Six Essential Skills Every Job Seeker Needs

Job Seeker Skills What do job seekers and the 2011 Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress, Melissa Leo, have in common? The answer is a skill that some say is one of the essentials in getting your foot in the door.

Consider Leo's case: She was a nominee for her performance in 'The Fighter,' and had already won all the major awards leading up to the Big One. So what did she do? She took out advertisements in Hollywood trade magazines promoting herself. Her ads basically gave her name and the word, "Consider."

Now, what's wrong with that? Well, Oscar etiquette is that only studios take out ads -- not the actors themselves.

This self-promotion was considered tacky by some in Hollywood who called it "a brazen act of neediness," and "a cliche of ego run amok," and referred to Leo as, "the attention-starved actress." The pundits speculated that she would create a backlash, thereby hurting her chances of winning.

So, how did she do? Well, she won. Yep, her brazen act of self-hype worked.

And that is just one of the lessons job seekers need to learn to give themselves the upper hand. Here are six essentials you might not have thought of:

1. Marketing

Marketing yourself is one of the best ways to secure first the job interview, then the job. "You may know you're good, but no one else will unless you know how to present yourself," advises human resources specialist Kelly Kline. To do that, as in Leo's case, you might have to think "outside the box."

2. Sales

While the term "sales" is sometimes used interchangeably with marketing, sales is actually the end result of successful marketing. Once you get that face-to-face meeting (interview), then you have to "sell" yourself. Think of the door-to-door salesman who has to quickly grab his customers' attention before the door is slammed in his face. Rehearse your spiel, and back it up with facts so it will be persuasive.

3. Persuasion

Persuasion does not mean you have to, or should, be pushy. It means making all the essential points that show how valuable you are, without being "in your face." It's not bragging, either. "If an interviewer says, why should I hire you, you shouldn't say, 'Because I'm the best,' which, trust me, people have done," says Kline.

4. Psychology

This is where basic knowledge of human psychology can be helpful. If you nodded off during Psych 101, now is the time to bone up on how you can "read" your interviewer, and most importantly, what subliminal messages he/she is sending. It's something that will also come in handy on the job. Learning what makes your boss tick can give you the edge you need to be successful on the job.

5. Body language

If your tendency is to shake your leg when you're nervous, slouch in a chair, or twirl your hair constantly ... stop. All of these movements send the wrong message to your interviewer. Similarly, if your interviewer rocks back and forth, plays with the paraphernalia on their desks or just seems distant, that is a signal for you to "step up your game." You'll need to reach inside and pull out Skills 3 and 4 -- your powers of persuasion and understanding of psychology -- to get their attention back.

6. Charisma

Here's another lesson from Hollywood: What makes a star a star? Of course talent and good looks help, but what really makes the difference is charisma. You could be the best-looking, well-spoken, talented person out there, but if you can't exude charm and personality, you will be eclipsed by someone who does. So, practice in the mirror, just as actors do, and work on your spiel. The more you work on your charisma, the greater the chances that you'll end up charming your interviewer.

These are just some of the many components to getting a job interview and keeping your interviewer interested. If you are not having much luck, practice the above and take a lesson from Melissa Leo.

As Leo puts it, "I took matters into my own hands."

Next: Top 10 Job-Seeker Mistakes

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Tom Rhoads

Pamela,I appreciate the intention of your article, that is to be helpful, and there are many points that you raise that are keys to succesful career search. As a executive career coach, I thought it might be helpful to add my insights for your readership. There is a large segment of professionals who have been hit especially hard by the recession and in which traditional job search methods (job fairs, resume mailing campaigns, recruiters, and all things Internet based, included job postings) are not efficient or effective. Relying on traditional methods for this segment of job seekers prolongs their search and many of these job seekers will settle for significantly less than their potential. Most professionals, if they are open to it, can transition to new careers, and you are spot on in that there is a lot of psychology or aspects of their thinking and understanding that are key to a successful transition beyond search method and preparation around intentional networking. One example, is "selling" yourself.... paradoxically, selling has a counter effect and is rather off-putting. What does work is demonstrating value and being interested in the company and its mission and the person to whom the job seeker is speaking. Enrollment trumps selling. There are many such distinctions that make a world of a difference for professional job seekers.

March 01 2011 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every thing on this site is geared to the '9 to 5', Monday thru Friday office worker!! EVERY ONE does NOT work those hours, but what do they care??? They are in a NARROW MIND SET that eliminates way too many of us. Those of us who work on week ends have to put up with the abuse of these 9 to 5 self-centered pieces of sh*t!!!

February 28 2011 at 9:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Seriously? You're suggesting we take a page out of that classless woman's book? She can't even eloquently accept an award yet you propose she be an example to the rest of us.

February 28 2011 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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