By Liam Horan, Career Coach & Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers
Q: On a number of occasions in your column, you have mentioned that an interview is like a sales process. I’m a salesperson, but I still struggle to sell myself in a job interview. I fail to see the connection. Could you elaborate on what you mean?
A: Of course, and, by way of clarification, this advice extends beyond people who work in sales. A teacher doing a job interview is selling themselves; ditto the marketing person, the electrician, the carpenter and the personal assistant.
1. The good salesperson listens. Before outlining what they have to sell, they take great care to learn what the buyer wants to buy. In a job interview this means developing a deep understanding of the job spec. What does the job actually entail? What will success look like? What problem will the successful candidate solve?
2. The good salesperson tries to understand the buyer. People give off signals when talking and the bad salesperson ploughs on through and never picks them up. The good salesperson hangs on every word to get further insights into the buyer. What are their hobby horses? What concerns them? What excites them?
3. The good salesperson declines to over sell. In an interview, you’re unlikely to be the best candidate in every single category. Nor should you try to be: the perfect candidate wasn’t born yet. So accept what you’re not so good at, resolve to get better at it, and move on. A discerning interview panel will welcome honesty and self-awareness.
4. The good salesperson declines to under sell. In an interview, it is appropriate that you would highlight the strengths you offer – why wouldn’t you? The interview panel need to know and only you can tell them. Modesty is all fine and dandy except when it is misplaced and false: if you don’t sell your strengths, how can the buyer be comfortable buying them?
5. The good salesperson seeks to make a good first impression. They know there can often be no comeback from this. Dress appropriately, present yourself confidently, shake hands firmly – all to show that you can transmit the air of someone who is confident in their own ability and comfortable in their own skin.
6. The good salesperson asks questions. This is one area that candidates struggle with – can I ask a question? Of course you can. As I have said here before, an interview should amount to a knowledgeable chat. When chatting, we ask questions to clarify. It’s natural. Interviews are no different. The good interview panel will appreciate your genuine engagement. You should not look upon the interview as a hurtling, runaway train: slow down and make it real.
7. The good salesperson allows, nay encourages, the buyer to talk. Again, this may appear like heresy in an interview where candidates expect to do almost all of the talking, but, in my experience, it is almost always a good sign when members of the interview panel talk freely and enthusiastically during the interview. It means you have stimulated something in them.
8. The good salesperson keeps trying. If this interview doesn’t work out, perhaps the next one will. They believe that there are always more fish in the sea.
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