Talk your way into a job

Prepare, package and pitch yourself well during an interview to convince the employer that you are the right fit for the job and the company, suggests Devashish Chakravarty.

Devashish Chakravarty        Print Edition: September 2010

Which is one of the hardest products to sell? It's you. Even though nobody knows you better than, well, yourself, when it comes to selling yourself into a job and highlighting positive attributes in an interview, you often find yourself falling short. It's not as easy as it seems, right? In fact, one of the worst feelings is to leave an interview knowing that you let the job slip right out of your hands. The first step in sales is to know the product. In case of a job interview, it's to know yourself inside out.

Once you thoroughly understand your strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to decide on how to package yourself and which parts to highlight for this particular sales opportunity. After all, you will have limited time to help the interviewer understand what has taken years to make you competent for the job. To make his task easier, you need to plan and work on every aspect - words, posture, tone of voice, clothes, accessories, etc. Preparation is, therefore, the key to meeting any eventuality and giving yourself the best chance to succeed.

Download lists of common interview questions from the Internet and write down the answers to make sure you have inspected all facets of the product and the sale. Conduct mock interviews with friends to practise, and work to stay calm, remain positive and think logically at all times. There is no dearth of questions an interviewer can come up with. Each of us has at least one horror story about a difficult question that made us sweat.

However, all questions are ultimately related to two basic things that the interviewer seeks to know - are you suited to the job and will you fit in with the people you work with? The interview usually includes standard questions about yourself, your past employment, future goals, salary expectations, strengths, weaknesses, your interest in the role offered, willingness to travel and situations related to the team/boss/customer.

Listen carefully, so that you can answer precisely and truthfully. Use examples to underscore positive aspects in each answer and highlight the fit between your strengths and the requirements of the role. Adequate preparation for a large number of questions would mean that even an odd question, such as 'which is your favourite cartoon character and why?', would be just another opportunity to project your strengths. The next step in sales is to know the customer.

So research the company, the industry, the reasons that make the company special and the people who are working there. If feasible, speak to a few employees, customers and vendors. As a result, during the interview, you will come across as a career-oriented individual, who is interested in the firm and understands the intricacies of the work. When it comes to D-day, being professional will help. Your appearance counts, so be conservative, wear sober, formal attire and be well-groomed.

Avoid smoking prior to the interview and keep all kinds of beeping gadgets out. Remember to carry the requisite documents, including your resume, letters of reference, etc. Ensure that you reach the venue at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time. If you are going out of town for the interview, make sure that you reach the place the previous night. At the interview venue, switch off your cell phone. Take a deep breath and smile. Walk into the interview with the smile just fading away.

A firm handshake, where offered, conveys confidence and energy. As the interview starts, establish and maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s) and be a careful listener. Understand each question clearly, taking time to articulate and express your words lucidly.

Feel free to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify the question to avoid miscommunication. Irrespective of the situation, be polite, truthful and direct in your answers. Do not badmouth ex-colleagues, companies or situations.

Finally, thank the interviewer before you leave. An interview is a tool to judge whether you fit the job and the company. Remember, you are there to make a sales pitch justifying this fit. Your attitude should be geared towards this goal.

However, don't be disappointed if you don't make the cut. The experience will enable you to be better prepared for the next opportunity. If you do get the dream job, remember that you will have to live up to the recruiters' expectations that you helped fuel during the interview.

The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, a human capital management firm founded and run by IIM-A alumni. car

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