More than 30 years ago my friend Bruce got the call from a potential employer: “Thanks very much for coming in, Bruce. We enjoyed the conversation but we decided to move in a different direction.”
It happens all the time. Almost every available position has a number of interested applicants and typically there’s only one person hired. There’s not much you can do about it other than accept the reality and move on to the next opportunity. Unless you’re like my friend Bruce.
“You made a mistake; you have hired the wrong person,” was his response.
The employer was a Fortune 500 world leader in technology and Bruce was in his late 20s. At the very least it was a bold statement and at worst it could potentially burn a bridge to a possible future opportunity. As determined and engaging as he is now, Bruce had those same traits as a young man entering the workforce. He believed in his ability, he thoroughly understood the position and the requirements, and he knew without a doubt he could succeed.
Perhaps surprisingly, his response led to a lengthy conversation and yet another interview. You guessed it: Bruce got the job.
Just recently, he retired after a stellar career with the company that included numerous promotions and senior level responsibilities.
So how did Bruce turn a no into a yes and go on to enjoy a wonderful career?
First of all, Bruce had a strong sense of his abilities. He thoroughly knew his strengths and weaknesses. In today’s terms we would say he was very self-aware. Throughout his teenage years and early 20s he’d always been a hard worker and he had a knack for sales. Which is to say, he could see where there was a need and he had a solution that fit. He enjoyed the selling process and he had been successful at it. He received lots of positive feedback and believed his sales ability could be the cornerstone for his career.
Secondly, Bruce did exhaustive research on the company he wanted to work for. He knew they were a world leader, and he understood their markets. His application to work for them was no shot in the dark. Rather, it was a clear and concise plan on his part to earn himself a position.
He found the right people to talk to, and he went in confident and knowledgeable, which led to step one: the opportunity for an interview.
Third, he wasn’t afraid to fail. His confidence came from his ability, along with trust that he would find an outstanding sales opportunity with a world-leading company. That’s the kind of attitude that led him to jump in and disagree with the company’s initial assessment of his interview. Those of us involved in selling know that overcoming objections is one of the critical levers in sales success. When Bruce argued his case and won himself another interview, it was all based on a strong belief in himself that overcame the fear of failure. This is one of the critical pieces in successful selling – and in securing a new job.
As a recruiter I interview candidates on behalf of our clients every day. It’s my job to be the initial gatekeeper and assess talent and potential fit as it relates to the position we’re looking to fill. I’ve been at this for a long time, and yet I’m still surprised at how many people who are looking for a new opportunity don’t even come close to pursuing a position like my friend Bruce did early in his career. Significant numbers of people are not self-aware and have not accurately assessed their strengths and weaknesses. That’s dangerous ground when looking for a new career opportunity. Additionally, some people I meet with have done little or no research on the company they hope to work for. This is a clear sign they will not be a good fit. Lastly, even when the opportunity does look like a good fit and they’ve expressed sincere interest, they don’t follow up or display a sense of determination that would propel them to the top of the list.
Most people find themselves looking for a position several times throughout their careers. It’s worth remembering that an accurate assessment of your skills, thorough research on the company you are pursuing, and a focused determination to secure the role are vital keys in moving forward. If necessary, be like Bruce and jump in and boldly state your case. The rewards can be great.