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Strategically Selling Your Skills

It’s happened again. You spent 30 minutes or more crafting a great job application. Filled out every field, gotten pumped about the possibility of the job, and dreamed about how you’re going to completely blow them away in the interview.

Only to get this email:

“Thank you so much for your interest in the position with XYZ Company.
 At this time, we have chosen to proceed with other candidates… “


Urgh! What is going on here?

You know you’re good at your job. You were the best on your team at your last company (at least, certainly better than Bob – and he has a new job already!)

WHY is it so hard to convince potential employers of the fact that you are the best candidate out there? Why are you in the trap of canned rejection letters and ghosted applications while everyone you seem to know on social media is landing their next “dream job”

Chances are you are not selling your skills strategically.

What is Strategic Selling?

Stated simply, strategic selling is a sales method of targeting your optimal buyers by identifying who specifically you want to sell to, what their concerns are, and how you are different from the competition. As part of this process, the person who’s the seller (that’s YOU!) needs to identify what the needs, wants, and desires are of the buyer (that’s the company you are applying to).

Related: This Big Mistake is Holding You Back

You need to share information about your product in a way that’s going to highlight your best features that meet their needs and communicate how you’re different from the competition.

In this scenario, you are the salesperson, and your product is the skills and ability that you can bring to the job. However, too many people don’t take the time to fully understand their customers and thus don’t “get the sale” (e.g. the Job).

Why You Need to Strategically Sell Your Skills

Don’t like the sales analogy? Think about it this way – when was the last time you went into an interview, sat down at a desk, and did you job quietly while being observed and graded by the interviewer? Never? Me neither.

As part of the interview process, we do a lot of talking about the job, its requirements, and your qualifications. But rarely do we show our work!

The thing is, if your resume is selected to move forward in the process, the person who’s reading it makes assumptions based on your skills that you are a decent fit for the role. Without knowing much about you at all.

How did they make that assumption? Because you, more than 95% of other applicants, had the best strategic sales pitch of why you’re one of the best candidates. How did you do that?

Assuming that you don’t have a referral, you are most closely match what they’re looking for.

Let’s do another analogy…

Think about the last time you bought a car. You have identified your needs that must to be fulfilled by a car, so you start looking. But you’re not just looking for any car right? You need it to do certain things that preselect what kind of cars your going to consider (how many people are in your family, where you live, cost, preferences). This narrows down your selection criteria. You’re not going to Google “car”. You’re Googling “mid-range SUV”.

Likewise, job posters have identified the needs of their organizations at a high level. They’re not just looking for “marketer” – it’s too broad. They’re going to advertise for “content specialist” or “demand generation manager”, etc, to narrow the field based on immediate need, future goals, budget, and what their current staff is capable of doing.

In our car search – even the words “mid-range SUV” generate over 20 different potential options. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to test drive all of those! So, we narrow down the criteria some more to get as close to an exact match as possible.

Job posters do the same thing. They don’t have time to interview every applicant so they create a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves that they conveniently put into their job posting. The top 5% or so that closely match that requirement get to go to the interview – which is the job test drive. Like test driving a car, the interview’s job is to weigh pro’s and con’s of each candidate based on the minute differences between them – and abilities typically don’t have much to do with decisions at this point. Instead, we’re thinking about how you can work in our office, with our teams, and move us forward.

How to Strategically Sell Your Skills

As we’ve already covered, you are not able to show how good you are as a candidate for a job. But you are able to talk about your skills, and what you’ve achieved with them in the past and how you can put them to use in the future.

The most common way we talk about our skills is by listing them on our resumes. However, most people don’t double check to make sure that the skills they have listed are a keyword match for what the employer is looking for – which dilutes your impact.

Secondarily, since we can’t show our work to the employers, we have to talk about how we utilized our skills to do impressive things in our past and related it to their future. Again, most people don’t think about their experiences as a way to strategically sell their skills within their experiences. Either they leave their skills out entirely OR the don’t explicitly state how those experiences impacted their previous employers.

Using our car anology, this is the difference:

“This SUV is safe” vs “You can trust this SUV to protect you and your loved ones in an accident”.

Which are you going to hire?

Competitive Differences

This is the easy one. Most people when thinking about strategically selling their skills forget that their personalities, motivations, and interests are an important part of the skills that they can bring to a job. So they either forget to talk about those things or get so bogged down in formality that their personality gets lost along the way.

Branding is important, because it sets up competitive differentiation between you and the other applicants. When it comes to strategically selling your abilities, you NEED to be memorable.

The fun part about this is that it’s authentically you. Are you a funny person? Use it. Curious? Competitive? Great. A fan of the industry or company? Call it out.

At the end of the day, strategically selling your skills is how you can rise above the rest by putting though and care into your candidacy. Is it a bulletproof way to get the job? No – because at best you are making an educated guess at what a company is looking for in an employee. But if you don’t learn to strategically sell your skills, you are only making it harder on yourself.

Need help on crafting your brand and strategically selling your skills? Coach Alison can help. Go to to learn more

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