A few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend who has been out of work for some time. He’s a great guy and I am sure he’s worthy of a good position somewhere. However, I was struck by something he said which led me to believe that he may be sabotoging his own work-seeking efforts.

He described to me that at a recent interview he informed the desired employer that he had a mortgage, a wife and some children and a car payment that he was needing funds for each month. I got the impression that he had stated these things as “compelling” reasons for why he should be hired.

No doubt, they are compelling reasons for him… VERY compelling for him.

Just a few days ago, I got a call from our furnace company. The lady asked me if we could provide a referral of her company, because “they had a lot of guys off-work right now who could really use the paycheck”. Here we go again, I thought. Why was someone pitching something to me, but speaking of just their own needs. Hey, they weren’t a charity or anything… But just a couple sentences later, the lady course-corrected and suggested that referrals would benefit me with discounts on my service contract. Voila! They nailed it. An incentive was revealed… and the potential for a “trade” was in place. I smiled and said I would certainly keep them in mind… and I will.

But back to my friend… A job interview is a kind of trade negotiation, isn’t it? I will trade my cash for you to work for me. Or, I will work for you in exchange for cash. That is the underlying theme of all job interviews, is it not? However, how compelling were his reasons to the desired employer? Notwithstanding the fact that speaking too much of one’s own needs during a trade negotiation screams of desperation, the most important fact is neglected: What’s in it for the other guy? What’s in it for the employer? Sure, my friend has expenses. Who doesn’t? Life costs a lot of money these days. The house with the white picket fence and two cars in the driveway costs a lot of money…. Having kids costs a lot of money. But, why are those factors even mentioned to a potential employer?

I have the somewhat unique position of being both an employer and also a contractor for a few hundred clients. For each of those client relationships to have been originated, I or one of my team had to undergo a kind of “job interview”. Never once would we ever consider mentioning that we “needed” a client contract in order to meet our payroll… or to pay our rent (though sometimes we did have those needs!). Never. It just wouldn’t even surface as something to remark on. Instead, we speak glowingly about what our company can do FOR THE CLIENT. We inform them how we can ease THEIR workload, chop THEIR expenses, increase THEIR profits, etc… Those are compelling reasons for prospective clients.

Likewise, when an out-of-work dad is sitting across from an interviewer, that dad should be filled with enthusiasm as to how he is going to make that company/organization better off by his presence. There should be no mention of mortgages, dental bills, car payments, etc… A job seeker must sell his or her TALENTS to the potential employer, not his or her NEEDS.

To anyone pitching a client… or looking for work, remember: you are not looking for a charitable donation, so don’t act like it. Speak to your strengths and how they will benefit the “other guy”. The bigger the perceived benefit that you leave him/her with, the greater your chances of being called in to start work.

When you work for a company, they are a “customer” for your services.  Be customer-centric.