You have the grades. You have the skills. You have the experience. You do not have the job. Why? The answer could be that you have failed to sell yourself at interview.
Why sell yours skills at interview?
A definition of the word “sell” is to persuade or induce someone to buy or accept something. Could it be that although you were the perfect candidate for the job you failed to adequately persuade the employer of this during the interview? Remember, the candidate who gets the job is not always the smartest one or the most experienced one. It is often the one who has managed to sell themselves best during the interview.
So how can you sell your skills at interview?
1. Speak up. To sell yourself to an employer you need to verbally explain how your skills, experience and knowledge will improve their company. You cannot rely on the employer obtaining this information from your CV or application – you will have to explain this to them during the interview. If you say very little and provide only limited answers and information you will reduce your chances of obtaining the job.
2. Speak out. For many people it is natural to speak modestly about their achievements. Some people will even talk more about the role of others rather than their own role in the achievement. If you fail to speak out about your achievements and/or over emphasis the role of others rather than your own role you are not giving the employer the best impression about how much you can help their organisation.
3. Prepare. In order to sell yourself at interview you should prepare in advance. There are many things to consider in advance of the interview. These include:
- The sector in which the company operates
- The ethos of the company
- The skills, experience and qualifications required for the role
- The benefits you can bring to the organisation
You can use the information that you obtained as the basis for the way in which you present yourself throughout the interview.
You should also think of the types of questions that you may be asked by the employer. You can then prepare and practice answers that will best sell you and your skills to the employer. Here are a couple of suggestions on questions that you may be asked:
- Almost certainly you will be asked to respond to some version of the “Tell me about yourself” question. Prepare a short sales pitch (elevator pitch). Memorize a short description of your background (education, experience, and skills) that matches your strengths to the job. Add a sentence or two about your drive, determination and commitment to succeed in the role.
- Prepare short little true stories that support your claims of relevant skills and accomplishments. Think about stories that demonstrate your skills, achievements and suitability for the role. Make sure the stories highlight your best attributes and practice telling the stories in an engaging and confident manner.
- Another popular interview question is about weaknesses. The skill here is to make a challenging moment in your professional or personal life sound positive. If asked why you left your last employer you could say, “I believe I fulfilled my potential in my last role, and I felt that I needed to find new challenges to reach my full potential.” If your weakness is about an area of expertise that you felt was missing from your skills and experience, then think about how you overcame it. Did you do further training, or gain the experience you required in your last job?
4. Listen and react. Successful selling is also about listening and reacting. You can show that you are actively listening during the through the use of body language and verbal affirmations. Ensuring that you listen carefully to the employer will also ensure that you can pick up on opportunities where you get the chance to sell yourself by outlining your qualifications, skills and experience.
5. Last chance. At the end of the interview you may be asked if you have any questions for the employer. This is a great time to ask the employer about any concerns that they may have about your suitability for the role. If you are not asked if you have any questions simply ask if you may ask a question. Few candidates are perfect so it is likely that the employer will raise an issue regarding your suitability for the role – this could be something such as a lack of formal qualifications or experience. This is your last opportunity to sell yourself during the interview so make sure you listen and react to any concerns raised and try to turn any perceived weaknesses into a strength.
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