How a car salesperson taught me 4 important Job-Search lessons

Like many people, I hate buying cars. But just recently I had a pleasant experience buying one. What made this transaction pleasant was the salesman, who came across as a person not concerned about meeting his quota. I got the impression that he cared about me as a person. He wasn’t pushy.

Be Safe. Girl receives the key of her new car

At one point, as I was driving the car, we were talking about our families. He told me he has a daughter who was going to meet someone from the Dominican Republic, who she met on the Internet. We both agreed this wasn’t a smart idea on her part.

I was wondering when he was going to talk about the benefits of the car, deliver his sales pitch. But he only answered questions I had about the car. And when I told him I had to bring my wife by for a test drive, he smiled and gave me his business card.

What makes a successful job seeker is similar to what makes a successful salesperson. Here’s why.

They don’t try too hard. If my car salesman had immediately delivered a diatribe on the features of the car, he would have come across as a know it all or desperate. He sensed I just wanted to drive the car.

Job seekers try too hard when they badger recruiters or potential employers before the game has begun. When a recruiter says give it three days, then give it a three days. Don’t call a day after asking about the hiring progress. Same goes for hiring managers.

On the flip-side, there are hiring authorities who aren’t as responsive as they should be. If they haven’t responded as they said they would after three days, give it two days after that to touch base.

One of my customers recently landed a job. The company said they would get back to him with a final decision in a couple of days. One week later crickets. Finally they gave him the good news. Sometimes employers get busy and can’t follow through on their promise.

Their résumé isn’t full of superfluous crap. One thing my car salesman could have done is pontificated about his sales record, which he said was quite good when I asked him. One of the biggest pet peeves of hiring managers is wading through résumés with a bunch of cliches and fluff, as well as irrelevant duty statements.

As I’ve said before, what sells are accomplishment statements. I recently read a client’s résumé and politely told her that words like “result-oriented,” “top performer,” “outstanding,” etc., added absolutely no value to her performance profile.

Further, she listed duty statements that made the résumé  look like a grocery list. I told her this and talked about how accomplishment statements can paint a picture of how well she did her job, as well as what she can offer employers.

The next time we met, she showed me her new résumé. What a difference between the former version and the new one. Sometimes job seekers try too hard to sell themselves by listing everything they’ve done. In many cases, less is better.

They don’t bombard you with their personal commercial. My car salesman merely walked up to me, extended his hand and told me his name. I told him I was only interested in driving a car. So he retrieved the key for the car I wanted to drive.

He did not jump into a sales pitch about the benefits of the car. He knew I didn’t want to hear it. Instead, he did exactly as I asked him to. One very important component of the job search is listening.

The point is that he didn’t try to sell the product from the start. Treat your personal commercial the same way; make small talk before launching into who you are and what value you deliver to employers.

They know when to stop talking. One of the largest problems job candidates have is not knowing when to put on the breaks. They don’t know when to stop talking about their greatness, or worse they go on and on about their greatest weakness.

I recall a time when my father was buying a car. A young salesman who was a wiz at knowing the cars on the lot. The problem was that he was programmed like a robot to give a dissertation on the cars. When my father told him to stop talking about the car in question, the salesman refused. My father didn’t buy the car.

What many job candidates don’t realize is that interviewers have an agenda; they have a number of questions they need to ask. By talking too much and act like you’re selling a product, you run the risk of irritating the interviewers.

Further, the people you may be working with will get the sense that you talk too much. I personally get irritated when colleagues dominate airspace and keep me from doing what needs to get done. When colleagues do this, it’s as if they are selling themselves.


The bottom line is that to be successful in your job search you need to be a salesperson like mine. He read the situation and didn’t try to push the product.

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