In interviews and other workplace situations, we’re often put in a situation where we’re required to convince others of the benefits we can bring to the company. Even if you’re not going for a sales position, it’s an important part of your general skills set to be able to present things in their best light. And what could be of more value than your own skills and competencies?
How to sell (yourself)
1. Know your product. You might think, quite reasonably, that you already know yourself quite well, but in reality our levels of self-awareness are rarely perfect. Before going into an interview, you should have an excellent idea of a wide range of skills and weaknesses you possess. Be thorough and specific, and an expert in yourself. If you need a mirror, try asking a trusted friend or family member for advice. Think about criticism and compliments you’ve been given over the years and skills and training you have under your belt. You might even consider taking a personality test to explore what you have to offer.
Say: “I have over six years’ experience in product management, especially within startups and medium-sized businesses whose sales are mostly internet-based.”
Do not say: “Erm… I’m good at organising things, I think.”
2. Respect the people you’re selling to. If you go into an interview with the mindset that your interviewers are idiots who don’t know what’s truly important in running a business, you’re unlikely to get very far. You don’t need to treat them with reverence, but you do need to treat your interviewers with respect. Try to think of five positive things about the company and (if you have any idea of what they’re like) your interviewers before you head in to fill you with subconscious positive vibes.
Say: “Good question. Allow me to address that for you.”
Don’t say: “Well, obviously no-one would ever do that.”
3. Tell the truth. “Presenting things in their best light” is a completely different ball game from lying. Unless you’re an exceptional liar, tell the truth and you’ll come across as more genuine and trustworthy – vital qualities for a future employee. And even exceptional liars get found out sometimes. You don’t have to be completely upfront, however – think of ways in which you can stick to the most appealing part of the story.
Say: “I used to have lots of great ideas, but was aware that I sometimes struggled to convey to the team what they meant. I asked them for feedback and to help me practise explaining myself, and they taught me some simple tricks which mean I’m now a lot better at getting my point across.”
Don’t say: “My greatest weakness is that I’m just such a huge perfectionist. And I work far too hard.”
4. People buy from people they like. This adage is often repeated in the world of sales, and it goes double for an interview. Employees are very unlikely to hire someone they don’t feel they would enjoy working with on a daily basis. You need to make them feel comfortable, so they are willing to take a risk. Smile lots, be positive, listen and don’t be afraid to pay the odd compliment.
Say: “I do understand. The business seems to have a strong vision for the future.”
Do not say: “Yes, the office is kind of small.”
5. Understand your buyer’s motivations. What do your interviewers need? What are they looking for? What one thing would make all their workplace troubles disappear? Jot down some ideas before your interview, and think about how you can address these needs for them. Remember that an interview is all about your potential employers and their needs, and very little about you and what you want (that part comes later, when you decide whether or not to accept the offer ;)).
Say: “I can hit the ground running and am great at putting ideas into action.”
Do not say: “I want a career where I have lots of opportunities to try different things and can do some really interesting work.”
6. Close the sale (without being pushy). At the end of an interview, don’t hesitate to ask your interviewers if there’s any final doubts they have which you can address for them. Putting too much pressure on will rarely win results, however – try to be patient when waiting for that phone call the next week.
Do say: “Do you have any doubts or worries about my application, or do you feel as though there’s anything missing?” (you will then, of course, clarify these doubts and stress that you’re always willing to learn new things)
Do not say: “Ten days have passed and I would really like an answer from you.” (it’s unfortunate, but it won’t get you anywhere).