Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position

November 6, 2009 at 10:16 am 12 comments

Over the many years I’ve spent as a recruiter, I’ve always maintained that recruiting is actually a consultative sales position. In fact, it’s one of the purest forms of sales that you can imagine. It involves selling a complete intangible – something that you can’t touch or feel, but rather a concept. In the case of 3rd-party (agency) recruiting, each deal is actually a series of multiple intangible sales events. First the recruiter has to sell the concept of using the agency’s search services to a potential client company (an employer with open jobs.) Once they get a signed Fee Agreement with that client company, then the recruiter has to actually go out and find — and then sell that company’s job opportunity to — a person who fits the employer’s specific requirements (a qualified candidate.) If the recruiter is successful in “selling” both of those intangibles, the next goal is to get the two parties in a room together (the interview) and hope they like each other. Essentially, it’s then up to the candidate to “sell themselves” to the hiring authority during that interview. At the same time, that hiring authority must “sell their company” to the candidate so that an offer will be accepted. If that results in the candidate getting hired (a placement), and then the client company actually pays their agreed-upon fee to the agency – then and only then does the recruiter get paid! When you consider how many things can go wrong with such a complicated series of intangible sales events, it’s easy to see how difficult a recruiter’s job can be!

For job-seekers, the principle is essentially the same. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. The process of searching and interviewing for a job is actually a pure consultative sales position. You are “selling” an intangible … yourself! You are selling your experience, your skills, your personality, your talent, and your potential to solve a potential employer’s problems.

So what exactly is “consultative” sales? Describing it is a lot easier than mastering it. Here’s a definition taken from Wikipedia: “Consultative Selling is a selling technique that emphasizes the dialogue between the salesperson and the customer. Before talking product and/or service, the salesperson strives to learn about the customer’s needs, and may even help the customer identify and phrase these needs. Then, instead of delivering a standard sales pitch about a product or service, the salesperson can sell a tailored solution that meets the customer’s needs, using the customer’s language.”

The analogy to job-seeking in today’s market should be obvious. You’re not selling a refrigerator or a car, where the “features and benefits” speak for themselves. (No one gets hired from simply sending a generic résumé.) You are selling a complex intangible – yourself – to someone who has a problem he wants solved! The process should involve a dialogue designed to uncover the needs of the employer you are targeting, and designing a “solution” that will meet those needs. In other words, you should be trying to understand the company’s culture, the specific goals of the job you are looking at, the needs of the hiring authority, and addressing those needs and solving their problems. This involves doing company research, networking with people who may have inside information about the hiring authority and the company, and studying (and mirroring) the language of the job description.

Tailoring your “sales presentation” (your résumé, your cover letter, your phone messages, your emails and ultimately your interview presentation) to specifically address and meet the needs of your “customer” (the employer) and solve their problems will put you miles ahead of your competition for that illusive “sale” – the job!

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , , .

The Power of a Positive Attitude Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeannine Narcisse, Ph.D.  |  November 7, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Hello, Michael!

    The articles on you Blog are so well-written! How did you accumulate so much experience in your field to be able to present such powerful ideas, suggestions, and advice to Job Seekers?



  • 2. Yusoff  |  November 8, 2009 at 10:02 am

    A very comprehensive and holistic approach to the concept of job search. Well done.

  • 3. Laurie Brown  |  November 8, 2009 at 7:26 pm


  • 4. Evon  |  November 8, 2009 at 11:44 pm


    It’s very interesting reading your article, as it is very difficult to explain how different and complex it is from other sales roles. I always think it is really an Art, and involves a lot of communications.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • 5. Ron Grant  |  November 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Enjoyed your article very much especially the consultative selling approach. I have been in corporate household goods transportation sales for 31 years. Since my career began in 1977, I have discovered that there has been a more sophisticated evolution in the purchasing of services. The human resource buyer is looking for solutions, not slick sales pitches.

  • 6. Rob Byrnes  |  November 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you Michael. Excellent article. Very informative and dead on!

  • 7. Tim Fitzsimons  |  November 12, 2009 at 12:45 am

    You hit the job search head on as a consultative sales position. Well done!

  • 8. Warren Davis  |  November 14, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    After over 2 years now of ‘professional job searching’, I am encouraged by your commentary. I have gone down several roads in this journey,and have come to the same conclusion as to the most effective and efficient search methodology.. That is, focus on a select number of target companies, research the hell out of them, and make direct (if no network contacts available/cultivated) and/or indirect (via soft networking contacts) connection with a defined value proposition unique to their enterprise. I believe it is probably the best (although hardest) way to get into a senior level role within an established organization. My personal dilemma is trying to stay focused on it without being swayed into the more easier, common practices of job search (ie too much time on internet sites, with recruiters, networking meetings with other unemployed, etc..)

    Thanks Again,

  • 9. Jesreartole  |  December 13, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Various people talk about this issue but you wrote down really true words!

  • 10. ursulayang  |  December 19, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I am so happy to have found this. It is a great forum.

  • 11. Edward S.  |  January 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Your posts are very informative, flowing and easy to follow, inclusive of many important details, helpful, and refreshing.

  • 12. Roger Charlesworth  |  January 13, 2010 at 3:55 am

    OK. Been an Electrical Engineering Manager for many years. Now, at 69, I am teaching English in China. Plenty of work out here. I am valued. Living is cheap.


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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