You’ve probably heard the advice that you should sell yourself in an interview. But how? What’s the best way to sell yourself to employers?
Fortunately, after working as a recruiter for years, I’ve condensed everything I learned into the 12 most important steps to do this effectively.
Here’s how to sell yourself to employers in a job interview…
The first step in selling yourself to employers is to make the discussion about THEM.
Think about the advertisements you see on TV. It’s never about the company. It’s about you.
You won’t see a McDonald’s ad saying, “We’re hoping to sell more burgers. Please buy more burgers this month”.
They’ll never do it, because it would never work.
Instead, the ad shows a juicy burger and is all about how YOU’LL feel with their product. Satisfied, happy, full!
Yet, job seekers will go into an interview without knowing anything about the company, the person they’re speaking with, and even the industry.
That’s a mistake. You can’t sell yourself effectively without first understanding your audience and making your job interview answers about what they need.
So before you move on to the steps below, shift your mindset into thinking about everything from the employer’s perspective. What problems are they trying to solve? Look at the job description to get an idea of this.
What type of goals does this group have? For example, a sales team wants to generate revenue. A customer service team wants to handle customer requests quickly and efficiently, with a high customer satisfaction rating.
You should focus on making a good impression throughout the whole interview, but the first 30 seconds are most important.
So now you might be wondering, “How do I sell myself in an interview in 30 seconds?”
That’s where your elevator pitch comes in.
You want to show them early and often that you took the time to read their job description, and that you will be able to step into their job, learn the role quickly, and be successful.
This is the #1 thing employers are looking for in an interview, so it’s a key to selling yourself effectively.
So prepare a 30- or 60-second elevator speech highlighting your key experiences that fit in with this role!
Relate everything to their job. Don’t talk about random accomplishments that won’t help you in this position.
This is how you talk about yourself in an interview to stand out. Instead of mentioning everything you’ve done, be selective and think about what is most relevant to the employer’s needs based on the job description.
The interviewer is going to be looking at your resume and asking about it during the conversation, with questions like: “This role that you held two years ago looks interesting, what did your day-to-day work involve here?”
And if you’re not familiar with what you put on your resume, it’s going to be tough to answer this with confidence.
So if some time has passed between when you wrote the resume and when you got the interview, make sure to review your resume so you know what they’re looking at when they ask you questions.
Next, brush up on the specific facts and accomplishments from past roles. What did you do for your last boss?
It’s always more convincing to be specific and detailed when talking about past work. It sounds better to say, “I trained six new team members in four months,” rather than just saying, “yes, I trained some team members.”
(This is true when writing about your past work on your resume, too, like in your resume bullet points).
The bottom line is: You should be familiar with exactly what you accomplished in your two or three most recent roles so that you can go into more detail and respond confidently if they ask!
That way, you’ll be ready for a question like, “What’s your greatest achievement?”
More and more employers are asking behavioral questions (like, “Tell me about a time when you failed”), so make sure you’re ready to answer these convincingly.
When you answer any behavioral question, walk them through the situation you were in, what actions you took, what outcome you achieved, and finally – what you learned from the experience.
You can use S.T.A.R. to remember this – Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Other common scenarios they may ask you about include a time you were under a lot of pressure, a time you had to juggle multiple tasks, and a time you had to use communication to solve a disagreement (with a team member or customer).
Also, be ready to describe how you make decisions. This is another common one you might hear!
The next step for how to sell yourself during an interview is to know your audience!
A CEO will care about different things than a manager, who will care about different things than a recruiter or HR person. So you want to talk about topics and details that will be relevant to the person you’re speaking with.
If you’re speaking with a CEO or Executive, you should expect more questions about your personality, your interests, etc.
If it’s HR or a recruiter, they’ll be checking for basic qualifications. You can expect questions like, “How many years have you worked with X?”
And a manager will be somewhere in between. They’ll want to understand your personality and motivations, but they’ll also want to make sure you are a good fit for the day-to-day work. So they’ll ask a balance between both types of questions.
Make sure you’re sitting up straight with good posture, practice your handshake and eye contact, and avoid tapping your feet or hands or doing anything else that’s distracting.
You could say all the right things, but if you seem nervous or lacking in confidence because of your body language, it could still cost you the job offer. Interviewers make decisions based on “gut feeling” quite often, and this is one of the factors they’re going to be affected by (even if it’s subconscious). They’re going to feel more comfortable hiring you if you seemed confident.
When most people think about their job interview, they’re focused on giving great answers. But the hiring manager also cares a LOT about whether you ask questions, and what you ask.
They want to hire someone who’s being careful and thoughtful in their job search and really trying to learn about job and company. Otherwise, they’re going to be concerned that you’re desperate and looking for any job you can find. That’s NOT who they want to hire, because it’s more likely you’ll leave or lack the motivation to do the work.
You’ll go a long way toward selling yourself by just asking great questions.
You can ask about the company, the job, the group, and opinion-based questions like, “What do you feel is the biggest challenge someone new will face when stepping into this role?”
Here are some additional resources to help you ask great questions:
Next, you should show interest and enthusiasm for the role. If something about the role sounds exciting, say so! If you’ve been following what the company is doing and are excited about the work they’re doing, say so.
As a recruiter, I’ve seen hiring managers decide to not offer someone the position simply because they didn’t think the person was excited about the work.
The candidate was 100% qualified. The interviewer had no doubt that they could do the job. But the issue was their motivation, and it cost them the position.
So make sure they know that you can do the work, but also that you want to do the work.
Clear communication is an art, and if you master it, you’re going to be more likely to impress the hiring manager in your job interview.
So don’t just focus on selling your skills by sharing lots of information, focus on being brief and clear when you communicate.
It’s okay to take a second to think before jumping in to respond. In fact, I recommend it. Take your time and focus on speaking clearly.
It’s also okay to say, “That’s a great question. Let me think for a minute,” in your job interview.
This won’t cost you the job. In fact, it will show the hiring manager that you communicate well and aren’t afraid to use a bit of time to make sure you get your message across clearly. That’s something most employers will value highly!
Next, consider creating a 90-day business plan for your interview. You can find a template at that link. In your plan, you should show the employer what steps you’d take to learn the role, get acquainted with the team and how it operates, and quickly start contributing to their efforts.
Very few job seekers are doing this, so you’ll stand out if you make the extra effort.
There’s one thing the interviewer is guaranteed to remember from your conversation: How you wrap up the discussion.
So take the time to practice an interview closing statement. Know what you’re going to say at the end of the meeting to leave them with a great final impression.
If you follow the tips above, you’re going to do a better job of selling yourself when you talk about yourself in the interview. This will help you make a better impression so you can get more job offers.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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