Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Standout Applicant: A Sales Approach

William Arruda in one of his articles stated that “if you position yourself as merely qualified, you are merely a commodity – interchangeable with everyone else who ticks the boxes next to the roles core competencies.”

How then do you ensure that you are not like “everyone else” – a mere commodity that can be interchanged? How do you stand out as the best applicant the interviewing panel has ever seen or will ever see? You might know that you are the perfect person for this job – how do you get them to also know this?

A sales person sells their way through to get the customer to make a purchase decision. Join me as I walk us through the sales approach that would ensure you become a standout applicant.

Get Out There and Be Seen:
The first step in being a standout applicant is for you to position yourself in such a way that makes it easy for recruiters to discover you. Steuart Henderson Britt, it was, who said “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”  LinkedIN has been found to be a very good resource used by recruiters to search for candidates. Get a LinkedIN profile which is properly filled out with all the required information that would sell you to a prospective recruiter. The profile picture on your LinkedIN profile should be a “headshot” that would show you as being professional. The summary section of the profile should market you as a high performer, by using action words that showcase your accomplishments. Ask key people in your career journey to write a LinkedIN recommendation for you. These could be from school, a course you attended or where you have worked or currently working. These recommendations should showcase your contribution or impact in previous roles. Having a complete LinkedIN profile is good. To make the profile great, you need to search our networks in the field or sector where you would like to work and start connecting with people in that sector. These connections would help refer you for a job when the need arise for one who has your kind of qualification and experience.

Marketing Toolkit:
The second step in this journey of being a standout applicant is for you to create a CV and cover letter that would catch the attention of a recruiter anyday anytime. Every recruiter is looking to see how a candidate would add value to their organization. Your CV should capture your accomplishments – how you impacted people by your work. If you have never worked in a formal organization, showcase how you impacted people in a school project or volunteer assignment. Do not have a one size fits all cover letter. Your cover letter should be tailored to address the challenge the organization is trying to solve by filling the role advertised. Make a connection between the needs of the organization and your specific skills and accomplishments. You can only know how to do this, if you have adequately researched the company. This will definitely set you apart from the other candidates applying for similar role.

It’s all about the perception:
The third step in our journey to being a standout applicant is for you to make a lasting positive first impression. When you finally get invited for an interview, be on time at the interview place. Be extremely nice and polite to every person you meet at the company from the security man, to the cleaner and the receptionist. You might be shocked that the person you met at the security post is the one to interview you. If you had been rude to the person, you would have left a lasting wrong/negative first impression that would cost you the job. Dress appropriately for the interview. Find out how people dress in the company before the interview day and ensure that your dressing is not out of order. This will show that you can rightly fit in. I had once interviewed a candidate who dressed exactly the way we dress on Monday’s – white shirt with a certain color necktie. The candidate blended so well that you could mistake him for an employee. When introducing yourself to the interview panel, make eye contact, smiling and stating your first and last name. If a handshake is extended, make it firm and brief. Mirroring the behavior of your interviewer would also help you build a strong connection – e.g. display of high energy or calmness depending on the behavior exhibited by your interviewer.

Wow the panel and kill the interview:
The fourth step in our journey to being a standout applicant is to wow the interview panel and kill the interview with your sales pitch. You can only do this if you have done your homework. Dig deeper and learn so much about the company and the job role by engaging with people who work there. Follow the company on LinkedIN, Twitter and any other social media just to know what is going on there. Also check out the latest news about this company online and in newspapers, if you are able to lay your hands one. This extensive knowledge of the company and the job role will come handy in responding to the interviewer’s questions. Use the STAR method to respond to interview questions. Describe the Situation and/or Task you were required to complete in order to provide the interviewer with a background, then move on to spend more time describing the Action YOU took to address the challenge and the outcome of your action (Result). Do not be afraid to seek clarification when you are asked a question you do not understand. This will enable you get clarity and provide an appropriate answer.

The Power of Follow Up:
Like every sales person, after a day or two of making your sales pitch you need to follow up, and thank the interviewer for the opportunity to listen to you during the interview. This could go a long way in keeping you in the mind of the interviewer. Send a thank you email to the recruiter. However, if you were able to get the names of the interviewer(s), you could try and connect with them on LinkedIN. When they accept your connection, you can send a thank you message, but please ensure that you do not stalk them, else you will become irritable. I saw a quote used by friends of mine at Resources Intermediaries, which I find very apt here. The summary of this fifth tip is that you should “be the one who came back to say thank you”.

I look forward to reading your comments, and/or answering any question(s) you might have on this issue.


  1. Great piece.. It's spot on. However, I wouldn't want to follow up on an Interview except the Recruiters contact me or we have a pre-interview relationship.

    I hope fresh graduates would read and learn from this.
    Thank you

  2. Yes this is absolutely the kind of information job hunters need. Powerfully and skillfully disseminated. Great work sir

    1. Thank you Abimbola. I am glad that this piece resonated with you.

  3. This is very insightful and I must add that I have been going about my job hunt the wrong way. Thank you sir for sharing.

  4. LinkedIn is not your new facebook

  5. Thank you for this insight, it will help me in a long way too