Getting Noticed: A Slightly Different Approach
Qualifications. Achievements. A 4.0 Grade Point Average. Hold on a sec.
Imagine you are looking for a job and you want to know how to write a great cover letter. With the convenience of Google, you can type in “How to write a great/spectacular/awesome/[insert your adjective here] cover letter” and you will get hits on your search. Out of these results, there are many tips and articles that would advise on ‘making an impression’ or ‘standing out’. This is not an uncommon idea: to get hired, you must first get noticed. On most part, this is true. However, the idea of standing out often leaves one feeling the need to impress another by committing dramatic feats in hopes of surpassing all other competition vying for the same job. It involves wowing the recruiter through resume back-flips like listing all the achievements and awards one has accomplished.
This is what conventional knowledge has taught us to do. Make an impression, be impressive, impress.
Conventional knowledge has also taught us that to get the job, we need to “sell ourselves”. Whether it is done in person, through a resume or through a cover letter, the intention is to sell ourselves and convince the other person we are the best for the job. And so we focus on talking about what we did in the past, and what we can do in the future for the company we apply to. In an attempt to persuade the recruiter that we are the best person to pick, we have taken on the role of a salesperson making a sales pitch for ourselves. This is certainly one way to get noticed. But the bigger question is: are you making yourself stand out or are you making a connection?
Let’s imagine the idea of impressing someone through similar tactics in another context. Imagine yourself sitting next to someone you have just met. After brief introductions, the other person starts to talk about nothing but their achievements, awards, and all the impressive things he or she has done. Then that person goes on to talk about things they can succeed in doing in the future. Perhaps you really have sat through a conversation like our made-up scenario here. Or maybe you were the person doing the talking. There is a good chance that at some point in the conversation, you might just tune out (or sense the listener is).
What happened? I don’t know about you, but when I converse with someone who keeps talking about their achievements, I find the impression they are making to be too much. It is excessive, too pushy, too much of a hard-sell. A disconnect occurs.
Yet, this is the same approach we take to presenting ourselves as candidates when looking for jobs. We are taught to make an impression, to stand out, and to do so, we sell ourselves.
As humans, selling is something that comes naturally to us. Ironically though, we do not like to be sold. In fact, we have such a keen sense that allows us to detect when we are being sold something or when someone is trying to make a sale. We see this when we walk into a clothing store. We see this when we walk into time-share presentations. The more selling that occurs, our automatic reaction is to pull away because we do not like to be sold.
We do not like to be sold on a dress, a purse, a watch, food, degree programs, vacation packages…the list goes on. An invitation to obtain more information is better-received. We prefer to make our own decisions, and be invited to do so. More importantly though, we seek connections.
Recruiters, hiring managers, departmental managers, the lady receiving your resume: guess what?
They are humans too.
Yes, it is important to do something that will allow them to remember you. We can tell the other person all about our qualifications, our achievements, our awards, our accolades, our degree, our certifications, and all the other things we think that will add points to our profile. We can point out what makes us amazing in person; we can sell ourselves on paper; we can emphasize the point and try to “close the deal” with follow-up calls and emails. But among all the convincing we do to make the other person like us enough to pick us, are we making a connection?
We can seek to impress and strive to be that ideal candidate. We can focus on front-loading all our qualifications and our impressive stats during our interactions. We can approach other people — recruiters — with the mindset of hoping to get picked. This is a choice that has been presented to us. This is what we have been taught.
But there is another choice: the choice to invite and to share.
We can seek to connect.