Rather than sharing your sob story, tell the hiring manager why bringing you on board will benefit them.

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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.


  1. Anonymous

    Hit the nail on the head. People focus WAY too much on themselves vs the benefit for others!

    • Tim

      Thanks, Trish! It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you think “of course it’s about me – I’m selling myself!” But that’s all wrong – it’s all about what you can do for them.
      Thanks for reading and for the comment!


  2. Steph from TheD

    Hey, Tim – I saw this episode too (we share the same love for this show) and I cringed when she responded the first time!! …..why should they care? i asked…….luckily, she had a second chance and got a HUGE deal!!! But, completely agree with your comments above — find a unique way to make them want to continue the conversation by asking a question they *must* answer an enthusiastic yes to and keep the convo going from there…..great article!

    • Tim

      Hi Steph,
      Yay fellow Tanker! Yes, be the thing they need, and the odds of getting a “yes” go way up, but make them the thing you need, and you almost guarantee a “no.”

      She hit the frigging jackpot with Cuban buying her idea, hey? Good lord, that was a big break! Glad you enjoy the entrepreneur porn that is SHARK TANK too!

      Thanks for reading and for the comment!


  3. Zgracia

    One thing that you will notice on that show, the language of business is numbers. So as a job seeker, on your resume and at the interview, use numbers, because that always puts things in perspective, and an employer will be able to see exactly what you can do for them and how you will effect their bottom line. “Show me the money!”

    • Tim

      Yes, yes, YES!! I am constantly hounding people to put numbers on their resumes! Numbers on your resume are like colorful pictures and bold spices at the same time. They make what you claim real, and meaningful. Even if you don’t work in a field where your accomplishments are easily quantified (hey, if it was easy, everyone would do it!), get creative and find a way.

      Thanks for the awesome comment, Zgracia. We can’t hear this advice enough – use numbers on your resume!


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