Subtle point here, but in our ongoing mission to help professionals improve their career management skills, and sell themselves more effectively to employers, we thought we’d quickly mention one aspect of interviewing that doesn’t often get discussed.   Specifically, we’d encourage you to ponder our belief that all job hunters are selling one thing and one thing only: hope.

Sound crazy?  Well, many people would certainly think so, but in studying the interviewing process for years we’ve found that the failure to grasp this basic concept is the root cause of many peoples’ failure to be effective in this critical aspect of the job search process.  What we’re driving at is the reality that when companies offer somebody a job, and commit to paying them a certain salary, the candidate in question hasn’t actually performed a lick of work yet — or made one single tangible contribution to the company’s success.  Instead, the company is making an enormous, expensive buying decision based on nothing more than an intangible HOPE that the individual in question will do something useful in the weeks, months, and years ahead.  As a job hunter, therefore, it is critical to realize that you’re selling an intangible item — a positive vision that lives in the employer’s imagination — as opposed to a tangible item that the interviewer can taste, touch, smell, and/or kick.

Additionally, it goes without saying that employees (unlike other items a company might purchase) can’t be “returned” for their money back — and few job scenarios, outside of contracting or 100% commission opportunities, come with specific, foolproof deliverables tied into the compensation package.

The consequence of this reality is that job hunters should never assume the product (themselves) will simply “sell itself” or that the employer will hire them strictly based on the data showcased on their resume.  Instead, the most effective interviewees are the ones who sell to the interviewer’s imagination, painting vivid pictures of what they’ll be able to accomplish for the employer in the months ahead and making frequent positive statements of what life will be like if the employer brings them on board.  By projecting into the future in this manner, and using evocative and enthusiastic language, job candidates create a compelling perception that they are the ideal person for the job.  Will the perception end up matching reality?  One certainly hopes so, but at this stage, quite frankly, it’s more or less irrelevant — since landing the job is one thing, and keeping the job is a whole different matter…

Lest there be any misunderstanding, too, our comments above aren’t meant to suggest that job hunters should barge into the employer’s office and make all kinds of false promises and grossly hyperbolic statements.  In most cases, however, the candidates we work with lean too far in the opposite direction, focusing on the past, instead of the future, and letting their modesty/fear/shyness prevent them from making the confident, winning statements necessary to get employers excited about hiring them!