When a Firm Handshake isn’t Enough

Today’s job market is flooded with job applicants looking for new or better employment, and I mean flooded.  LinkedIn alone facilitates more than 44,000 job applications each day.  That’s 16 million job applications in one year!  And don’t forget about applications on other job search websites like,, and  Let’s face it, you’re up against some TOUGH competition.  There are thousands of individuals with the same education, same motivation, and same work-ethic as yourself, and they’re all vying for employment in the same job market.  What are you doing to stand out?  Will you be noticed by your dream employer?

Let’s talk advertising.  The fact is, you’ve got to sell yourself.  You need to become a salesman fluent in the language that best describes you.  Don’t worry, this needn’t be the nauseating, self-agrandizing type of salesmanship.  Remember, there are good salesmen and there are bad salesmen–sometimes the best salesmen are the most subtle and honest.  So if you’re not going into sales, how do you learn to become a salesman?

First, know your product.  The first thing a salesman does is learn the product he’s selling inside and out.  Potential customers like to ask a lot of questions, and as it turns out, they tend to know quite a bit more about what they want in a product than the salesman does.  It’s time to think very critically about who you are as a person and how your experience is beneficial to your target career.  Oh, but you’re a recent college graduate and haven’t accomplished much?  What about your work ethic–did you efficiently accomplish assignments faster than the rest of class? Talk about that.  What about that time you creatively developed a new work-around for a structural problem in your architecture class?  It may have happened in an educational environment, but that’s a big deal, and you need to allow that innovation to characterize who you will be in the professional workplace.  Stop overusing the hum-drum words tells you to use, like ‘motivated’, ‘creative’, and ‘responsible’–everybody in the market for your dream job is those things.  Start using more nuanced words like ‘novel’ or ‘wholistic’ to describe yourself and your work–not only are you composing an accurate description but you’re exhibiting the ability to think about yourself more comprehensively.

The second thing you should know about sales is that a good salesmen knows how to read a customer.  You might be applying for the same job with the same general requirements at 8 different companies, but I promise you each company’s actual hiring criteria is slightly different, as are the hiring managers themselves.  You need to home in on what those criteria are.  Find out what kind of person the last gal who filled the position was.  See if you can figure out who the hiring manager is.  Do some research on the atmosphere in the actual office in which you would be working.  If you pay attention you should pick up on small subtleties you can use to adapt to your resume/interview/correspondence.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t sell…Inspire.”  Success as a salesman is ultimately reliant on one’s belief and dedication to his or her product.  These days it is not enough to merely ‘get your resume out there’.  You’ve got tough competition, and if you want to walk away with your dream job you’ve got to believe in yourself and the benefits you will bring to the team.  For some this might mean a few extra minutes before an interview spent meditating on your past, your goals, and your purpose.  Prepping your mind and spirit with these kinds of reminders has been clinically proven to benefit the outcome.  For others it might require some honest, deep soul searching to really determine what you’re about.  Many times when going into an interview folks will pass on the encouragement, “Just be yourself!”  If you have legitimate doubts about your work-ethic, integrity, or discipline, “just being yourself” might not come off very well to a hiring manager!

Here’s an idea: make yourself better! Do you think you need more discipline? Perhaps you should smile more? Don’t try to cover your shortfalls with more adjectives or force a fake smile to a new contact; find out what you need to do to be better.  Make yourself a genuinely better person who you actually believe in.  After a while you’ll be able to walk into an interview with ease, knowing that your are the best candidate for the job.

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