As a recruiter, I’m referred to as a headhunter, matchmaker or salesperson. The goal of recruiting is to successfully place a candidate with a company that seeks their background, talent and experience. It sounds easy, but it’s not. There are a lot of silly games that take place between the parties. Candidates and employers sometimes play hard to get and they keep their real thoughts and agendas hidden to themselves—thinking that it will offer them a competitive advantage. A common approach by job seekers is to feign disinterest in the job, falsely believing that this aloof approach will be seen as more attractive to the hiring manager. While this tactic may work once in a blue moon, I’ve noticed a strategy that succeeds the vast majority of time.
As as salesperson, I’d like to share the unbelievably simple thing to say to get what you want in your career: just ask for it! Yes, it’s that simple. It’s a variation of the term salespeople use, “Ask for the order.” The problem most salespeople face is that they’ll tell their prospective customer all the amazing things about the product they’re selling, but never get around to directly asking the person to buy it. The fear of rejection and being told “no” is too much for them to handle. The odds of success significantly increase when a salesperson directly and confidently asks the person to buy their product or service—and those who don’t, fail.
Here’s how this concept relates to your job search and career. Let’s start with two job seekers competing for the same the job. Both are roughly comparable with respect to their skills, background, references, interpersonal skills and academic background. The first candidate, Jane, plays it cool. She says all the right things, has the perfect résumé and background, but the interviewers can’t really tell if she wants the job. She talks about how much she is appreciated at her current company and that she is not actively looking. The second candidate, Sue, is about equal to Jane, except the first candidate is a little better. If I’m representing Sue, I’ll coach her to say, “I really enjoyed meeting with you and the other managers. The company’s culture has everything I’m looking for. I believe that my background is perfect for the role and I could add value from day one and also grow my career. If you are interested in hiring me at the salary levels we discussed, I’d be happy to accept the offer, give two weeks’ notice and start right away. I’m very excited about this opportunity!” That last sentiment is key, as you are letting the hiring manager know that you want the job and will accept it if offered.
Allow me to offer some insider recruiter information. When a manager offers the candidate a job, there is a lot politics involved behind closed doors. She needs to obtain the approval of her manager, her manager’s manager and human resources. If it’s a high-level role, the approval chain encompasses many more executives. Each one, wanting to protect their own backside, demands to know all about the applicant and asks tough pointed questions to the hiring manager. Here’s where asking for the job comes into play: if the hiring manager knows that Sue will accept the offer, she will fight much harder to push for this candidate rather than Jane since she doesn’t know how she would react. It’s too much of a variable and wild card. If Jane rejects the offer, management will be displeased that they wasted all this time and energy. The manager will be viewed in a bad light, as everyone will feel that she has poor judgement in people. It’s prudent and practical for her to go with the sure thing, get a quick acceptance, someone to start right away and everyone is happy.
The same holds true for all other aspects of your career. If you want to move into a different division at your company, let your manager know and ask how this can be arranged. If you want to relocate to a different location at your company, ask for the transfer. When you feel it’s the right time for a promotion or raise, ask for it. If you need more vacation or personal days, let your manager know how you feel and why you need them and how he can get it arranged.
To be fair, it wont work all the time; however, it’s like the Wayne Gretzky quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” If you don’t ask for something, you’ll never get.
I’d also suggest that you have to be prepared with facts to substantiate your requests. It will backfire poorly if you march into your manager’s office and angrily demand something you want and threaten to take some sort of retaliatory action if your requirements are not met. The ask has to be polite—yet firm—and based on tangible evidence that you rightly deserve it.
This doesn’t work 100% of the time, as there are valid reasons why management cannot accommodate your request. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. If you get rejected in your request, don’t get dejected or annoyed. Take it in stride and let your manager or whoever the other party is know, “I greatly appreciate you taking the time to listen and hear me out. I respect your honesty and transparency. It must not be easy for you to say ‘no.’ If circumstances change, I’d like to have this conversation again. I’m sure, based on what you have said, that we can get it done. Thank you so much!”
I’d like to take credit for this approach; however it dates back to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” He also added, “Seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” This sage advice is still relevant today.