One of the great benefits of using recruiters during your job search is that they are some of the world’s best salespeople. As soon as I start talking to one of them about a position I’m actually interested in, I’ll ask, “So what did you like about my background?”
This question is actually “magical” across the board in all interview situations, as we will demonstrate later. It will cause most interviewers to give you valuable information they might have never mentioned otherwise. Recruiters, as a group, almost never hesitate to answer this question.
Since they have little resistance, they are a great group to start practicing on. I’d strongly suggest getting in the habit of asking this question each time you speak to a recruiter for the first time. This will start them down the path of telling you a narrative about yourself.
Their story will likely be different from the one you tell yourself and others about your skills and background. That’s not a problem. Actually, it’s wonderful! Listen to their story and pay attention to where their version of the narrative sounds better than yours.
If for any reason you don’t like the idea of telling a story, check out the book All Marketers are Liars, by Seth Godin. Seth is an incredibly famous marketing expert, with an amazing track record working for Fortune 500 companies and is also known for his high ethical standards.
In his book, he explains that facts never really sell a product (goods, services, or candidates). Stories are what actually compel people to buy, and good stories are certainly better than bad ones!
Here is where the exponential power of this little trick applies. Let’s say you strike up a good conversation with a recruiter and he places you on three phone prescreen interviews at three companies. Let’s also assume that one of those phone interviews leads to a follow-up interview. That’s five opportunities to ask HR professionals, “So what did you like about my background?” You will at least hear five different narratives about how people directly involved in the hiring process see you as a candidate.
Each story will help you build a stronger and more powerful narrative about yourself. If a single recruiter contact can allow you to reasonably practice this exercise five times, then three recruiter contacts could allow you to do it fifteen times. That’s a lot of opportunities to “rinse, wash, and repeat!”
Every time you interview you’ll be asked questions about your background, and you will invariably get practice telling your own story. The more you do this, combined with the feedback gained from the technique outlined in this article, the better you will get at it, and the better you are at telling your story, the better you will be at selling yourself.
There are no two ways about it. They are inexorably connected. For those not well versed in the formal techniques of sales and marketing, this is a very natural and unintimidating way to learn to sell yourself better and greatly improve your future prospects.
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