The secret art of selling yourself in an interview

Nov 10, 2022 6 mins

The secret art of selling yourself in an interview

author

Debbie Garrick

Writer, translator and ex-recruiter

Does the idea of selling yourself send you into a cold sweat? Do job interviews cause you nightmares? Are you the sort of person who freezes up in terror when you’re asked a question you can’t think of an immediate answer to? Knowing how to sell yourself in an interview isn’t necessarily intuitive. Finding that line between self-promotion and sounding like a self-righteous jerk is tough, but if you want to land your dream job and live that happy, fulfilled lifestyle you’ve been manifesting, then you need to master it. To do that, you don’t have to be a silver-tongued wordsmith or even take a course in sales, you just need to put in the work on yourself. Aaron Barreiro, personal branding expert and founder of 1Strive, offers his advice on how to sell yourself in an interview.

Summary:

  1. Embrace your personal brand
  2. Work on your self-confidence
  3. Nail your elevator pitch
  4. Accept the nerves
  5. Ask great questions
  6. Listen to the interviewer
  7. Make sure you want the job
  8. Be adaptable

Embrace your personal brand

The Influencer Marketing Hub describes your personal brand as “The unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see you for. It is the telling of your story, and how it reflects your conduct, behavior, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes.”

But what does that have to do with how to sell yourself in an interview? According to Barreiro, unless you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, you probably don’t even feel like you have a personal brand, but that’s a mistake. Everyone has a brand, even if it’s created by accident. Your brand is simply how others see you and what they know you for. The first step in selling yourself is understanding this and taking ownership of it.

If you’ve never considered your personal brand before, Barreiro advises turning to those who know you well “Think about what people know you for, or ask them. Once you’ve got it down, ask yourself whether you’re happy with that. If you’re not, you have the power to change it.” He believes that everyone should spend time working on how they present themselves to the world, reflect on the essence of who they are, and then be true to that and show up with their personal brand.

It isn’t a sales pitch, but if you have to sell yourself in an interview, embodying your personal brand will make it easier. The selling yourself part becomes organic, because it’s just a conversation, and your brand is who you are.

Work on your self-confidence

In order to sell yourself in an interview, a little confidence and self-belief go a long way. Barreiro reminds us, “All skills are transferable, so whatever you’ve done in the past will be of benefit to a new role.” It’s simply a question of doing the research, and understanding where the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired will fit into the new role and company. Everything you do teaches you new skills, from hobbies to side hustles to your career history. If you’re reaching for a new role or promotion, taking note of these skills can help combat the dreaded imposter syndrome. Barreiro’s top tip: “Write down 5-10 things you’ve accomplished in other roles that you’re really proud of. Seeing it in black and white can help you to realize what you’re good at, and you’ll have the facts to back it up.”

A 2022 report from Zippia found that the average corporate job opening gets 250 resumes, but only four to six applicants will be called for an interview. So if you’ve landed an interview, the recruiter must see your potential. This is your chance to build on that first impression and share all the things that weren’t included on your application or resume.

Nail your elevator pitch

If you’ve ever been to a networking event, then you’ll be well-versed in the elevator pitch. Simply put, it’s a way of letting people know who you are and what you can do for them in a short space of time (the duration of an elevator ride). It’s not a sales pitch, but more an invitation to know more about you: an ideal tool for selling yourself in interview situations.

Your elevator pitch should take no longer than 90 seconds, but ideally 30-60. Barreiro recommends that the first 20-30 seconds be devoted to telling your story, and the remainder should be your pitch, telling the interviewer what you’re going to bring to the company. If you’re at a loss for where to start, he suggests this checklist:

  • Start with your values. What’s important to you? Find a company you align with and work out why you feel that way
  • Simplify your list. Figure out how the values you’ve noted down might relate to the company you want to work for
  • Decide how those values apply to your own story, how you have demonstrated them, and where they can take you
  • It’s not about being all sell, sell, sell, but about seeing where you align with the company and role, and highlighting that to the interviewer.

Accept the nerves

Nervousness is a normal response to a stressful situation. It’s your body’s way of preparing you for what is to come. Barreiro says it can also be a good thing, “A few nerves are ok, it shows that you care and you’re excited about the role on offer.”

That said, turning into a sweaty, shaky mess won’t help you sell yourself in an interview. The best way to combat nerves? According to Barreiro, it’s being prepared, knowing your stuff, and doing your research on the company and role to work out how you fit into it. “Find out who the interviewer is if you can, look them up on LinkedIn, and get to know a little about them. Research the company’s values and work out how they align with your values and goals. If there’s something, in particular, the company talks about a lot or has a lot of marketing around, then make sure you know a bit about it.”

On the day of your interview, go over your notes and get into the right mindset. It doesn’t matter how much prep you do, you can’t sell yourself in an interview if you’re in flight mode. If, despite all the preparation, the nerves are still getting the best of you, try a relaxation technique. It doesn’t have to be complicated—pick something simple that you can do anywhere (in the company’s reception area, for example).

Ask great questions

Having questions shows that you’re interested in the company and the role, and being interested and engaging with the interviewer is a good way to sell yourself in an interview. It’s also one more opportunity to highlight your skills. Do your research and work out what it is you want to know. Don’t know where to start? Barreiro suggests figuring out what it is you want to know. “People forget that an interview is as much for you to find out about the company as it is for them to find out about you.” Do the company and role align with your values and goals? Frame your questions around that.

For example, if you want to understand the management culture, you could ask questions about timelines, and whether there’s an expectation to handle multiple projects at one time. Alternatively, you could ask what the interviewer feels the previous role holder did well.

Listen to the interviewer

Being prepared for an interview is great, but there is such a thing as over-preparing. Don’t go into an interview and repeat your notes in parrot fashion. Listen to what the interviewer is asking and respond to that. Don’t be so intent on sharing your elevator pitch that you do so when it’s irrelevant or awkward, or worse still, you use it to answer every question.

If you want to sell yourself in an interview you need to have a little flexibility. It’s great if you can work in the information you want to share, but remember that an interview is a conversation and a big part of any conversation is listening to the person you’re talking to.

Make sure you want the job

It sounds crazy, but if you’re desperate for a job, and any job will do, then it will show – and if you happen to have selling yourself down to a fine art, then you could end up in a job you hate or are unqualified for—and then you’ll be back on the job market, or downright miserable stuck doing something you don’t like for 2-3 years. For Barreiro, it’s all about alignment, “Ideally only apply to jobs that align with your values and goals.” Then you won’t even have to try to sell yourself in an interview, it will come naturally.

Of course, you have no way of knowing 100% if the job is for you when applying so, “Use the interview to find out. You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.” See the interview as an opportunity to discover if this is the job for you, and it will give you back a little power.

Be adaptable

In Barreiro’s words, “Not all interviewers are terrifying and scary, so go with the energy in the room. If the interviewer is light-hearted then you can have fun with it.” A word of warning. Never lose your professionalism. You can be relaxed but still, use professional language. Don’t get over comfortable and overshare, but match the energy the other person is bringing. “Most of all,” says Barreiro, “Enjoy it!”

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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