“Sell yourself first, if you want to sell anything.” — BURT LANCASTER, ACTOR
Although you may not be interviewing for a sales job, you actually have to interview that way. Whether you like sales or not, you have to approach your next job interview with a salesperson’s mentality. “What am I selling,” you ask? You are selling yourself. You have to develop a winning sales pitch and deliver it in a way that the person or people sitting across from you will “buy” the product…which is you.
Preparation for any interview is very important. Above and beyond your company research, job function research and interviewee research, you must ensure that you have a compelling “sales pitch” for yourself that results in a winning sale for you to land your dream job. Here are a few tips that will help create your personal sales pitch that will win you the job.
DESIGN YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION SPECIFIC TO THE COMPANY
You are your product, but does this product fit what the company is looking for? During your pre-interview research on the company, try to determine some of the challenges this company may be facing or the problems that the role you are interviewing for must solve. Once you determine this, you must then develop your personal sales pitch on how your specific skills, experience and background are going to solve the challenges that this company and role may encounter. Your final sales pitch should include those very specific examples and stories that you have from your own career of when you were a problem-solver. You need to ensure that you communicate how you are going to solve the company’s problems.
ADAPTABILITY TO COMPANY CULTURE
The most successful sales professionals know that to be successful in sales, you have to adapt your pitch to the person you are trying to sell to. They create a sense of comfort and commonality between themselves and the people they are trying to get to buy their products. The same can be said for you. How well do you see yourself fitting in to the company you are interviewing for? Does your personality fit within what you know of the company culture? Although you may not know this going into your first interview, try to find out by asking pre-interview questions of recruiters or others who you may know at the company. If this is not possible, try to get a sense of the company culture from the moment you walk in the door.
Once you feel you have an idea of the company culture, you then need to “sell” your personality to those interviewing you and communicate to them how well you will fit in. Try to adapt to their interview style, how they communicate and their demeanor. But, be careful not to let your guard down and get too comfortable; you don’t want to give a wrong impression. Keep in mind that if you get this job, you will potentially spend more time with your new coworkers than with your family. As a result, you have to make this partnership work and ensure that everyone feels comfortable interacting with each other on a daily basis.
SEEK A ‘CAREER,’ NOT A ‘JOB’
It will be important for you to “sell” the fact that you picture yourself with this company long term, that you seek a career with them and that this is not just another ordinary job for you. The hiring process can be very lengthy and expensive at times. As a result, the company wants to make sure it gets it right and hires people who plan to invest themselves into the company for the long haul. Communicate your long-term plan of how you would like to progress within the organization over time and how you feel you can make long-term impact. You may get the question, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Answer this question by expressing your desire to still be with the company in 10 years, with the goal of acquiring increased levels of responsibility along the way. However, do not be too ambitious with this answer. You want to be realistic as to what your career path could be at the company. You don’t want to give the impression that you will walk into the company and take things over after a year or so. Success breeds success. If you do your job at a high level, those promotions will come.
THE BURDEN IS ON YOU
Ultimately, it will be up to you to convince those in your job interview to hire you. Most of the time, products don’t just sell themselves. As consumers, we need proof that a product offers value before we invest our money into it. We seek specific examples of how a product works or functions before deciding whether or not we purchase it. The same can be said for you. You need to offer “proof” of your value or examples of your work product in order to sell yourself for the job. The best way to offer this proof is by answering interview questions utilizing the S.T.A.R.T. method. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and Tie-Back. It is important to answer the interview questions by taking them through specific examples (your proof) of how you overcame something or added value to an organization through your own actions. Spend 30 seconds communicating the “Situation” and “Task,” with a majority of your time spent on answering the “Action” and “Result” of this method. Lastly, don’t forget about the “Tie-Back.” You must explain how the story you just communicated ties back to the question and the company and job you are interviewing for (this is very important). Remember to utilize specific information and data points while using this method, as the interviewers are comparing your accomplishments to the things you could accomplish for them. Lastly, there is a famous acronym among salespeople: A.B.C. (Always…Be… Closing). Take every chance to “close the sale” by tying back your career experience to the specific job and the similar impact you can make at the company.
ASK FOR THE SALE
Every good salesperson knows to ask for the sale at the end of a pitch. How does this relate to your job interview? Don’t forget to ask for the job. At the end of the interview, reiterate your desire to work for the company and the job you are interviewing for. Communicate how you feel your background and experience will be a great fit for them, and thank them for their time.
CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Hough Graduate School of Business in June of 2009. As Director, Craig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Graduate Business Career Services and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the Hough Graduate School of Business at the University of Florida.