Imagine that you are shopping for a new vehicle. You visit several competing dealerships and investigate several different makes and models. You end up being seriously interested in two vehicles, one at Dealership A and the other at Dealership B. How to decide between the two?

First you return to Dealership A and ask the salesperson you dealt with there this question:

“I am very interested in your vehicle, but I am also very interested in another one I found at the dealership down the street. Why should I choose your vehicle over the one down the street?”

In the most sincere, most honest manner, the salesperson replies,

“Well, our vehicle sure is a pretty color, isn’t it? Plus, it has a total of FOUR cup holders, two in the front seat and two in the back seat! But the very best thing about our vehicle is that it has—are you ready for this?!—four wheels, a steering wheel and a chassis!”

Not exactly a resounding endorsement, huh? (Hey, we’re talking a LOT of money here!) So it’s back to dealership B, where you pose the same question to the salesperson you have been dealing with there, and here is how she answers your question:

“I’m glad you asked that question. Here are just a few of the very important reasons why you should buy our vehicle:

  • “It received the auto industry’s highest rating possible for passenger safety, an ‘A+’. That means you and your family can travel very safely in our vehicle—plus you will save money on your insurance rates.
  •  “With mileage per gallon ratings of 35 on the highway and 25 in the city, your annual fuel savings alone will be in the range of $500 to $750 over the other vehicle you are considering.
  •  “And, with ‘zero down’ on approved credit, and one of the lowest finance rates in the industry, we can tailor a monthly payment that will fit into virtually anyone’s budget.”

Now, I ask you, which vehicle are you likely to buy?!

 How Hiring a Candidate is Like Buying a Vehicle

Of course I am using exaggeration here to make a point. In today’s extremely competitive job market, candidates who brand themselves as having “four wheels, a steering wheel and a chassis” simply need not apply. Or, if they do, the “buyer,” i.e., the hiring manager, can definitely be expected to “go down the street” and purchase another “vehicle.” (Hey, we’re talking a LOT of money here!)

Hiring managers today, many of whom feel that their own jobs are “on the line” if they consistently make poor hiring decisions, have little to no tolerance—or patience!—for “run-of-the-mill,” “me too” job candidates. Let me give you a real-life example of what I’m talking about here.

A sales manager I was recently working with (David) told me right at the beginning of my search for a candidate to fill one of his sales positions:

“Skip, I look at it this way: If I ask a salesperson I am considering hiring, ‘What are the THREE things that distinguish you from other salespeople? and they respond with trite, largely meaningless statements such as, ‘I build relationships, I manage accounts and I am highly motivated,’ they have effectively eliminated themselves right then and there! End of story.”

When you think about it, a potential job candidate who responds in this manner to a hiring manager’s question about why he or she should be selected over other candidates really is no different from the vehicle salesperson who says the reason you should buy his or her vehicle is because it has “four wheel, a steering wheel and a chassis,” right? Of course not!

The candidate who receives serious consideration from him, David added, is the one who responds along these lines:

“I think the three things that differentiate me are . . .

  • First, I know how to ask great questions that lead the customer toward a vision of how they can benefit from investing in our products and services.
  • Next, I always make sure I am in the ‘closing’ business. Since people buy on their schedules, and not on mine, I am always able to close business by keeping my sales pipeline full. Thus, if opportunity A isn’t quite ready to close, opportunity G or H might well be.
  • And third, one of the most important things I bring to the table is my ability to ‘read’ people. I can immediately sense when something isn’t quite right, so I instinctively know I need to ask more questions, bring in someone else from my company who might add value, etc.”

I simply can’t overstate the vital importance of, the absolute necessity for, a candidate—for any open position!—branding himself or herself as clearly being someone who is new, different and better than his or her competition, i.e., other candidates seeking the same positions.

The candidate most likely to win a job in today’s extremely competitive job market is the one who can clearly, concisely and convincingly demonstrate that he or she brings value and genuine worth to a potential employer! To be absolutely truthful about it, candidates who are perceived as being, or who continue to brand themselves as being, really nothing more than just a “four wheels, a steering wheel and a chassis” candidate are merely “spinning their wheels”!

Which type of candidate are you?


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.