Sell yourself at your job interview: what you need to know!
Performing well in a job interview requires planning ahead. Not only must you put thought into your appearance on the day (see our earlier blog on “Presenting yourself at an interview”), body language and do your homework on the company in question, you need to think about the interview itself. Your ability to “sell” your skills and experience, and respond to questions in a way that shows you in the best light could make or break the deal.
In your job interview, the main thing that interviewers will be seeking to find out are:
- Have you got the skills, expertise and experience to perform the job?
- Are you enthusiastic and interested in the job and the company?
- Will you fit into the team, culture and company?
Allow time to prepare for the questions you may be asked – and plan how you can reply to them in a manner that will sell you best. This doesn’t come naturally to many people, especially those on the humble or modest side, but the good news is that with practice and preparation the techniques can be learned.
Plan and prepare
Make a list outlining all the specific skills, experience and knowledge you have that enables you to perform the job. Or, even better, think about doing this from the point of view of someone looking to recruit you – what is it that makes you stand out from the competition? To do this, go back and read the job advertisement again. Look at the duty statement or position description and in particular note the ‘outcomes’ or ‘responsibilities’ to find the skills that are the most important to focus on.
You may find that the job advertisement or position description has a set of selection criteria. This is also known as ‘required skills’ or possibly ‘workplace requirements’. If you can’t find a clear list, you may find that statements in the advertisement give strong indicators of what the company is looking for, such as, “We’re looking for an enthusiastic and proactive individual with excellent people skills who communicates well with clients, and can handle difficult or stressful situations.”
To prepare for an interview in response to an advertisement like the above, you can focus on the required skills and experience to create ‘sales statements’. It is key to remember that in the interview process, prospective employers will ask you demonstrate clearly, using real life situations and experiences, how you meet the requirements of the position.
It is key to remember that in the interview process, prospective employers will ask you demonstrate clearly, using real life situations and experiences, how you meet the requirements of the position.
It may seem obvious, but so many people go to an interview unprepared or at least underprepared! Do your research in advance. It’s so easy now with the internet – most companies have a sound website in place to obtain all the key information about how the company operates, what the “vibe” or values are, and who does what.
Whilst you don’t have to know everything about the role and the company, having read the key information that is publicly available is a must in your preparation for the interview.
Create statements that showcase your skills
Expand your list of required skills and experience into statements that clearly demonstrate how, why and when you have developed these skills or had the relevant experience. For example:
- “Having worked on the customer services counter at XYZ for five years, I am used to working in both difficult and stressful situations.”
- “Communicating with clients is one of my strengths. At my last job I answered questions on nutrition topics from groups of up to 10 clients.”
- “During my training at XYZ we covered all aspects of early childhood learning. I have both the theory and the practical experience to be a great child educator.”
Place your sales statements into your answers
Once you’ve identified and typed out your sales statements, think about how you could place them naturally into your answers without taking over the interview or appearing as though you are bragging.
For example, the interviewer may ask you about your ability to work under pressure. You could start with:
“Having worked on the customer services counter at XYZ for five years, I learned quickly how to work under pressure. I was able to remain calm and level-headed, working quickly to resolve issues that came up, even when it was really busy”.
It is important to have on hand (or in mind!) specific and real life examples of situations that occurred in previous positions, even if they were not during paid employment. Remember your general life experience counts as well, as what employers are seeking is that you have done this before and do it successfully again!
Remember your general life experience counts as well, as what employers are seeking is that you have done this before and do it successfully again!
Having prepared for this type of question, and having real life examples up your sleeve should also help you to feel relaxed, positive and enthusiastic when speaking in the interview – all things that the interviewer will be looking for.
Let your personality shine through
…get ready to do the sell. Again? Yes, sorry but you are the product and the sales person in this situation!
It may seem difficult, particularly if you are prone to nervousness, but the hiring company really wants to get a snapshot about you in the interview process: your personality, ability to think and express yourself clearly and how you relate to others. Like the skills, expertise and experience questions, you really need to plan and prepare for these questions and get ready to do the sell. Again? Yes, sorry but you are the product and the sales person in this situation!
Think about what it is that people like about you and be prepared to talk about these qualities in the interview. For example, you might have received positive feedback on your ability to speak to and engage with people, your friendly smile, neat appearance, attention to detail or ability to quickly learn new things. All of these are qualities that any employer would be keen to know about, so make sure that you are well prepared to sell these things in the interview – and relax, take a deep breath and let it come naturally!
For example in response to a teamwork related question, you could respond:
“I’ve always been considered friendly and outgoing. It’s part of my nature to offer to help in any situation”.
Or, if you are asked about your strengths – a common interview question, by the way – something along these lines could be a winner:
“Well, I’m pretty neat and conscientious by nature, so I’d have to say that my strengths are around organising my time and my attention to detail”.
With a bit of forethought, planning and anticipation of the questions you might be asked, acing your interview should be breeze. Don’t be shy to blow your own trumpet in the interview situation, it’s a definite advantage – and about the only situation where it is highly recommended!