We know that interviewing can be daunting. Sitting down with someone you’ve only met on LinkedIn and convincing them to choose you over a long list of candidates for a role can induce anxiety even in the best of us. With tough competition, how do you win over a total stranger so they’ll know that YOU are their best bet? Here are eight simple steps you can take to sell yourself during the interview process.
Do Your Homework
The first step you should take before speaking with anyone at the company is to do some research on the company itself. What’s the company’s mission? Do you know anything about the industry they are in? Can you imagine what their possible pain points are?
Throw in some questions/comments related to company goals or specific products. This not only shows your interest in the company and its mission; it also shows that you are selective about where you want to work. Knowing about the company and its background is impressive to interviewers and can give you a leg up on the competition.
Perfect Your Pitch
Interviews always start with a question about your experience and why you are interested in the position. Count on this kind of question as your first opportunity to make a great impression and to sell yourself. Your response should be a brief summary of your experience, including phrases or examples that relate to the role you are applying for, and an explanation of how this experience makes you a good fit for the role.
You don’t have to oversell yourself; be honest and natural in your response. Confidence is good, but avoid coming off as cocky or over-confident, and do not speak for too long. Remember: they have other questions. A TV commercial is 30 seconds because it’s the optimum time to hold attention. Use the same time to sell yourself. Let them know why your experience will benefit the company when they hire you into this role.
Practice Meaningful Stories
Interviewers will often ask candidates to tell a story about a time you did something at work under certain circumstances and how it went. These are behavioral interview questions, and the point is to understand how you conduct yourself in the workplace, especially in adverse situations.
Read up on the most commonly asked behavioral interview questions and prepare some answers in advance. Don’t make things up. Use real-life examples that showcase your strengths. How you answer these questions can be the determining factor on a job offer, so telling a brief, relevant, and engaging story can be a huge selling point for yourself during the interview.
Turn Your Weakness into a Strength
All interviewers want to know what areas or skills you need to improve on, what your biggest risks are in certain circumstances, or about a time when you utterly failed at some task and how you managed to come through. Beware of the two most common interview mistakes: answering the “weakness” question in a negative light, or pretending that you are that perfect employee, totally flawless. Everyone has things to work on. Knowing and admitting your flaws during an interview is good, as long as you use the right words and always, always, always pair the weakness with a strength or solution in your answer.
If you tend to be disorganized, say something like, “I’ve always been more of a creative person rather than systematic. With that, I can be a bit disorganized sometimes, but I have my own brand of organization and that actually helps me achieve goals and finish projects on time and well. I recently started creating checklists and adding reminders to my calendar, which has helped significantly.” Turn the weakness into a strength. This shows the interviewer that you actively seek out strategies to improve and grow.
Nothing Negative about Previous Employers
Just before you answer any question about previous employers, take a split second to smile to yourself, and think a positive thought. Even if you truly feel that they were terrible, the circumstances likely taught you a lot.
You never want to lie during an interview, but if you start speaking negatively about previous workplaces, that chip on your shoulder will speak louder than anything else you say in the interview.
Disgruntled isn’t a good look when trying to sell yourself. Instead, focus on the positives, such as personal advancement/growth. Maybe your reason for leaving is a bad boss, but perhaps this position also allows you to cut down a long commute, or provides certain benefits or a workplace culture your previous employer didn’t provide. When in doubt, circle back to all the things that drew you to this new company and opportunity.
Ask Relevant Questions
Questions about the position, the company, or even about the interviewer are a hiring manager’s favorites. Questioning shows genuine interest. If you tend to blank when put on the spot, write down your questions before the interview and bring a notebook and a pen. Taking notes shows that you are interested and prepared - an extra selling bonus!
Easy questions you can ask are: How would you describe the company culture? How does the company keep employees engaged? Recall interesting things that your interviewer mentioned. For example, “The ABC project you mentioned sounds so interesting. Can you please tell me more about that?” Asking questions demonstrates that you’re paying attention.
Speak your Why
A manager’s worst hiring nightmare might be the candidate who accepts a position, goes through the onboarding and training process, and then realizes the job or company isn’t the best fit for them and quits. The company loses money and time, is still down a team member, and now has to start the hiring process over.
Letting the interviewer know just how excited you are can make them feel more comfortable about offering you the role.
If two candidates have the same qualifications and interview equally well, do you think the employer is more likely to offer the role to the candidate who seemed really eager and excited about the company, or the candidate that didn’t show as much interest or was harder to read? Part of selling yourself during the interview is showing off your enthusiasm for the company and role you are interviewing for.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice interviewing with a friend, look up common questions and practice answering them by yourself, or video tape yourself answering questions to see how you sound and look. This will give you a good view into what the interviewer sees during an interview.
You know your strengths better than anyone, so be sure to showcase them as much as possible throughout the process. Every story, every example, every question can showcase your talents and your value to the company. Get comfortable promoting yourself through practice, so you can really sell when the right opportunity comes along!
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