I had to make two phone calls the other day—both to employment candidates who weren’t getting the position. One call was to a candidate with great skills and experience—perfect for the job, really—but absolutely no enthusiasm. The other was to a candidate who showed great enthusiasm for the job and the organization, but no ability to articulate any relevant skills.
As I thought about the two phone calls, I realized both of these candidates have a marketing problem!
The first, the candidate with great skills and experience but no enthusiasm, seemed a little like All-Bran® cereal—good for you, something you should do it, but there’s nothing that’s going to get you excited about it. The second, the candidate with great enthusiasm and an inability to articulate relevant skills, seemed like Lucky Charms®—bad for you, you shouldn’t do it, but boy are you going to love it if you take the plunge.
In the first candidate’s hyper-focus on the features of the product, she forgot to show and tell the interviewers the exciting benefits. In the second candidate’s hyper-focus on being well liked and expounding on the exciting benefits of hiring him, he forgot to tell the interviewers about the features that will actually get the job done.
So what to do when you’re the candidate? How can you use marketing processes to land the job of your dreams? The two candidates I had to call lost the interviewers in the buying process, so let’s focus there:
- Awareness. As the first step in the buying process, this is the one that gets you in the proverbial door. Awareness is the very reason you leave a voicemail for the HR person, leaving your name and phone number (saying it twice, slowly) and referring to the date the cover letter and resume were submitted; because in a sea of applications, you’ve got to give the HR person a reason to look for yours.
- Knowledge. In your carefully crafted cover letter and resume, you used keywords and aligned your experience with the job requirements. Then you put in a few benefit statements (e.g., “Reduced time-to-completion by 8% by leveraging packaging technology”) to pique the HR person’s interest. Now the HR person is aware and has a little bit of knowledge about why you are a good candidate.
- Liking. Depending upon the company and the HR strategy, the “phone screen” can be used for a few things: Some companies use it to see if you fulfill the requirements of the job; others use it to see if you can speak intelligently about the sector; and still others use it to see if you’ll be a cultural fit—because if you won’t be, you won’t get an interview. You can ask around—people you know at the company and people you know who have interviewed there—to see what the phone screen was about; maybe you’ll score and someone will remember.
For companies doing a cultural fit test by phone, the phone screen is all about liking: The HR person is talking with you to determine whether or not people in the company will feel positively about you. He or she is also making sure you can put together a thought and that you seem like you can do the job.
To use the 20-30 minutes you have on the phone to get the HR person to like you, treat it just like a face-to-face interview—so, no pajamas—and do your homework about the position and the company. Also be sure to explain how your experience and skills relate. Then do something you wouldn’t do in a face-to-face interview: Stand up during the call so your voice is strong and carries well, indicating confidence and energy. If you do these things and you actually are a potential fit for the company and position, you’ll be invited in to interview (yay!).
- Preference. Both of the candidates I had to call the other day lost the interviewers at this point. HR liked both individuals, so they were invited in; either could have walked away with the job. But the inadequate mix of features and benefits presented by each created an aversion instead of a preference. The buying cycle was cut short, with no purchase. What could these two have done differently?
The features-laden, non-enthusiastic candidate could have used many non-verbal communications techniques: She could have sat forward and leaned in to the table; she could have smiled; she could have used her voice to convey joy, passion for the work, disbelief, and any other feeling she wanted the interviewers to get from her stories; and/or she could have worn a touch of color, since we all respond to color.
The super enthusiastic candidate could have made it a point to speak to how his experience (the features) specifically related to the position: He could have developed and practiced an elevator speech about why his experience was relevant even though it wasn’t directly related; he could have had a list of the four or five responsibilities highlighted in the job posting and been sure to tell a relevant story about his experience for each; and/or, worst case scenario, he could have realized after the interviews that he didn’t really talk about why his features were a good fit, and followed up with a carefully crafted email that highlighted the alignment between his experience and skills and the job needs.
You can do all of these things to present an effective balance of features and benefits! If you do, and you’re the right person for the position, you will move the interviewers toward conviction.
- Conviction. No longer writing about my two candidates from above, in general, you get a potential employer to conviction by supplying references that truly believe in you and in your fit for the job. This means you talk to your references frequently enough that they can speak to your excellent fit for the position, and you give them a heads-up about any areas of concern you think the potential employer might have about your candidacy so the reference can put the employer at ease. If you’ve made it to being the preferred candidate—the one asked to supply references—you’re usually just one step from the job—once the HR person has a preference for your candidacy and asks to be brought to conviction by your references, the job is yours to lose.
- Purchase. Usually in hiring there is a distinct need and the company is not likely to drag its feet. But don’t worry if they are dragging their feet on making you an offer—there could be one of a thousand things going on internally that slows down the process. Or the HR person could be drowning in work and just not have gotten to you yet; this is rare, but is a good reason to make a phone call if you haven’t heard anything a week after your references were called (unless, of course, the company has given you a timeline that puts the decision further out). Just like consumers of packaged goods might need a promotion, rebate, or other special to move them to buy, the company may need a little prompt from you to make the purchase.
So there you have it; you can use a marketing process—the buying cycle—to get yourself a new job. Job hunting is not a numbers game and it’s not luck—it’s marketing!