A Career Solution from Directioneering

The one skill that all job seekers need in the 21st Century

There has been a lot of talk about the skills that we will need to survive in the future of work. Skills like creativity, problem solving and communication are regularly mentioned. However, in all of these discussions, those offering the advice fail to address the one skill that will be essential to everyone as we negotiate the gig economy and portfolio careers – sales skills.

While sales skills will be vital, this does not mean you’ll need to be a slick salesperson or in the sales industry to survive. Instead, sales skills will be vital in managing and building all types of careers. From the first interaction with a potential employer, you will be presenting your skills, experience and suitability as the best option on the market – you’ll be demonstrating your value and transferable sales skills from the start.

Most job seekers incorrectly assume the person who is recruiting them is an expert, knowing exactly what they are looking for and how to find it. This is just not true.

Most hiring managers recruit very few people each year and are not experienced in working out how your skills match their hiring criteria. They are also often time poor. So, if an application does not stand out from the very beginning, there is a good chance it will be passed over for one that does.

As I said, it is not about being a slick sales person. In fact, some of the best salespeople are naturally  shy people. But there is one thing they are good at – matching what they have with what the customer needs. They are able to explain how what they can supply matches what the customer needs, leaving no room for error or confusion.

Here are 6 tips you can implement to improve your sales skills and land the job you are looking for:

Understand the key selection criteria. Every job has key selection criteria, i.e. the factors, skills and experience the business is looking for when hiring a person. Look at these in detail and reflect on your own experiences in work, study and life to show you meet the criteria – even if it might not seem obvious at first. This is particularly important when you don’t have much practical work experience, as you can draw on hobbies, sports interests, study, volunteering etc. to show you meet the criteria.

This is what the best sales people do. They research their customers, their needs, then apply what they can do to directly match those needs.

Customise your resume and application letter. In sales, you cannot send out the same email pitch to prospective customers. You must personalise each and every one, to make them feel unique and special.

This is the same with your resume and application letter. The biggest mistake most job seekers make is creating one resume and one application letter, which they use for all the roles they apply for. The employer wants to see you are suitable for their role. So, customise your resume to ensure you match your skills to their key selection criteria. Using key words from their advertisement or website will help your resume stand out.

The same applies for the application letter, which should include a short summary of how your application is relevant to their business needs. Show what you can do for them. You should assume they may not read your resume. As such, make sure your application letter makes them want to read it.

Use your networks. Much like how sales people use their network to receive referrals and uncover hidden sales opportunities, you too can use your network to uncover a hidden jobs market. Most jobs are not advertised, with companies relying on friends and professional networks to find employees. So, make sure you let your networks know you are looking for a role, and tap into the networks of your friends and family.

When applying for a job, make use of your network and check out if you have a connection to the company. If not, look for people in your network who have a similar job and connect with them. This will help you better understand the role, the company and the requirements.

Using this information, you will then be able to present answers to interview questions in a way that demonstrates you understand the requirements, and have the skills to succeed in the role.

Rehearse. A good sales person never goes into a meeting without practicing for every eventuality first. And, neither should you. Don’t leave anything to chance. Think about the questions you might be asked at a job interview and write them down. Now, practice answering them. This will keep them top of mind, so you remember to share the information during the interview. This is important as it will help the hiring manager understand how your skills match the job requirements. As an added benefit, it will help you manage your nerves. Practicing means you are better prepared and confident that you are suitable for the role.

Show how your background and experience adds value to the company. When answering questions in an interview, show the employer your features and benefits. In sales terms, a feature is a characteristic or skill you have. A benefit is the value of that characteristic or skill to the employer. Most people make the mistake of only talking about their features during a job interview but you need to spell out the benefits as well. How what you have will make the business better, make them more money, etc. and why that makes you the best person for them to hire.

Follow Up. A sales person would never make a sale without following up. Most customers would either forget or move on. This same principal applies to job interviews. You need to follow up after the interview with an email or phone call to let them know you are interested in the role. This keeps you top of mind. If appropriate, re-summarise your key assets and skills as they relate to them.

This will show the employer you are keen on the role and help you stand out by reminding them why you are the best candidate, particularly if they have interviewed several people after you.

By following these tips, you’ll improve your chances of securing that dream job. But if you want to take your career search to the next level, Two Point Zero can help young people further develop their job seeking skills and learn how to sell themselves to potential employers. To find out more about our career coaching and guidance programs for students, graduates and young people at the start of their careers, click here