know the feeling: you come across that one special job description that seems like it was hand-crafted just for you. You've got the right experience, interests and personality, and you're confident that the employer is just waiting for someone like you. So then why does the job end up going to some other schmuck?
Well, chances are that, even if that "schmuck" didn't fit the job description as precisely as you did, he or she did a better job of selling themselves, and your dream employer bought it.
It's hard to stand out, and there are so many opportunities to go astray in the process. As someone who works in business development, I see a lot of parallels between an agency pitching for new clients and the hiring of individual employees. In the pitch process, it's not just about ticking all the boxes; it's about demonstrating how your agency will produce positive results for the company.
Interviewing for a new role presents the same challenges. This means thinking not just about how you fit the job requirements, but how the organization will benefit from having you on board. This approach forces you to ask yourself a different set of questions, such as:
- Which personal strengths will benefit this particular company the most?
- What makes me special (vs. other qualified candidates)?
- How can I address specific challenges the employer is having?
- How will I make an impact?
- How can I prove I'm the best candidate?
These questions require significant thought and consideration, but – once you've answered them – you'll be on your way to articulating the one thing that every successful business has: a unique selling proposition (USP). Knowing who you are, the value you deliver and how to sell yourself will also help guide you through the subsequent phases of the hiring process (like getting that coveted offer letter).
Read Between the Lines
The job description isn't just a list of responsibilities. The words used and any specific qualities that may be reinforced throughout the spec can give you an idea of what the company might be thinking most about with regard to the person taking the job. Understanding what might be most important to your prospective employer is a great starting point for crafting a relevant sales pitch.
Once you have an idea of what the employer is seeking, don't keep it to yourself. If a job opening is posted on LinkedIn, an employer sometimes allow applicants to communicate directly with its recruiter. Ask questions that can help you gain clarity and be more targeted in your approach. Doing so will demonstrate genuine interest and initiative, and can increase the odds of getting past the resume review and into the pre-screening stage.
Research the Industry
Being aware of industry trends can catapult you into the applicant pool that I like to call the "strong maybes." This calls for having a basic level of knowledge of the employer's category and expertise, along with your own point of view. Doing your research gives you credibility. Plus – the more time you can save your prospective employer in explaining and educating – the better off you'll be.
Familiarize Yourself with the Team
The people who already work at the company will play a huge role in whether you get hired. When all is said and done, you're not selling yourself to a logo or company name; you're selling yourself to a group of people. It's your responsibility to make sure you're relevant to them, and, unfortunately, you don't have the luxury of proving your worth over time. You have an hour (or less!) to stake your claim, so it has to be what they want to hear. Find out what you can about the employer's culture, values and needs, and tailor your own responses and behaviors accordingly.
Be Prepared to Tell Your Story
This is where you take all work you've done and combine it at just the right moment. As I mentioned, one hour to sell yourself into a role that one hundred other people want isn't a whole lot of time. Thoroughly knowing your experiences and skills and how they can provide value are necessities, while understanding where you would fit on the team can help you position yourself as someone who will mesh easily and accomplish what needs to be done.
The job isn't done just because you have it; in fact, it's never done. Consistency (and growth) gives you staying power, so keep reading between the lines, asking questions, reading the trades and staying in tune with the changing needs of your colleagues. The same work that got you the job – knowing your story, acting on the priorities most important to your employer and being "the one" who's perfectly positioned to help take your employer to the next level will be the attributes that will get you promoted, or position you for the next career opportunity.
It isn't always the case that the job went to a "better" candidate: the person who got hired may have simply been the one who was better at communicating and demonstrating the value s/he could offer at that moment. If we don't take the time to understand our strengths and to present them in a relevant way, we'll continue to see our opportunities slip through our fingers. If you want to be successful, defining who you are and how to sell yourself isn't optional – it's required.
About the Author
Jordan serves as the business development manager for prospective clients across MediaCom's US offices. Since joining MediaCom, Jordan has contributed to agency wins including DSW, Tempur Sealy, AB InBev and eBay. Prior to joining MediaCom, Jordan contributed to new business wins at DigitasLBi including L'Oreal, eBay and Uniqlo. Jordan has a BBA, Marketing degree from Howard University.