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Confession: I love the show Shark Tank. Love it. I’m way too entertained by all aspects of business and entrepreneurship – and Shark Tank indulges my obsessions brilliantly.
While enjoying a lovely Friday night with dinner, a bottle of wine, and the latest episode of Shark Tank, I saw one of the contestants make a mistake that job seekers make all the time.
The contestant had a pretty good idea for hand-painted, chocolate covered pretzels. I won’t go into the specifics of the business model and its potential advantages/disadvantages (though we can discuss in the comments below!). At the end the Sharks asked her, “Why should we invest in you or your company?” Her answer was just terrible.
She went into some sob story about being a mom and really needing the money and some other worthless information. Not that being a mom is worthless, obviously, but why does it matter to them? It doesn’t – and they all groaned and rolled their eyes and gave her shit for having such a terrible answer.
They care about making money, that’s it. If her being a mother won’t make them money – and it wouldn’t in this case – they simply don’t care.
So what should she have said?
First, she should have considered the exact same thing you should consider when selling anything or networking or trying to get a job – what’s most important to this [interviewer, hiring manager, buyer]? What would make their life easier or better and how can I be that? How can I be the answer to all their problems?
She should have said, “You should invest in me because I’m going to make you money! Because my idea is ready to take off! Because I’d be a great addition to your business line!” (Eventually she gets it right and gives them a good reason, but the initial misstep was illuminating.)
Remember, it’s not about you
So many people go into interviews or networking situations and pitch that they “really want the job” or “it’s their dream job.” But that won’t get you a job – no one cares.
Managers need to justify the huge cost of hiring you, so you better make it easy for them. Tell them why you can help them, propose ways to fix their problems or make their life better. Convince them that you’ll be the solution to their problems. Don’t go in with your hand out, go in bearing gifts!
The Shark Tank judges aren’t bad people for caring what’s important to them, and neither is the hiring manager. If you bore or distract with worthless information, your stock plummets. If you go in with a “gimmie gimmie” attitude, you’ll walk away with nothing.
So sell yourself in terms that matter to the listener, explaining how they win by going with you. It’ll make a better experience for you both.
Tim Murphy is founder of ApplyMate.com, a free application tracking tool.