Think about your last job interview. How much time did you spend preparing the pitch? No, I’m not talking about your pitch, but the company’s pitch? A lot of well-intended job-hunting advice focuses on preparing a job seeker to answer questions about themselves. While that’s important, I find it equally as valuable, if not more so, to prepare to sell the company on itself.
For example, a 30-year-old software manager recently contacted me because he had used one of my previous columns to land an impressive new job. Specifically, he was referring to an article about Steve Jobs’ presentation skills.
“How did it help you pitch yourself?” I asked.
“No, Carmine. I didn’t use it to pitch myself. It helped me show the recruiter that I could sell their company better than their own salespeople.”
You see, the job candidate walked into his interview armed with a presentation he had created -- not about himself, but about the company. He used all the techniques Steve Jobs had to used to pitch a product:
- Set up the theme early in the presentation.
- Identify no more than three or four key messages about the product.
- Bring data to life by putting big numbers into context.
- Design slides with more pictures than words.
- Practice over and over.
“To prepare for the presentation, I wrote notes on the bottom of each slide and then rehearsed them over and over again. I repeated them until I could pretty much recall the whole slide deck,” the job candidate said. He delivered the presentation without looking at the computer monitor -- an impressive display of confidence.
One hiring manager later told him, "You smashed it out of the ballpark. Your presentation was better than 70 percent of our sales associates." The hiring committee was so impressed they printed a contact for the job candidate to sign on the spot. The position came with a big bump in pay and a step up the career ladder.
A month ago I received another email, this time from a 25-year-old project manager in the tech industry. He had finished a coding class to enhance his technical skills. Although he had sent out more than a dozen resumes, a 10-week course simply wasn’t enough to land a job in his chosen area of expertise. Until, that is, the young man got an in-person interview. The position required communication skills on top of a foundation of technical knowledge.
In his very first interview after completing the technical course the young man got a job offer for double his previous salary. How did he do it? “I studied the product, worked for hours on refining the company’s pitch, and then rehearsed the pitch for eight hours,” he told me. Once he had received the job, one of the hiring managers asked him if they could record his pitch to show the sales staff how to pitch their product.
These two real-world examples should remind us that "presentation skills" are required everywhere in the career journey -- once you’re in a company, of course, but also when you’re being interviewed for a job at the company. Yes, learn to pitch yourself for a job interview and to talk about your experience and skills. But if you really want to stand out, pitch the company’s products better than company insiders can do themselves.