Fortune: You Need to Do This to Nail Your Next Job Interview

This article was originally published on Fortune here, and written by Mark Achler.

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What are the top three things you look for on a resume?” is written by Mark Achler, lecturer at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and managing director of MATH Venture Partners.

Job-hunting takes time, and can be tough when you’re trying to stand out in a competitive field. Next time you see the perfect opportunity come along, try following these tips to get noticed:

Don’t submit blindly
If at all possible, don’t send in your resume blind. Work your network. A warm introduction from a trusted source is always better than blindly submitting your resume over the transom. Find someone who is already at the company, or someone who can provide you a personal introduction to an executive there. It takes hard work and perseverance, but try researching through LinkedIn, or maybe through your college alumni association.

With a little ingenuity and sleuthing, you can always find someone who will be willing to make a warm introduction. Don’t leave it to chance that your resume will be the one that gets noticed on its own. You will absolutely improve the odds of success by finding a warm intro.

Include a cover letter
Amanda Lannert, my favorite CEO from one of my favorite companies, Jellyvision, always insists on a cover letter. She and her team take it to the extreme by not even looking at a resume if there’s no cover letter attached. A well-crafted cover letter allows you to both tell your story and make it personal, but more importantly, talk about your passion for the company, their products or services, and how your skills can help solve their needs. Use a cover letter to stand out from the crowd and display your passion and interest in the company.

Make your resume personal
A lot of resumes say the same thing and give a chronological work history—boring. Your resume should also tell a story about who you are—not just what you’ve done. What are your values? How do you show your tenacity and problem-solving skills? In addition to talking about your accomplishments, you should also talk about how your personality traits—such as being a positive, can-do force within a team, or how you effectively make decisions with a bias toward action—can make a significant contribution to a company.

I love people who can figure things out on their own, solve problems, take initiative, and persevere. When you’re talking about yourself during an interview, tell a real-world story of a difficult problem you faced, how you creatively solved it, and the grit it took to see it to a successful conclusion. Describing how you overcame adversity is a good way to demonstrate who you are and what it would be like to work with you.

Nail the interview
I know this is going to come as a shock to you: The interview is actually about what the company needs—not who you are.

A few years back, when Groupon was growing fast, the 22-year-old son of a friend named Sam got an interview there for a sales position. He met with me ahead of time to prepare for the interview. I told him to cold-call 10 local merchants and ask them if they had ever heard of Groupon. If they did, what did they like? What didn’t they like? I told him to see if he could get someone to buy.

Before the interview, he went out and cold-called 10 merchants. He found out that some were afraid of Groupon because they heard bad stories from friends about offers that were poorly constructed, so the merchant lost money and didn’t get repeat customers. He worked with the merchants to understand the power of the platform and what a good offer might look like. And he actually got one of them to buy.

Every other candidate went into the interview and said, “I’m a smart person; hire me. Here are my qualifications.”

Sam went into the interview completely prepared. He talked about why he loves the product and how he uses it on a regular basis. He then talks about how he cold-called 10 local merchants, what he learned from them, how he tried to help them to understand the power of the platform, how to construct a better deal, and oh yeah—here’s an order I took.

Of course Sam got the job. Who would you rather hire? The person who says, “Here I am,” or the person who loves the product, took the time to truly understand the customer, and who actually brought an order to the interview? He was hired on the spot. The moral of the story is: It’s not about you. It’s always about the company.

Yes, it takes hard work to find the right introduction into a company. Yes, it takes hard work to create a well-written and personalized cover letter and resume. Yes, it takes hard work to prepare prior to the interview to really get to know the company, its products, and maybe even its customers. But if you’re not willing to put the hard work in upfront, it’s a pretty good indicator that you won’t put the hard work in once hired.

Why It’s Okay to Tell Your Investors That You Don’t Have a Clue

Of all of the misconceptions about startup life, I think the most profound—and ultimately damaging—is the myth of the savior leader: the magical CEO who creates the perfect product/service and business model that erupts into a runaway success. The cold, hard truth is that it takes both time and much iteration before most entrepreneurs get it right.

Strong Suit 027 What VC’s Really Look For in Founders

I know you’€™ll enjoy this candid conversation with Mark Achler, Managing Director of MATH Venture Partners, the $28M venture fund based in Chicago. Mark pulls back the curtain on: What VC’€™s really look for in an entrepreneur / What sets apart the entrepreneurs who make it & those who don’€™t / The single-most vital skill of an entrepreneur / And how Founder/CEO transitions can go smoothly… or terribly. 

Sales Isn't Sexy, But It's Necessary

This article was originally published on Forbes here, and co-authored by Renata Hron Gomez and Laura Faulkner.

This is the fifth and final post in the Entrepreneur Xchange Series, a collection of articles that feature insights on five topics that impact entrepreneurs consider critical to success: customer acquisition, human capital, scaling, raising capital, and social impact. This post focuses on the importance of sales and acquiring customers.

When asked to give advice on customer acquisition, Worksquare founder Vanessa Bartram said “Sales is not sexy, but it is absolutely the most important skill set in any business.” While customer acquisition is critical to businesses at all stages, it is even more so for early-stage ventures. How can a business thrive and grow without sales? It can’t.

As social benefit businesses grow their customer bases, they have the added complexity of attending to a double-bottom line – where financial and social returns are both critical to success. As stated in an earlier Forbes post, the emphasis on social impact can often distract from the overall health of the business. Early-stage ventures must be clear about who their target customers are and the costs associated with securing them.

“The most common reason a business fails is lack of customers,” says Troy Henikoff, managing director of Tech Stars Chicago. “Yet many entrepreneurs spend a minority of their time figuring out the customer acquisition model. I am looking for a repeatable, scalable customer acquisition model.”

Forbes contributor George Deeb, managing partner of Red Rocket Ventures, underscores the power of telling potential customers a good story: “ The best sales teams are masters in storytelling. They artistically lay out a big picture problem in the industry that the client is dealing with, and slowly rope them in with their elegant solution to this problem.”

For example, Runa co-founder Tyler Gage’s strategy for building his company’s customer base is to highlight the unique elements of his product by selling the authentic story of the guayusa leaf and the growers behind it. Tyler’s approach to storytelling has not only helped him acquire customers – it has proven successful in securing funding from investors as well, including Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio.

So what is the best way for early-stage ventures to acquire initial customers? While there is no one-size fits-all approach, experienced entrepreneurs offer a number of strategies: emphasize the story; assess and adjust your method as needed; develop metrics to track progress; and use each interaction, including those that don’t pan out, as a learning opportunity. Combined, these elements are the building blocks of a strong customer acquisition strategy.

Moving Forward Education co-founders Elana Metz and Lacy Asbill recognize the value of building strong relationships as a means to acquire and retain customers. For them, the sales equation consists of “Aligning, partnering, listening and solving problems. "

As entrepreneurs look for guidance on developing their customer acquisition strategy, they should turn to their peers for tips and advice. The videos below share lessons that successful entrepreneurs have learned about sales:

Recognize that all employees are engaged in the sales process:

Sell your company’s story in an authentic manner:

Be adaptable and flexible with your sales and marketing strategy:

Investing in relationships leads to customer retention:

How did you land your first customer and what’s the best advice you’ve received on acquiring new customers?

I cover early stage impact entrepreneurs and investors.