After months of community-wide anticipation, a Whole Foods grocery store recently opened not far from the home of this author. While some around town complain about the high prices for which the chain is known, people nonetheless flock there as if they haven't eaten in a month.
If you examine Whole Foods's way of doing business, you will see that you can utilize some of the same ideas to fashion yourself as the prized candidate that hiring managers will crave. Here are five lessons that you can turn you into a first-choice pick:
1. Appearance counts. The store boasts an incredible array of goods. The shelves are always neat and full, but nothing seems ever to be out of place, and there is absolutely no sense of clutter. The ambiance of the store screams "Clean!"
Lesson: Whether or not you like it, appearance does matter. Pay attention to how others perceive your physical appearance, and the underlying message about you as a person that it conveys. You don't need to look like a model, but you do need to look professional and be at your best. Wear well-fitting professional attire, and be meticulously groomed. When you speak, get right to the point and don't ramble. Let your words and style of speech demonstrate your organized thinking.
2. Perfection is tantalizing. At Whole Foods, all the fresh fruits and vegetables are at their peak stage of ripeness and without blemishes. They make you lick your lips with anticipation.
Lesson: Employers salivate over "perfect fit" candidates. You must demonstrate your passion for the role you seek. However, your desire for a job doesn't, in and of itself, make a compelling case for you to be hired. For a short job hunt, focus your efforts on those jobs where you will be seen as possessing all the desired education, experience, abilities and qualities. These are the jobs for which you'll be seen as a truly appetizing candidate.
If you aren't the right fit now for the role you seek, think about what you can do make yourself more shine in the future. That might mean taking a stepping-stone role now, getting a certification, earning a particular degree or something else.
3. Helpfulness counts. Courteous staff members are easy to locate. They never respond to "Where is XXX located?" by saying "Look two aisles over." Instead they are trained to immediately take the initiative to cheerfully walk the customer to the precise location where the desired product is located. They understand that customizing their efforts to a customer's desire makes him or her much more likely to buy whatever product he or she had in mind.
Lesson: When your interviewer asks you a question, don't ever direct his or her attention away from you by saying, "You can find this on my résumé" and leave it at that. Every query represents an opportunity to take your interviewer where he or she wants to go: becoming convinced that you are a solid "must have" hire.
You need to listen carefully to each question so that your answer will respond to the interviewer's underlying desire rather than spitting out altogether rehearsed talking points. You can take on the role of "guide" by telling just that part of your professional story that will satisfy your interviewer's needs.
4. People value healthy products. Whole Foods appeals to health and environmentally conscious consumers by offering unadulterated, organic food. The underlying message is that consumers will be better off from using the store's products.
Lesson: When you are preparing for your interview, bear in mind that the underlying purpose of hiring anyone is to make a company's bottom line healthier. Think about ways you can contribute to make that perspective employer "better off" by saving expenses, increasing sales or improving productivity. Every contribution to the bottom line has at least one of these components, and you should be prepared to demonstrate your desire and ability to bring that value with you.
5. Top quality demands top dollar. You can often find comparable food cheaper in other stores. And, while Whole Foods does run promotions and sales, its overall pitch is more about value than price. Because its customers believe that this chain consistently provides top quality goods, the consumer can justify paying more for them.
Lesson: Remember not to get pinned down to a specific salary number until you are sure that the employer believes that you are the very best candidate. Only then can you shift the decision maker away from hiring based on cost to the company to hiring total quality and value. With this approach you are much more likely to justifying in the hiring manager's mind why you deserve to start at or near the top of the salary range.
When you bear these lessons in mind, you will surely boost your chances of getting hired and receiving a competitive compensation package. And that will be the icing on a most delectable conclusion to your job search.