HubSpot sales director Ed Barrett offers his tips on approaching a job interview like a salesperson hoping to land a new customer.
Searching for a new job can be tough, not to mention stressful. Changing careers is a big deal and, at times, even the most confident candidate can feel a bit unnerved.
I’ve worked in sales for more than 20 years, so I often look at different life scenarios through the lens of a salesperson (or, in reality, through the lens of ‘what does my customer want?’).
In your search for a new job, you are your own salesperson and your customer is the hiring manager or recruiter. From your cover letter to the initial phone call with a recruiter to a final interview with a hiring manager, these are all opportunities to pitch yourself to a potential employer. So, how can you get better at selling yourself?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when the time is right to look for a new role.
Know your audience
Before you get on the phone with a recruiter or set foot inside the building, you should feel confident in the homework you’ve done to get to know the company, its culture and how you’d be the best fit for the role. While a quick Google search will help you get the basics, the candidates that go deep into search history, finding a small podcast the CEO did years ago or bringing up the values the company believes employees should embody, will always leave a longstanding impression.
There is so much to learn, and being unprepared will make you come across as disinterested. Never underestimate the importance of demonstrating how much you really want the job.
Yes, in sales we have well-oiled elevator pitches but what often leads to a closed deal is the human connection we’re able to make with our potential customers. That connection requires empathy and transparency.
No company wants to hire a robot, so don’t forget to let your personality and passion shine through in any interview. This way, both you and a potential employer will see if your values and work ethic fit well together.
Show, don’t just tell
Every CV or cover letter will say that somebody is a ‘hard worker’, a ‘team player’ or a ‘dedicated and enthusiastic individual’. While these are really important traits to have, your idea of hardworking might be very different from a company’s view of it.
In an interview, regardless of the role, it’s so important to provide specific examples that show the traits listed on your CV.
When I’m interviewing for our team, I want to see real examples that will tell me about you as a salesperson. I ask about a time when you didn’t meet a sales quota, or a customer story about how you used creative problem-solving to tackle a challenge. These are experiential questions.
I then like to ask hypothetical questions such as: ‘What do you do if you are going to miss a deadline for a crucial task that impacts the business performance?’ This requires the candidate to think on their feet and give you an understanding of the principles and framework for decision-making.
Plan for both types of questions by having real-life examples top of mind and think through your decision-making process. Whatever field you’re in, make sure you have evidence to show how great you are.
Some of the most successful salespeople I know have boundless curiosity. They ask lots of questions and are able to find better solutions for a customer, quickly.
Candidates who ask thoughtful questions not only get a better sense of the team and company they are potentially joining, but they are also often seen as strong, inquisitive candidates who will challenge the organisation in the best way possible.
Ask smart questions that open the discussion so that the employer can see how you can add value. Impress an interviewer with thoughtful questions about the competition or a market, such as: ‘What are your thoughts on the acquisition of X by Y? What’s the biggest challenge in executing the sales strategy?’
A question that gives you the opportunity to respond to the interviewer with your own skills and experience is always smart.
Be clear on your value proposition
Just like a sales professional, it’s important to remember your unique selling points related to potential competition. Be employer-focused and know what the interviewer is looking for, then position your own unique value add. Sell your experience, skills, attitudes, learnings, personality and leadership qualities.
Just like a salesperson looks to solve a customer’s problem, look at how you can solve an employer’s problem. Sometimes candidates focus on how they can grow in a new company, and that is important, but both parties need to benefit from the working relationship.
Regardless of the role you’re applying for, there are three key attributes that I always keep in mind: performance, potential and perseverance.
Past performance is often a predictor of future performance, so make sure to give examples of your performance in previous roles. If you were to land this job, what are you capable of achieving in the future?
Tell the interviewer about your potential and how you intend to develop your own skills to reach it.
We all face failure at some point in our careers, so show an employer how you’ve overcome challenges and have persevered in the pursuit of your goals.
By Ed Barrett
Ed Barrett is director of sales at HubSpot and has more than 20 years of sales experience with a focus in business development and online sales development across EMEA and APAC. Barrett’s particular passion lies in helping small and medium businesses compete with the biggest and best through technology.