Job Hunters: Think You’re Not in ‘Sales’? Think Again!

Job SearchPersonal Branding

Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, CAREER STALLED? How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve─Your Dream Job. Publication is scheduled for early 2013.


Once I decide to present a candidate to one of my client companies to fill one of their open positions, I stress to the candidate that, from that point forward, he or she should consider himself/herself in the sales business. As you can perhaps imagine, I quite often get some stammering and stuttering from candidates, who usually say something like this:

“No, Skip, I am a chemist (or whatever). I don’t know anything about sales!”

My usual response?

Au contraire. You’re definitely in the sales business, whether you know it or not, or whether you like it or not. And you definitely need to start thinking—and acting—like a salesperson from this moment on!”

If you are currently in a new job search, or expect to be sometime in the near future, in order to be successful in landing your new job, you have to adopt this same type of thinking, this same attitude.

Here is how I strongly advise you to approach each and every career opportunity you pursue during a new job search:

Understand that you have a “product” to sell in the “marketplace” known as the job market, and that product is YOU!

Initially, at least, it is uncomfortable for most people to think of themselves as, well, a “product,” and that’s completely understandable, of course. But the fact of the matter is, whenever you enter the job market as a candidate, that is precisely how you must view yourself, as a product being offered for sale at a given “asking” price (salary). (You can bet your life that this is the way your potential “customers,” i.e., hiring managers and the companies they represent, will initially view you!)

Plus, you, like all “products,” also have certain real and perceived product characteristics, e.g., your education, experience, skill sets, career achievements and accomplishments, etc., a.k.a. your “professional brand,” that you will be (or better be) “showcasing” during your entire new job search. In other words, the product you are offering for sale consists of all of the factors that go into making up the professional YOU!

You also have a “sales brochure” for the “product” you’re selling, and it’s normally referred to as your résumé.

If you want to ensure that the product that is YOU stands out from the competition, i.e., other job seekers vying for the same position(s) as you, you will therefore want to make sure that you have a high-quality “sales brochure.”

To put this issue in perspective, imagine that you’re shopping for a “high-ticket” item, such as an expensive vehicle (which would actually amount to the equivalent of an average annual salary in today’s job market!). When you ask the salesperson for a sales brochure, she hands you one that is visually unappealing, totally disorganized and includes the following “sell” copy:

Our vehicle features:

  • Four wheels
  • Four doors
  • A steering wheel
  • Can take you from “point A” to “point B”

Absurd? Of course it is! But it is also analogous to the approach many job seekers take in their “sales brochures,” i.e., their résumés! In every sense of the term, most come across to hiring managers (and corporate recruiters and “headhunters”) as nothing more than “me too” candidates and are immediately eliminated from consideration—just as you wouldn’t even consider buying an expensive vehicle from our fictitious dealership.      

Like every other “salesperson”—or at least every other successful salesperson—  you must be prepared to engage in many “sales calls” (prospecting activities) before actually making a “sale” (getting a job offer).

Salespeople would be elated if all they had to do was to make one or two sales calls and “close” the deal and make the sale. But that certainly isn’t how it works at all. They have to continually prospect (and network) among potential customers, utilizing a variety of media and approaches: the telephone, email, direct mail and, of course, in person, in order to “stay in the game” and ultimately make a sale. Just coincidentally, as a job hunter, you have to be prepared to do these same things, and effectively use these same media and approaches, if you want to “stay in the game” end up “making the sale,” i.e., getting a job offer.

There are few “shortcuts” in the sales business. This is equally true when it comes to landing a new job in today’s extremely challenging job market—don’t expect to find many “shortcuts” there, either.

Remember: Selling is NOT “telling,” it’s asking!

When is the last time you bought anything from a salesperson who insisted on overwhelming you with his or her “sales pitch,” never giving you a chance to ask probing questions about the product or service being considered? (If you’re like most people, your answer quite likely is NEVER!)

The salesperson who does not, or will not, take the time to learn and understand what the “customer’s” needs and desires are before trying to make the sale is rarely among the top salespeople! As a job hunter, you also need to learn what the “customer,” the hiring manager, really wants and needs in a position he or she is trying to fill before going into your “sales pitch”! How do you accomplish that? By doing research before making initial contact, and then by asking necessary clarifying questions about the position once you actually make contact with the hiring manager, either on the telephone or in person.

Successful salespeople know, instinctively, that most customers will tell them (the salesperson) how they (the customer) can be “sold.” All the salesperson has to do before making his or her “sales pitch,” then, is simply listen to what the customer is telling him or her. Actually quite simple, huh? Also very good, sound advice for job hunters trying to learn the best way to sell the value of their own candidacy to hiring managers!

Learning and then effectively applying tried-and-true sales techniques to the job hunt is NOT rocket science! When you think about it, it really is nothing more than common sense, and the payoff can be tremendous! Why? Because most of your ‘competitors,” others job hunters going after the same career opportunities as you, will not even attempt to learn, let alone adopt and then effectively employ these techniques during their job search. As a matter of fact, most won’t even think about it!


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.