Are You the Buyer or the Seller?

handshake

You’re both at the table. The small talk has begun. One of you is hiring for an open position, the other is seeking to find a job. If we think in terms of consumerism, which one of you is the buyer in this situation? Which the seller?

Let’s examine this from both perspectives. In today’s economy, one might say that it’s a “buyer’s market.” We’ve heard stories about there being more homes for sale than people out looking to buy, and retailers slashing prices. And in the job market, there are fewer jobs than there are people seeking those jobs. But still, at the interview table, who is the buyer, and who is the seller?

The answer? Both of you.

What are You Buying and Selling?

The Hiring Organization:

  • You are buying talent. You’ve done your homework and have prepared your job description based on desired competencies. Now you’ve got to buy the skills and characteristics needed to fill the role. You are buying execution – a person who can get the job done and help your organization meet its bottom line.
  • You are selling your entire organization. You are selling that your organization is the place to work and will be inclusive of the applicant’s values. Your offer entails a compensation/benefit package and career growth opportunities built to recruit & retain new employees.

The Job Seeker:

  • You are buying a job. You are buying a role that challenges you and provides you a salary. You are buying a “home” that you may spend more time in than the home you rent or pay a mortgage on. You are buying a boss you can relate to, a team you can work with, and an organization whose mission and values you consent to.
  • You are selling your skills and your experiences. You are selling the knowledge you’ve gained from school, work, and life. You are selling a fresh perspective and your willingness to join or lead the team to get the job done.

It’s a Buyer’s Market
You’re still at the table. You’re having the conversation, a mutual exchange of questions and answers as you discover what you each have to offer. Just remember, it’s a buyer’s market. And you’re both buyers.

We Can Learn Much from Our Children about Interviewing

Recently, I had the enjoyable experience of baking holiday cookies with my 6 year old son. Logan announced happily that he was my “assistant chef at the cookie factory” and that he is “much better than last year, because now I can do everything but crack the eggs.” Logan described his ability to measure, double a recipe, and stir large amounts of ingredients.

Within the hour, Logan decided to promote himself to governor of Minnesota, where we live. He introduced himself to me, and announced that he was “inspecting all businesses in Minnesota, to see if they are doing ok,” and then proceeded to make sure that I had clean hands, a clean oven, and then went to check on his father who was working on a remodeling project in our home. He promptly announced that his father was building a larger cookie factory, and that he better clean up his tools so no one at the cookie factory gets hurt.

The interviewing part comes in next. Logan announced that it was time for elections. “Oh, are you running for governor again?”, I asked. “Nope. I already did that job. Now I am going to be president of the United States!” With a big smile, I asked, “Well, I am glad to see you’ve got ambition, Governor Logan. Tell me, why do you think people should vote for you?”

Logan’s immediate reply made my mouth fall open, as it’s smooth and authentic delivery was something many adults strive for in the interview process. Logan declared, “Well, I think people should vote for me because I am nice to everyone, and I know how to help them with their jobs and their houses. Also, I used to work in a cookie factory, so I can bake cookies for everyone and they will have something good to eat.” I laughed out loud, looked at my husband and said, “Well, that sounds better than a lot of reasons I’ve heard to vote for someone.”

The conversation ran through my head several times, and I reflected that what Logan had done was successfully navigate through an interview! Here are some lessons that resonated from Logan’s conversation with me:

1. Tell the Story:
Logan was able to tell a story about why he was visiting the “cookie factory”, and what his job was as governor, in addition to why he should be elected President. What is your story? Why do you want the job you are applying for right now? Recently I asked a friend why she was interviewing for a job with a healthcare company. She told me a story of how as a child, she was often ill, and remembered all of the paperwork and appointments her parents went to, and that they were often confused about payments and procedures. She determined that she wanted to work in healthcare “to help others feel more comfortable about their health situations.” What a great story to share on an interview!

2. Know What You Have to Offer:
Logan simply stated what he could offer: being nice to people, help with businesses, and cookies. When going on an interview, how prepared are you to discuss your strengths, what you are good at, and what you can offer the prospective employer? It is more than knowing you can make cookies; it is knowing that you can offer a tangible result, such as, “people will have something good to eat.”

3. Connect Your Experiences:
Logan was able to tie in a seemingly unrelated job of his work at the cookie factory with a way to use those skills in his new role as President. These days, the average person has 10 careers over a lifetime, and it is likely that they may be from different industries or using opposite skill sets. How can you tie the lessons learned in each of your work experiences, so they may add to your story? How do those experiences help you do a better job today?

4. Be Genuine:
The enthusiasm Logan shared for his ambition to be President, complete with his belief that he was right for the job could only bring a smile to an interviewer’s face. An interview is a conversation with another person about what you would like to do as an employee or consultant in the organization. Being able to answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” by using tips 1-3 above will go a long way in getting a potential employer to see how you are unique from other candidates.

While Logan has never really worked in a cookie factory, nor served as governor, I have faith that his ability to communicate his skills and ideas at age 6 will serve him well into adulthood.

Suddenly, I am hungry for a cookie.

You Must Be…

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an adage many in the United States grew up hearing from parents, teachers, and other community members.

Simply put, it means that one should not assume to know something about a person, place, or thing just by appearances. As business professionals, as parents, as community members, how would you give feedback to the person making assumptions in each of the stories below?

Consider a situation involving a car accident. A young college student and her boyfriend were driving home from the beach when they were struck from behind by another vehicle while waiting at a red light. According to state law, both vehicles pulled into a nearby parking lot and waited for law enforcement to arrive.

The officer on the scene approached the young couple and the older woman. Turning to the young couple, the officer asked, “How fast were you going when you hit this lady?” The couple was forced to explain twice that they had NOT been drinking, and were, in fact, struck from behind by the other woman. The woman drove a high priced car and was dressed to attend a wedding, and the young couple were wearing bathing suits.

Assumption: Because the couple is young, drive an older car, and are in bathing suits, they must be the cause of the accident, not the well-dressed older woman in the Cadillac?

Another situation involves the real estate industry. A couple had purchased a new home, but had to wait to move in until the Parade of Homes (a home tour show that lets prospective buyers preview houses built by a variety of builders) was over, and people were done viewing their new home. Two weeks prior to moving into the home, as the couple was packing, and suddenly realized that they had no idea what window treatments in their new home would be like. They drove to their soon-to-be new home without bothering to change clothes. (They were wearing their old jeans and T-shirts.)

Upon entry to their new home, the couple greeted the realtor who was showing the home to prospective buyers. When the realtor finished speaking with another couple, she turned to the soon-to-be owners and said, “Hi there. We have great floor plans here, and we can definitely show you smaller, more affordable options to better suit your budget!” The couple took delight in letting the realtor know that indeed, they were not interested in smaller houses as they were the new owners of this particular house.

Assumption: Because of the clothes the couple was wearing, they must not be able to afford such a house?

Let’s bring assumptions to the job search. What do you say to the recruiter who, upon hearing you speak, asks, “Where are you from?” You may say, “Oh, I live in Minnesota, but I am originally from Wisconsin.” The recruiter says, “No, really? With a name like yours and a voice that sounds like yours, I figured…you must be from somewhere else.” Does the person tell the recruiter that he/she was named after a parent’s dear friend, and that the voice sounds that way due to a hearing loss, which often affects the voice?

Assumption: A person with a name that is most commonly associated with Spanish or French speaking cultures and also has a voice that doesn’t sound “midwestern”, must be “from somewhere else”?

Please send your comments and feedback regarding each of the above scenarios. What are your thoughts about how we can solicit professionals to practice the art of inquiry before assumption? How do we monitor ourselves? What do you do when you hear yourself or another thinking or saying, “You must be…” about someone else?

The Early Bird Gets the…Job?

Creating a well-written resume and cover letter are not the only tools needed to get noticed by recruiters today. These days, there may be hundreds of applications for a single opening. Recruiters and hiring managers often cannot review each application that comes through the door. Job search sites such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Careerbuilder.com are displaying a new trend.

You may be surprised to find out that some jobs are posted to a job search site for mere hours before expiring. Employers set a limit at gathering the first X amount of resumes that meet basic qualification criteria, and once they do, the job requisition is closed down to further applicants. On a recent interview, I was told that there had been 155 applicants to the job in the first three days, and only EIGHT people were selected to interview. How can job applicants beat this cutoff for applications?

1.) Apply right away to jobs that pique your interest and match your skills. This may seem like common sense, but I know several colleagues who have waited three, four, even seven days to post for a job while they “think about how to best approach the position.” By this time, the job may be removed from postings.

2.) Set up email alerts that send an email to your inbox each time there are jobs matching your profile. This way, you will get the information quickly, and can respond promptly.

3.) Not all job postings go to the big job search engines. If there are specific companies that you are targeting, make it a practice to check those websites two or three times a week to see if new listings are posted. Some company websites also have email alert capabilities.

4.) Get your internal referrals lined up ahead of time. For example, if you have a friend who will be an employee referral for you at ABC Corporation, get his/her information ahead of time, so that when a job opens up in your area, you can apply right away and use the employee referral. Many times, colleagues reach out to their internal contacts when they see a job posting, asking that person if they can use him/her as a referral; this may cause a 24-48 hour delay if the person is not able to respond right away.

There is no substitute for a well-written resume and cover letter. The same rules still apply there; grammar, spelling, and a clear picture of the person’s qualifications are necessary. However, today’s job market proves the old adage correct: the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the interview that could lead to a job.