Interviewing hundreds of college students and soon-to-be graduates, there is one common mistake that 99% of interviewees make – they tell rather than sell. This manifests in interviews when most students wait for interview questions then immediately talk about themselves. Working to include how some personal experiences might fit the role, rarely do they seek more information, beyond a job description, to learn how to frame their experiences as beneficial to the interviewer and the company.
The Difference Between Selling and Telling
Selling focuses on learning about the interviewer, understanding what the position entails, and what characteristics would ensure the most success. To do this, the interviewee needs to flip the script and start an interview by asking questions. This simple shift can help the interviewee determine how they best fit the role, frame themselves when the interviewer starts asking questions, and provide a game plan for the candidate to share why they will benefit the company and are the best fit for the team.
When individuals hear the word “sell” or “sales,” many conjure up negative images. Words such as pushy, aggressive, shady, scammer, churn and burn might come to mind. While there are bad salespeople out there, sales, at its core, centers upon building transformational relationships rather than mere transactions. To sell oneself most effectively, it is essential to understand the difference between telling and selling.
Telling centers the conversation only on oneself. This only describes one’s features, strengths, or characteristics. While many speak eloquently when “telling” someone about themselves, our features do not explain why someone should listen to, invest in, and hire them. Selling, on the other hand, shows others why these characteristics matter to them. It shifts the conversation to the person being addressed. Most importantly, selling reveals why and how a person adds value to the interviewer.
How to Stand Out in a Job Interview
It is easier to list one’s features. However, to distinguish oneself in the job market, it is vital to uncover your true value to job recruiters. This is what motivates interviewers to believe that the candidate will benefit their team. To “sell” yourself, focus on these three interview tips:
Collect Information – To best represent oneself in an interview, it is vital to learn about the interviewer and the company. This provides a foundation to best represent oneself. Start with interview questions for managers that get them talking. Look around the room or virtual background to gain inspiration or simply begin by expressing “I am excited by this opportunity and would enjoy learning more about you. Where are you from originally, and what was your path to this company?” Even if the interviewer jumps directly into asking questions, after answering the first question, flip the conversation by saying “I appreciate you asking about me, I would enjoy learning more about you,” then ask some information-gathering questions. Follow up with “while I have read the job description, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the role” with additional interview questions to ask the employer such as “what are you most passionate about in your position,” “what is the most essential characteristic to have in this position,” “what is the most important thing to know about this position.”
Listening Empathetically – After asking these interview questions for managers, it is important to actively listen to their responses. Each question will provide insights into the interviewer – the characteristics they find important, the features they value in a hire, and/or tidbits that resonate. This information will help to determine how to position one’s features and experiences as a benefit to them. Have a small notebook and a pen to write things down when meaningful things are said in interview answers. Not only can this help to focus on the important pieces of the conversation, but also shows the interviewer that their thoughts are worthwhile.
Finding Mutual Benefit – When an interviewer finishes answering a question, respond to them by summarizing what was heard and understood. Then frame a response that showcases which of one’s features can benefit them based on their needs. Practice with the following formula “I hear that (what was important) is what you are looking for, and I understand how important this is for the team and the company. In my experience as an (experience you had), I found (what was important) instrumental in (what you did using that feature).” While seemingly counter-intuitive, by framing the conversation on their needs, as opposed to one’s own, leaving an impression is more likely.
Understanding sales and these three interview tips will help to separate oneself in searching for a job. What’s important to know is that selling is not an art form or just for those born with the gift of gab. It is a science that anyone can learn to do and can get better at. Being able to sell rather than tell will ensure that the focus is on the interviewer and what they say and how one can benefit the interviewer and the company. Through this framework, one will better distinguish oneself from their peers and help one to land one’s dream job.