I find that a lot of candidates underestimate the importance of selling yourself in a job interview. It is especially important to sell yourself during the first interview. The interview process is analogous to the process of making a major purchase. The job seeker is the “product” and the hiring company is the “buyer”. As the “product”, it is vitally important to sell yourself and give the “buyer” cause to want to hire you. The “what’s in it for me” part of the interview process is important, but it is irrelevant if the employer is not strongly interested in hiring you. This post will cover a few methods and approaches to effectively sell yourself in the interview process.
- Sell Yourself by Preparing— adequate preparation in the first key in how to sell yourself to a potential employer. A strong resume that targets the employer (click here to read my post on resume writing) is a good start. You’ll also want to do adequate research on the company when you land an interview. This could include thoroughly going through their website, LinkedIn company page, online profiles of the people with whom you’ll meet, etc.
- Sell Yourself by Looking the Part — this includes all things that go into making a good first impression. Studies show that first impressions DO matter, so don’t start off on the wrong foot. First, I always recommend formal business attire. Conservative style suits for men, simple neck ties, and shined shoes. Get a hair cut if you need one, and shave/trim facial hair. For women, similar business attire is suggested. Avoid too much perfume, jewelry, etc. It’s pretty difficult to be overdressed, but being under dressed can be a disaster. That being said, times are changing, so depending on your specific field of expertise, or hiring company, it may be appropriate to dress more casually. Second, make sure you arrive to the interview on time. Map directions out in advance and budget extra time for traffic, delays, etc. If you arrive very early, review your notes and resume one last time before going in for the interview. I recommend that candidates arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview. Too early can interrupt the schedule of the interviewer, so be considerate of their schedule too.
- Sell Yourself by SELLING YOURSELF — to separate yourself from the competition, you need to highlight your skills, experience, and what value you will bring to the employer. This can be done in several ways. First, when you answer questions, make sure to reference specific examples of what you’ve done, specific results you’ve achieved, and accomplishments that highlight your value. For example, saving the company money, surpassing sales goals, finding more efficient ways of doing things, etc. Second, ask intelligent questions about the job and company. Demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence and ask about specific facets of the job and company. Finally, don’t be afraid to “flip the question”. By this I mean to find ways to turn some questions into positive reasons to hire you. For example, if asked the classic “what’s your biggest weakness?” question, prepare an answer you can spin in a positive light. You might say, “my biggest weakness had been people management because I have not had experience doing this until recently… however, for the last 6 months I’ve been supervising a new hire and this person is excelling at what they do and I’ve been recognized by my department head as a strong mentor and manager for this person.” Finally, as the interview comes to an end, I suggest to job seekers that they tell the interviewer that they are very interested in the job and eager to keep the process going. Enthusiasm goes a long way in interviews and companies like to hire people who demonstrate genuine interest in the job and company.
Remember, to sell yourself early on in the interview process does not mean that the process is all about the employer. The job seeker also has to be convinced that the opportunity is a good one and that the company is solid. However, the employer has to want to employee you before any of this matters.