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4-minute read

Quick! A recruiter from a possible employer just got in your elevator and pressed the button for the 20th floor. You’re on the first level. So, that's how much time you have to make an impression. What would you say to turn yourself from just another applicant into an attractive candidate? 

1. Tell your unique story

“I always challenge people to be unique and stand out of the crowd,” says Hubble Managing Director Michelle Lemire, who’s been coaching candidates for sales and management positions for years. 

“No one knows your work experience and accomplishments better than you. Consider the highlights of your résumé and be as specific as you can.” 

 

Don’t just summarize what’s already on your resume. Michelle notes that you should weave your past experiences, the companies and sectors you’ve worked in and the results you’ve obtained into a concise, compelling story covering:

  • How you have progressed
  • What you have achieved
  • What you do best
  • What motivates you professionally

 

You might want to introduce some creativity or humour into your pitch, but a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly. 

“I recall a financial advisor who started off his pitch with ‘I’m a golf continuity connoisseur.’ While clever and different, this approach could strike a recruiter as arrogant or contrived.”

 

She offers some rules of thumb recommended by Hubble:

  • Start with what you’ve done most recently or your best experience
  • Then talk about the path you took to get where you are today
  • Talk about what you want/your future aims at the end of your pitch

 

X    “I’m a leader who is ready for a management role.”
√    “Being curious by nature, objective-driven, empathetic to clients’ pain points and keen on learning while being driven to fully contribute to any project or task assigned to me, I quickly progressed into management roles. One of my greatest senior leadership accomplishments was to turn around a Canadian sales division whose sales and margin had regressed for 10 straight years within 18 months.”

2. Mix subjective and objective

Support what you say with hard facts. Subjective is just your opinion—so tell prospective employers how you helped the bottom line of your past companies.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’ve accomplished in your career. You’re not showing off by demonstrating what you’ve achieved, if you do it in a humble, direct way.”

 

If you’re applying for a sales-related position, for instance, focus on tangible figures like revenue, margin, overall growth or other KPIs and concrete achievements such as retaining all clients whose accounts you managed or expanding your territory. 

X    “I can sell the wind.”
√    “I deem myself a fair, demanding and committed sales leader and pride myself on my many contributions and accomplishments. One of my greatest moments of recognition was being named top international account manager among 32 participating countries by delivering 244% to my sales target.”

3. Stay away from clichés and jargon

If you want to set yourself apart from other candidates, you naturally don’t want to say the same things everyone else is saying. That means avoiding over-used adjectives like “successful,” “professional” or “proactive.” 

Break it down into more detail. If you would describe yourself as a “fair but demanding leader,” what makes you say that? What would your colleagues or clients say if asked to describe your leadership? 

X    “I have strong leadership skills.”
    “With many years of experience managing people and serving clients, I now find myself leading a recruitment firm in Toronto with the objective of assisting corporations in attracting and adding bench strength to their teams. Pride, resiliency, respect and dedication continue to fuel my quest to be the most effective contributor I can be.”

While you want to focus on tangible details, don’t lose your listeners with terminology that’s too specialized. 

4. Be prepared but not too rehearsed

Practice telling and editing down your story repeatedly so you’ll sound eloquent and to the point when the moment comes. Rehearse both a short and long version to suit the situation. 

Do:

  • Be poised and polished
  • Describe yourself clearly
  • Show your personality
  • Be ready to answer questions about every aspect of your career
  • Know your stats and KPIs by heart

 

Don’t: 

  • Aggressively sell yourself
  • Talk a mile a minute when giving your pitch
  • Sound overly scripted 
  • Look down at your résumé to double-check names or numbers
  • Fidget
  • Avoid eye contact

 

“If you don’t want to be just another interviewee, you need to leave something behind. Define who you are. Hit them with what you’ve done. Make them curious.”  

 

X    “I want a job that will give me a good work-life balance.”
√    “I’m a resilient sales leader who is truly passionate about aligning efforts, empowering teams and expanding market share. I’m looking for a position where I can best leverage my ability to see the big picture, strategize, and create and execute on action plans while developing top talent.”

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