How to Sell Yourself in the Job Search: The Preapproach
After you've identified your job search "target market" through prospecting and qualifying, you're ready to enter the preapproach stage of personal selling and do more focused background research.
"Once a prospect has been identified and is qualified as a good fit for your product or service by meeting whatever criteria your organization determines makes a qualified prospect, it's time to do some preapproach legwork," said Steven Benson, CEO of Badger Maps, a sales routing tool for field salespeople. "The key is that you don't want to invest in doing a preapproach with a prospect that is not qualified to be approached."
'Discover' People, Companies and More
Jerry Acuff, CEO of the sales consulting firm Delta Point, Inc., pointed out the preapproach involves "discovery" and other activities necessary to prepare for an interview.
"I want to discover all I can about the manager, the company, the industry, the role, other people I might know there, customers of the company and any information I can get on the Internet on the senior leadership's view of the strategy, vision, etc.," Acuff explained. "I also want to prepare for the interview by preparing questions, preparing my responses to expected questions and my reasoning as to why I might be perfect for this opportunity. That is exactly the same process a great sales person goes through in preparing for a sales call."
Taking the second stage of the personal selling process seriously can make a job interview less stressful for a candidate, Acuff continued. "The more prepared we are the better we are likely to come across," he said. "We will know more, we will ask better questions and we will be more prepared to respond to questions from the interviewer."
A well-executed preapproach can also enhance the experience for those conducting the interview, Acuff added. "Interviewers and hiring managers far prefer someone who has done his/her homework before an interview," he said. "It demonstrates that this is important to you and it says a lot about how you will prepare in any role you might be selected for."
Honestly assessing your professional contact list is also a smart move during the preapproach, said Amy Perrone, founder and career advisor with the individual and business coaching firm CreateYourDestiny.com.
"The preapproach is the optimal time to review your network," Perrone said. "What are its strengths and weaknesses? Given your current career goals, where are the holes that need to be plugged? Identify people or professional associations that you want to add to your network. Attend professional events to get to know people. Then start to cultivate your network."
If the idea of networking is daunting to you, Perrone said that a career coach can ease you out of your comfort zone and help you to develop a strategy for filling gaps in your network.
"If you don't know how, hire a pro who can help guide you," continued Perrone. "Creating a strong and purposeful network is the best investment of your time. It's who you know, not what you know, that significantly increases the probability of you being offered a job."
Much of the legwork involved in the preapproach demands that you look externally – for company details, industry facts and individuals with whom to network. Perrone pointed out that an inward focus actually makes up a much larger share of this personal selling stage.
"Most job-seekers focus externally on identifying potential employers and positions," Perrone said. "That's a small part of the preapproach."
In fact, Perrone said that you should be able to answer the following questions before concluding the preapproach:
- Am I willing to relocate? – Answering this question helps to define the geographical limits of your search.
- Is my family willing to relocate? – Confirming at an early stage that your family is truly willing to move will greatly ease the transition if you actually get a job offer that requires relocation.
- Who am I? – Perrone said that knowing your personal brand, your "why," your "how" and what drives you will help you to align positions and companies with your personality, values, leadership style and other factors.
- Where am I going, and what's my direction? – Answering these questions will help you to pursue your professional goal with clarity and purpose, said Perrone.
- How desperate am I? – "Look for a job that matches your values, allows you to be you and is highly satisfying," said Perrone. She added that research shows people who switch jobs just for greater compensation often have lower job satisfaction and will soon seek another position.
"Clarity is the key to all phases of your job search," said Perrone. "Before you start contacting companies and recruiters, spend time on getting clear on who you are, what you are looking for, where you're going and how you're going to get there. Success comes from clarity. Success comes from a clear plan of action that's executed."
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