Using the SELL Approach When Meeting with Hiring Managers...

By Michaela Partridge

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Michaela Partridge - Using the SELL approach when meeting with hiring managers…

Through your research, hard work and diligence, you have obtained the name of a hiring manager at one of your target companies and have secured a face-to-face meeting with them.  Now your work really begins – you have one chance to really impress the hiring manager and that’s where the SELL approach is particularly useful.

Although you might think of the meeting you have just secured as a networking opportunity it is very different from general networking meetings.  This meeting needs to be thought of as pre-interview meeting because sooner or later the company will have a need and you need to position yourself as a prime candidate.  Using the SELL approach will ensure that you are fully prepared to make that all-important good first impression.

The SELL approach:

Summarise your message – Refer back to the career transition work you have undertaken so far – for example, your career objective, personal profile, positioning statement, exit statement etc.

Explore their needs – Collecting further information about the needs of the targeted company and of the hiring manager is central to this discussion.  This information will enable you to be even more effective in your continuing pursuit of the company, both in the meeting and after it.

Link your benefits to their needs – Wherever possible, mention the competencies you have that fit the needs of the company.

Leverage a next meeting – Use information obtained in this meeting to arrange a next contact.

The SELL approach actually provides you with an agenda for your meeting with the hiring manager.  Assuming the meeting to be 20 to 30 minutes in length, below is a suggested time allowance for each segment.

The SELL Agenda

Summarise your message (3 minutes)

Your initial message about yourself should position you as someone who would be an asset to any company but with special emphasis on any competencies or accomplishments that are relevant to the needs of this particular company, based on what you have learned so far.  

Explore their needs (10 to 15 minutes)

Your research and analysis of the company may have led you to conclude that your skills and experience match their needs. However, before you try to convince the hiring manager of that, you should be sure you correctly understand all of the needs – as well as the hiring manager’s perspective on them.

You should prepare relevant questions in advance and ask them early in the meeting. And then, you must listen.  Listening is the way you will get the information you need to recommend yourself as the solution for their needs.  Smile, nod, stay focused and let the person know you are hearing what they are saying.

Summarise what you believe are the main points presented by the hiring manager.  Ask for confirmation that you understood correctly.  Above all, listen and connect.  Do what you can to build a relationship.

Link your benefits to their needs (5 to 10 minutes)

Once you have a better picture of the company’s or hiring manager’s needs, you can better describe yourself as relevant to those needs.  Now is the time to embellish the brief summary you used at the outset.  Select competencies and accomplishments that clearly connect to the needs you heard and confirmed.  In your responses, reflect back some of the actual words the hiring manager used.

This is where the research you have done and the information you are getting from the hiring manager comes together.  This is when you begin to link your experience and skills to the needs that are being expressed.

Leverage a next meeting (2 minutes)

Building a relationship with the hiring manager is one of the most effective ways to be sure you are in his or her thoughts when an opening occurs.  For this reason, you want to leverage a next meeting with the hiring manager, or at least find a way to continue the conversation begun in this meeting.

Throughout the meeting, you have been looking for shared interests that might give you a reason for another meeting or a follow-up contact.  You can do this by making an offer of additional information on a topic of interest. If possible, make a specific appointment for another meeting.  If you are not able to arrange a meeting continue the contact by following up with the hiring manager in an appropriate way.

A tip to remember: all meetings with hiring managers (in person or on the phone) should be treated as interviews and your preparation should be thorough.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, it forms part of my Home Study Course that you can download from my website at

Michaela Partridge
Careers Specialist
Work’s A Dream


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