Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Sell Yourself. Buy them. Part 2

Several months ago I wrote a post entitled: "Don't Sell Yourself. Buy them." Link here.

My clients found this advice useful before the financial crisis hit. Now it has become vitally important.

Unfortunately, some people did not get the message. Many people have been traumatized by the crisis to the point where they do not know how to adapt to the new reality. Sarah Needleman described the problem well in her excellent Wall Street Journal article: "Candidates Singing Own Praises Fall Flat. Link here

As Needleman points out, by trying too hard to sell themselves, job seekers end up looking desperate. No one is looking to hire someone who is desperate.

Comparing such candidates to failed American Idol contestants, Needleman describes "corporate idols" as those who "sing praises about their abilities without delivering tangible evidence to back up the claims."

Of course, if they could provide tangible evidence they would not have to oversell themselves. Any capable interviewer knows that a job candidate who tries too hard to assert himself must be covering up a lack of accomplishment.

When you have done a great job, the evidence will speak on your behalf. Your job is to let it.

Your first task in going out on an interview is to forget what you learned in assertiveness training.

Second, do not trust your instincts. When you have undergone a trauma-- like being laid off or like seeing your firm go broke-- your instincts will mislead you. They might tell you that you need to assert yourself to show how much you want the job. If you follow this advice you will come across as desperate.

(This applies to other traumas as well. When you have been mugged your instincts will tell you that the only way to be truly safe is to stay at home. Clearly, that is the wrong approach.)

Third, take advice. Whether you are preparing for an interview of launching a new project, seek out someone you trust, and take their advice. In some examples Needleman offers, candidates fail to get hired because they refuse the advice given by executive recruiters.

Fourth, embrace the new reality. As one executive told Needleman, many people are floundering because they: "just haven't wrapped their arms around reality yet." Whether it is the reality of your need for a job or the reality of the loss of the old world you counted on, people who do best are those who are quickest to adapt to new circumstances.

Being unwilling to negotiate with reality will often doom a job interview or undermine career advancement. If the job market is tight you are in no position, as Needleman shows, to make extravagant demands on a potential employer.

My final point is: buy them. Whether you are applying for a job or trying to sell a product, focus your attention on them, not on you.

You should prepare for a job interview by learning as much as you can about the company, its products, its history, its balance sheet, its culture, and its policies.

That is the way to show them that you want the job, want to join their company, and will work effectively with them.

No comments: