Job Interviews – The Art of Selling Yourself
Congratulations! You’ve got your foot in the door and won half the battle by convincing your future employer that you a contender for the job based solely on the written words of your resume. Now don’t piss away your chances for being hired by “winging it” and choking during the job interview! Easier said than done? I don’t think so. Below, you will find the most successful strategies and tricks I’ve compiled and used throughout the years.
PART I: PREPARATION
Sun Tzu said, “To not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.” While I am sure he was referring to vanquishing his foes on the field of battle, the words still ring true when it comes to job interviews. What you sow during the preparation phase, you will reap in the interview.
Before you set foot in the building for the job interview, there are a number of crucial preparation steps that must be taken in order to succeed and get hired.
Thoroughly research the company :
- Learn key points about the business or organization such as products and services offered, company size, history, geography (office locations), and reputation in the industry
- Make note of any significant industry accomplishments or awards
Understand the position you’re interviewing for:
- Write down and memorize (with specific examples) how your specific experiences and training match up with the requirements of the job
- Track down people within the company performing similar jobs as the one you’re applying for via LinkedIn so you can have some insight as to what skills and traits they might be looking for and potentially, who you will be replacing (For a comprehensive guide to using LinkedIn, check out the ‘Networking for Success’ section of our site)
Prepare a list of 3 – 5 questions regarding the position and/or company that you can ask during the interview:
- The questions should not be related to compensation or finances of any kind
- Use a couple general questions such as “How will you measure the success of the successful applicant?” OR “What are the goals of the position over the next year?”
- Come up with one or two specific questions related to the position such as “I have seen the term ‘managed services’ used in many different ways. I understand it is a requirement of the position, so I was wondering if you could tell me what specific technologies XYZ Company was referring to?”
2) Know Thyself
When it comes to the job interview, you are the product being sold. It is your responsibility to know what you’re selling inside out and convince your future employer that you are the finest product on the market.
- Review and be prepared to recite (chronologically) the details of your resume
- Write down specific key points about yourself that relate to the job you’re interviewing for
- Make sure you fully understand how your particular skills and experiences relate to the position and the value they will bring to the organization
- Focus on your specific accomplishments over your responsibilities when talking about your employment history – monetize accomplishments where possible (i.e. saved XYZ Company $10,000 over previous year by implementing green initiatives)
I cannot stress enough the importance of practice prior to the interview. Knowing the majority of what you will say in advance will relax you, make for a more natural conversation, and leave the impression with the interviewer that you are a well-composed, confident professional.
- Practice pitching your employment history and professional accomplishments in chronological order and make sure you are hitting the key points about yourself that specifically relate to the position
- Familiarize yourself with common interview questions and pitfalls
- Rather than constructing an entire script to answer the common interview questions, build key points that you want to touch on and rehearse them – this will make your answers more natural and conversational than a pre-rehearsed dialogue
Planning your transportation in advance will minimize your chances of a late arrival and remove unnecessary additional stress on the day of your interview.
- Get the names of the interviewer(s) in advance write them down along with the exact time of your interview
- Before the interview, you should have a thorough understanding of where it will be taking place (building number, floor number, etc.) as well as the route and mode you will take to get there – the day of the interview is not the time to scramble for directions
- If you’re driving, plan a couple routes to get there to account for unforeseen circumstances – also make sure your fuel is topped up
- If you’re taking public transit, ensure you know and understand the appropriate schedules and transfer points
5) Dress Like You Mean Business
Even if the office dress code is shorts and sandals, it is important to show your future bosses that you’re serious about getting hired. Dressing your best will demonstrate your commitment to professionalism and start your first impression off on the right foot.
- I have yet to encounter a situation where I’ve hurt my chances for success in a job interview by wearing a clean, pressed suit – regardless of the company and position, I always recommend it
- If you are uncomfortable wearing a suit, you will look like a meth addict in a fibre glass factory during your interview – get used to wearing one ahead of time
- Like dressing for the cold, you can always dress down on the fly if necessary
- Iron your clothes
- Proper hygiene must be maintained (showered, teeth brushed/flossed, deodorant, clean-shaven, hair styled, etc.) – smelly pits or spinach teeth will demolish chances of being hired
PART II: THE INTERVIEW
You’ve planned, prepared and rehearsed for the job interview with soldier-like dedication. Now get in there, put it everything you’ve practised into action and get yourself hired, damn it!
1) Be Prompt
It never fails to surprise me how often I see candidates encountering unforeseen circumstances, resulting in their being late for or missing the interview entirely. Short of an emergency, tardiness is completely avoidable and nothing will give your chances for successfully being hired a roundhouse to the teeth like it.
- Give yourself plenty of time to allow for delays such as traffic incidents, transit stoppages and road construction
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes early
- Have all your clothes, directions (or GPS), notepad & pen, briefcase, purse, wallet, keys, belt, shoes, etc. laid out in advance so you are not a headless pile of poultry when it’s go time
- If you’re driving, be sure to review your routes and check the traffic reports
- Review the transit schedule and transfer points before you go
2) Let’s get Physical (and Emotional)
Try and Relax
As a result of the planning and rehearsing you’ve done, you should be a calm, confident and articulate professional. If you find yourself still fighting a bad case of the jitters, there are a few tricks and strategies I’ve learned throughout the years:
- Relax, breathe deep and recognize that the interviewer is for you, not against you
- Reviewing resumes and conducting job interviews is a time-consuming process and hiring managers want to get back to their regular duties as quickly as possible – they’re rooting for your success in the interview!
- The hiring manager has already decided that you’re worth spending time talking to as a result of your resume, which means there is already a level of confidence in your ability to do the job
- Try convincing yourself that you don’t need the job – you have a valuable skill set and even if this company passes on you, another will surely hire you – I’ve always found this tactic really takes the pressure off
- Another great strategy is to convince yourself that you are going in to speak with a friend – obviously, professionalism must be maintained, but this line of thinking will make your conversation more natural
According to Will Smith in his role as ‘Hitch’, 90% of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth. Other professionals may disagree as to the exact percentage, but one point cannot be disputed – good body language is integral to a successful interview.
- Learn how to maintain eye contact appropriately & comfortably
- If eye contact makes you uncomfortable, practice with baristas, sales clerks, gas station attendants, friends, family and anyone else you can until it is second nature
- Greet the interviewer with a firm (but not crippling) hand shake that includes a smile and strong eye contact
- Be cognisant of your posture and eye contact throughout the interview
- Head up, shoulders back
- Lean forward slightly to show that you’re engaged and interested
- Avoid folding arms and staring at the ceiling or floor
- Avoid fidgeting, tapping, chewing your pen your any other “nervous ticks”
3) The End?
You’re nearing the finish line. Let’s wrap it up! The interviewer looks at you and asks, “Do you have any more questions?” What now? Rather than awkwardly stating that you can’t think of any questions, try closing the interview with some variation of “Do you have any concerns about my ability to do this job?”
Granted, you may end up with a sloughed answer like “It is too early to tell”. However, I have found more times than not that I receive valuable feedback regarding my performance and a decent idea as to where I stand. It may also provide you with the opportunity to address any concerns your future employer may have.
- Finish the interview by thanking the interviewer for their time and once again shaking his/her hand (with eye contact and a smile) while reiterating your enthusiasm toward the position.
4) Follow Up
Just because the interview is over, doesn’t mean your work is through. Proper follow up demonstrates your continued interest and keeps your name fresh in the head of the hiring manager.
- As soon as you get home from the interview, send a follow up email thanking the interviewer for their time and restating how excited you are about the position
- Every interaction whether it be email, telephone or in-person builds your rapport with a potential employer
- Follow up a week from the day of the interview to check in on the progress of the position, reaffirm your zeal and get your name back on the mind of the interviewer (unless you’ve been given explicit indications not to)