Don’t sell yourself short - James MacDonald
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Don’t sell yourself short

Don’t sell yourself short

In life and business, I believe there is much to learn from those who’ve ‘been there, done that’.

While they may be in a different field to that which you’re aspiring, their ideas and practices (which have made them the most successful people) can easily be transferred to other aspects of life.

A software developer may admire a successful sportsperson’s mental game and draw on that to improve their own focus and concentration. A CEO may be inspired by witnessing a mother’s generosity and take that as their cue to increase their corporate altruism.

Success is success and we shouldn’t limit where we find our inspiration.  

I’m inspired by Phil Knight, founder of Nike. No, I’ve not worked with Nike or any other sports retailer, but there is much that I believe those recruiting tech and digital professions can learn from Phil.

A quick glance at live job ads might give you a clue as to what I think this space can learn from Phil…

I see many businesses trying to find great, new people… with mediocre job ads, mediocre sales pitches when they get a candidate interested, mediocre hiring processes… you get the idea. All of this already determines whether or not they will attract the very best candidates. As you can imagine, the challenge these businesses face is not being able to excite the candidate about the opportunity.

Phil is arguably one of the most successful businessman to walk the planet (in my books).

In his 2016 book, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, he writes:

“I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman.”

When I read this, I think of businesses, trying to find ground-breaking new team members, by looking at the task the way Phil formerly did – winning by simply not losing, or merely staying alive.

Businesses ‘winning’ by throwing a job ad on Seek and accepting the best candidate from the group of people that looked at Seek in that one week period. Their management’s mentality being, “Well, we didn’t get the best candidate in the market, but we did fill the role, which surely means we’re winning.” Then they move onto the next one.

I call this ‘selling yourself short’.

Let me start by saying, for many businesses, this is a way of thinking, rather than a lack of substance to pitch, sell, offer or get a candidate excited over. These businesses sell themselves short on what they do, how they help their community, what they contribute to society or other businesses, and how they enhance their employees’ and customers’ lives.

Just as Phil acknowledges, once a business leader defines what their business is doing and starts to promote that,  belief – both from inside and outside of the organisation – becomes more widely accepted, and eventually – the norm.

Businesses shouldn’t settle for ‘we filled the role’.

My advice to business leaders is simple – don’t sell yourself short. Don’t settle for ‘not losing’ or ‘merely staying alive’.

In the technology and digital space, we are experiencing a candidate-short market. The best candidates have multiple opportunities and need you to sell yourself to them. Go beyond the generic mission statement of ‘we make software solutions for the mining industry’ or ‘we build social campaigns for our clients’. Think like Phil does.

You are competing for people who may one day become leaders of your business. You are competing with other businesses to not just attract, but truly engage them, long-term.

On this, Phil says:

“The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”

It’s time for businesses to forget the way they’ve always pitched themselves.

Forget the limited thinking (‘we are only an xyz company’) and start to embrace the differences and opportunities that make your company stand out.

The best candidates, in fact, most candidates want to feel like they are contributing to something greater.

We all want to achieve a sense of self-satisfaction in life and, if companies can sell that opportunity to a candidate in a job ad, interview process, office environment, day-to-day activities, the chances of attracting and retaining the best people is much higher.

If you don’t know what your points of difference are, or you need help overhauling your recruitment process, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone (0427 107 796) or drop me an email ( Sometimes, fresh eyes from the outside world can see what you may not be able to.