In my new book, Selling Yourself in Today’s Competitive Marketplace, I talk extensively about “Your Next Job Interview,” as it serves up the perfect metaphor for selling yourself. During a job interview, you are not only responsible for selling yourself, you are also the product that’s being sold.
That said, here’s a strange tip coming from a sales trainer. If you are pursuing an exciting new opportunity in the job market, then I would advise you to position for second place.
There’s usually no such thing as the perfect candidate. The “perfect” candidate would always have more experience and a better track record. They will have also had more training and better references. Add to that the fact they may have been the valedictorian in college, a former Miss America, or a decorated war veteran, and alas, you have the perfect candidate!
It’s actually fine to have weaknesses. More than likely you’re not competing against perfection, anyway. Rather, you’re competing against other candidates who have a resume full of strengths and weaknesses. You just need to make sure that the combined total of your strengths, minus any perceived weaknesses, is greater than whoever else is applying for the job.
I actually think it puts you in a strong position to verbally acknowledge the fact that you’re not perfect. The goal isn’t to sound negative or pessimistic. But, I can tell you that I would be quick to say to a hiring manager, “There probably is no such thing as the perfect candidate for this position. While my strengths include aaaaa, bbbbb, and ccccc, I would want to focus my energy on developing my skills in the areas of yyyyy and zzzzz in order to become productive as quickly as possible.
Most decision makers are realistic and are comforted by the fact that a candidate (or salesperson) is aware that there are some areas that need more attention than others. In fact, a willingness to acknowledge and focus on one’s weaknesses may just be one of your greatest strengths.
The moral to this story is simple. The perfect candidate for a job will always win hands down. Therefore, you are really vying for second place–which includes those times where there is no such person as ‘the perfect candidate.’ If you can elevate yourself to be perceived as the best out of those who do have strengths and weaknesses, then I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that you will win most of the time.
By the way, in a competitive marketplace, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” solution. Think about it!
One piece of advice I would offer with regard to the notion of selling yourself is to be prepared to discuss how you plan to succeed. Success rarely happens by accident, and if you were interviewing for a position within my company, the first thing I would want to know is, “Do you have a plan for being successful in this job?”
Successful people plan their work and they work their plans. They have a vision for what is required to be successful and the ability to communicate that vision to others. Even our best laid plans don’t always pan out as we had originally envisioned them, however, so the ability to make reasonable and intelligent adjustments along the way is critically important. Shooting from the hip is no longer a viable strategy in today’s business environment.
Potential employers are just like prospective customers in the sense that they want to know that you are confident in your abilities, and you have the foresight and fortitude necessary to make things happen in ways that will benefit them and you.
Even with a notable track record, we must recognize that in a competitive environment, you will rarely be the only candidate (or vendor) being considered. Other qualified candidates will also garner a serious look. Hence, the purpose of an employment interview is not just to review one’s honors and accolades from the past. The real purpose of these evaluations (job interviews or sales calls) is to give prospective customers a glimpse into the future so they can evaluate which alternative will provide the best fit in helping them achieve their goals.
In the final analysis, you must make the difference. To the extent you are able to communicate value and demonstrate that your skills are indeed aligned with the customer’s goals, you can expect a great deal of success going forward. On the other hand, if you sound just like everyone else, then you put your destiny in the hands of a coin flip at best. It’s that simple. Selling yourself during an interview or with regard to a product sale has everything to do with the customer’s perception of you.
Sales continues to be the least taught profession in the world.
To get hired, I suppose it was necessary to have a decent personality, but you didn’t need any specific industry certifications. You just had to "want to" sell. By the time the first year passed, I had accumulated some on-the-job trial by fire experience, but the amount of official sales training I received was negligible. There was this unwritten feeling among managers that salespeople should already know how to sell.
I didn’t. I knew how to pick up the telephone and keep dialing until my fingers bled. I also knew that everyone was focused on results, and my manager told me that sales was simply a ‘numbers game.” For a neophyte like myself who was struggling to scratch out a living, selling was hardly a game.