Selling Yourself Part III: Top 4 Ways to Sell Yourself in the Interview
If you’ve been in a job search, you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into the process by the time you get to the interview table. All your research, networking, and preparation are like the rehearsal to a show. You know you’ve got the “stuff” to be the best. How do you impress this on your audience in the span of an hour or less?
Many people shutter at the word, “Sell”. The reason is because they are usually thinking of pushy, one-and-done sale of something they didn’t even need or want. No one wants to be that person. What if, however, you had the solution to world hunger, or violence, or finally a cure for cancer that was 100% effective? Would you be afraid or shy to talk about those things? No! The reason is because you know that people need what you have and they will be better for it.
Let’s bring that line of thinking to your interview. The definition of the word “sell” is “to persuade someone of the merits of”. This doesn’t mean you’re not bragging, boasting or BS’ing! You are presenting what you have to offer that will ultimately make lives better in some way. Hold your head high, get excited and be ready to “wow” your audience. The following are the most effective ways to sell yourself in an interview.
- You are there to SELL, not to be SOLD.
This is a key distinction that you must understand when you are going into a first interview. It’s important to have questions but the type of questions you have are very telling to the interviewers. JFK so famously and wisely said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That they key point here. You need to have done enough research and self-reflection in advance of your interview to know that the opportunity would be a good one for you. There’s no way at this stage that you can know that it’s the best one and that’s not the purpose of a first interview. Time to evaluate that will come later, once you have learned everything you can. Taking up the time of an interviewer to figure out whether you want them before they know if they want you can be a turn off not to mention that it takes the opportunity away from the interviewer to decide if they want you.
- Seek to understand BEFORE being understood
Keep the conversation focused on them; What they are looking to achieve? What challenges do they have? How they measure success? How can you best contribute to their success? How things will be better when they fill the position? These are the types of questions that are important to give to understand before you talk about yourself. Time is limited so you want to make sure you share details about your abilities that are most relevant and concise. Too much information that doesn’t directly align with the needs of the job can cause the interviewer to think that even if you are capable, the job is not a fit for your overall skill set and you might be a flight-risk.
- Connect the dots: Pain and Remedy
Now that you understand why the position is necessary and what impact the company is looking for, you can address your abilities, desire and motivation to do those things exactly. For example, let’s say their web-site is 10 years old. It’s not optimized for mobile and it looks antiquated and stale. Knowing that, you can share more about your experience creating or enhancing web-sites. If this was not a pain point for them, it would not be the best use of time to talk about these skills no matter how well it illustrates your intelligence and creativity. Remember, the conversation needs to center around them and their needs.
Notice that I said a moment ago, that you can address the abilities, desire and motivation for the job. This is important because it will help you to most effectively connect the dots between their pain and your remedy. What if you don’t have the ability to address a particular aspect of their need but you would be interested in learning? You would never want a string of answers to be “I can learn”, “I can learn” and “I can learn”. However, simply restating a need they have expressed and then following with “That sounds like a fascinating project, I would love to help you with that” can be very powerful. Asking for or suggesting a way you might begin learning about the area right away is also a great way to show that you’re ready to dive in and that you will walk the walk. I suggest before your interview, get a notepad and draw a box in the corner of it. As you review the job description, pick out the needs that are emphasized. Then when you are sitting down with the interviewer, check your understanding but saying something like, “I noted from the job description that you need….”, “are those the most important aspects of this role?” What are the most critical contributions you’re looking for?” Then, bullet point the answers in the box so you have quick reference to draw from when it’s your turn to talk about your abilities, desire and motivation.
- Don’t tell, SHOW.
There is no better way to deliver your message than by showing what you are trying to convey. First, consider how you show up. Are you dressed at a professional level that is appropriate for the position? Do your clothes, accessories and scents allow YOU to be center stage when they look at you? What about your appearance could upstage you? Bright colors, overly trendy clothing, strong cologne or perfume, and showing too much skin can be very distracting. You want to keep the focus on your conversation and engagement with your interviewer so eliminate these possible distractions.
The next way that you are going to show and not tell is through story telling. Story telling is by far the most powerful way to make a point. The reason is partially because listening to a story activates both sides of the listeners’ brain as opposed to listening to statements which more often only calls on the left side of the brain. When a person is listening to you with both sides of their brain, your words translate into facts and logic as well as images and emotion. The effect is that you send a stronger and more memorable message.
Beginning your story with a statement like, “I can tell you a quick story” has another interesting and positive effect on your listener. For most people, storytelling holds its origin in childhood. Stories would likely have been told by care takers who sat with them or held them while they told the story. Children listening to a story in this way are comfortable, entertained and engaged. When you say, “I’m going to tell you a story”, it biologically signals to the person that it’s time to get comfortable and engage with you. That is a powerful way to set the stage.
To your success! Now go win your audience.