Do these lines from job applications sound familiar to you?

“I want to develop my skills in interpersonal communication…”

“My objective is to gain experience in the industry…”

“I have a strong work ethic and I enjoy teamwork…”

This is how the typical applicant goes about presenting themselves to prospective employers, both in their letters and during the interview – if they get that far. Most applicants make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about them, and career advisers and how-to articles around the world reinforce this point of view.

Getting a job is really a marketing challenge; you have to reach and sell to your target audience. It’s not about you at all – it’s all about how you can help the prospective employer to achieve their goals. They don’t care what your objectives are and what skills you want to develop, and they know talk about your work ethic and love for teamwork is pretty much obligatory – and if you’re a lazy worker who hates teamwork, they know you’re not going to come out and say it.

So how do you land your next job while all your competitors for the position are sending in autobiographies?

1. Research your target market

The most important step in any marketing process is research, and the most important research is conducted finding out about your target market. In this stage, discover everything you can about your potential employer; information about the company, information about the director or the people in the department most likely to interview you, information about the location, information about their clients. Anything you can find can and will help you, and the deeper you go the better – you can almost guarantee that none of the other applicants will have this advantage.

Call clients, search media archives, use the internet, even just a read through of the company’s website is better than going in blind. Knowing the names and ages of your interviewer’s children is probably getting pretty close to stalking, though, unless they advertise it on the web for some reason – know where to draw the line.

There are two things you want to get from this process. The secondary goal is to gain incidental knowledge that’ll enable you to quickly develop rapport with individuals you’ll be talking to, thanks to your attention to detail. Details that nobody else is mentioning. In any competitive environment, standing out as unique (for good reasons) is a huge benefit – yet everyone insists on doing the same old thing.

The primary goal, though, is to find out what these guys want. As a business, their imperative is to make more money, but the research allows you to find supporting motives to include in your pitch and reinforce it.

2. Form a pitch that sells them the benefits

Take your research and write a letter that, instead of focusing on what you want and how many courses you’ve done, sells yourself as the perfect fit for what they need – how you can make them more money or achieve other goals. In marketing this is frequently called benefits over features, which essentially means that when you explain how something can benefit someone’s life instead of simply listing the things it can do, you will be able to sell it much more easily. The latter provides the potential customer with an idea of what the product is; the former has the customer imagining how great it would be to have the product and plants the seeds of desire.

The company is looking for a user interface designer for their e-commerce site. Their main reason for doing this is because conversions are low and they need to make more sales. Instead of telling them this:

Since finishing my training in web design at XYZ University, I have designed online user interfaces for many clients across the globe. I believe I’m a perfect fit for your needs.

You might say:

I have consistently been able to design e-commerce user interfaces that have resulted in a higher conversion rate than previous iterations in all cases and online shops using my designs have conversion rates over 5% higher than the industry average.

While the example text itself isn’t very polished, the difference in viewpoints is clear: don’t tell them what you’ve done, but what you’re going to do for them.

3. Build a Relationship with the Client

In this case, your potential employer is the client. In the first marketing class I took at university, after the lecturer had finished introducing himself and giving the obligatory life story, he said: Marketing can be defined as building a relationship with your customer.

While I don’t think the man did much with his own advice, that definition has always stuck with me partly because it explained many of my own past, seemingly accidental successes up to that point, and partly because it allowed me to achieve new ones. The single best way to achieve what you need or want to achieve is to build a relationship with someone who can assist you.

This is where some of that research you did – without stalking – can come in handy, but facts aside, you need to be genuine and honest and make an effort to communicate not as interviewee to interviewer, but human to human. It’s the human connections that make the biggest difference.

You might not get every single job you ever apply to just by using this strategy. One thing I can tell you is that you’ll be having far more applications resulting in interviews and interviews resulting in new jobs than before – start measuring your conversion rate!

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