Even the most successful businesspeople may find selling themselves to a prospective employer both uncomfortable and daunting. However, if you follow the below guidelines of: getting back to basics, putting the work into networking, following up and not giving up, then you will be on your way to your next great job.
Getting back to basics
Let’s start at the very beginning. It may have been a while, but preparing a CV and cover letter to assist in your personal selling effort is all about going back to basics.
In my opinion, no CV need be longer than four pages; two is ideal. After four pages you must be repeating job descriptions from the last century. Most job titles will let a recruiter know what you did, so focus on achievements rather than responsibilities. This is about selling. A Masters Degree and 10 years’ experience in FMCG are features. The role of the CV and cover letter is to demonstrate benefits.
Don’t assume a reader knows that Evans and Smith are a boutique brass doorknob manufacturer in Spain. A brief one-line description that identifies industry, size by employees, turnover or market cap is helpful to the reader.
When you write the cover letter, address it! If the recruiter has included a name in their advertisement, don’t write “To whom it may concern”. Spell their name correctly. Use spell check, and get a helpful partner or colleague to check for grammar and plain old common sense.
Tailor your cover letter for the advertised role. It should be short and to the point, and not repeat what is in your CV. Focus on what you can contribute and the reason you should be considered, not just what you have done before. Also, tailor the CV if necessary. I recently saw a CV for a role with a client that proclaimed their interest in general management when the advertised role was consulting!
Remember that recruiters or potential employers may Google you! So make sure that any photos are flattering rather than incriminating and that social networking sites like Linkedin are up to date, and consistent with your CV.
Finally, some attention to detail. I don’t need to give fashion tips here, but this is the time to look, and feel your best. And be on time. You may be meeting people who have busier schedules than you do, so arrive early.
Put the work into networking
The statistics vary, but the generally accepted wisdom is that most jobs are not advertised. Most roles are filled by internal promotion, or by word of mouth. Unless obliged by policy, only after that does an organisation invest in search or advertising to fill roles. Networking is simply the opportunity to meet and engage (personally or online) with those who you know, or know of, that may help you on your way. But there are two things to keep in mind.
The first is to be positive, Use networking as an opportunity to learn, seek advice and socialise. It is not an opportunity to smear the reputation of the organisation that chose to “let you go”. That is not constructive.
The second thing is to be helpful. Yes, you are seeking them out, but approach the opportunity from the perspective of how you can help others. How can you assist with others needs and challenges or provide introductions through your connections?
Opportunities for networking are boundless. Start with family and friends, ex-colleagues and clients, suppliers or business partners, your club, church or school, then expand your network with referrals to those who your contacts are willing to refer you to on the basis of your interest.
The follow-up process
Would you like to supercharge your employment prospects? Follow up. This will put you in a minority. If it is possible with an application, the optimal approach, just like many effective sales initiatives, is to phone, mail then phone.
An initial phone call does two things: it will help you clarify with the recruiter whether the role may be right for you and if it is worth your time and effort applying. It will also put your name top of mind with the recruiter. They will respect the fact that you are seeking to qualify the opportunity and that saves time for everyone. That is a good foundation if you do proceed.
After the application is sent, allow about a week and call again. You can simply confirm that the application has been received, or make a fair enquiry as to the likely process and timeframe for progressing your application. The recruiter may already have started to form opinions, and may have commenced interviewing. As a result, their questions may be more specific, and relevant to you. This is an opportunity for you to present the reasons you applied for the role, and the benefits you would bring.
Until you are formally advised otherwise, follow up. A recruitment process can take twists and turns, a favoured candidate may decline, business events interrupt timeframes, so don’t assume no news is bad news. But avoid being a stalker. Repeating the follow-up every two days annoys recruiters, and is soul destroying for you.
Don’t give up (but make sure you do something else!)
Even after applying all of this advice–your shoes are clean, you turn up on time, you spell and pronounce the recruiter’s name correctly–you will receive rejection letters, and silence. And yet the job was perfect for you, you have relevant experience, you know that you can create a lot of value, your referees would shout your praise, and this is the next perfect step in your career.
But that is your perspective not theirs. You will rarely receive feedback for a rejection, although you should feel free to ask if you have succeeded in having an interview, or multiple phone calls. At this point, the process can be discouraging and my advice is to press on. Don’t give up. You are exactly the right person for a smart organisation, and they will rejoice the day you joined them! Keep that faith. So follow up and don’t give up. But in the meantime, make sure you do something else!
Take a break, take up golf or volunteer. A busy person is more employable, for the same reason we are attracted to full cafes rather than empty! Pursue your job-seeking tasks diligently. Naturally you should consider your career options. Is this the time to start a business, study, change career, or move?
To summarise, the lessons of professional selling can be applied to selling yourself in a recession. So what are you waiting for?
–John Huggart is managing director of Sales Positive (www.salespositive.com.au), management consultants that work as partners with clients to achieve sales effectiveness and fast, sustainable growth.
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