How to sell yourself at a job interview

Even with years of experience and an impressive industry skillset, countless interviewees have been undone through the ages because interview proficiency is missing from their armoury. While there’s certainly an argument that employers should not place unequivocal trust in interviews for evaluating the competency of candidates and their interpersonal skills, the fact is bad interviews rarely result in gainful employment.

Thankfully, many interview skills can be learnt through preparation. In the guide ‘How to Sell Yourself at Interview’, Badenoch & Clark provides tips on readiness and body language, offers examples of questions to ask, and deconstructs typical interview questions. Alternatively, we also have a guide to preparing for competency based interviews. The following is a summary of key points from the full guide.

Pre-interview preparation

One part knowledge and one part sensible decision making, good preparation is the foundation of any good interview. Some of the following points may seem like common sense, but either stress or complacency can push them out of a candidate’s consciousness:

Make sure you have the time, date and interview location well ahead of time. Chase these details if they haven’t been given to you

Plan your journey – factor in extra travel time to allow for potential delays

Research the business you are interviewing with, as well as the role you are interviewing for and your interviewer (if relevant). It is essential you have something to say about the company, so consider researching the following questions via company websites, social media, recruitment consultants, and friends:

  •  How many branches do they have? Where is their head office?
  •  How long have they been in operation?
  •  Has anything of note happened recently?
  •  What are their current projects?
  •  What impression do you have of their company culture?
  •  What is their mission statement?
  •  Read the job description and consider how your experience is relevant, and where challenges may lie
  •  Know your CV, including employment dates and how your CV is likely to relate to interview questions
  •  Dress appropriately, and allow time to do so. Ensure your shoes are clean, your hair is tidy and your clothes are freshly ironed

Your body language

Those all-important first impressions rely on subtle body language cues that you must learn to control. Consider the following:

  •  Practice a firm handshake
  •  Smile
  •  Don’t fidget
  •  Maintain natural eye contact with whoever is talking to you, and shift your gaze between interviewers when replying
  •  Use affirmative actions: nod and provide verbal feedback

Typical interview questions

Our recruitment experts have analysed 11 common interview questions, assessing the interviewer’s actual intent. The full guide additionally offers advice on how to deal with the following questions:

“Tell me about yourself”

This is frequently a way of testing your ability to talk concisely, in an engaging manner.

“What have your achievements been to date?”

This is an invitation to prove that you are an achiever.

“Are you happy with your career to date?”

This measures self-esteem, self-confidence, career aspirations and general positivity.

“What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?”

An interviewer who asks this is attempting to measure your concept of difficulty and whether you have problem solving abilities.

“What do you like about your present job?”

This interview question ensures that the reasons you’re leaving your current job aren’t components of the position you’re interviewing for.

What do you dislike about your present job?”

This has a similar function to the previous question, but it’s important to deflect weaknesses onto your present employer.

“What are your strengths?”

This question requires a straightforward answer tied to the values required for the role.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Again, part of a likely pair of questions, this is actually more about providing an idea of your self-awareness.

“What kind of decisions do you find most difficult?”

With this, the interviewer is really saying “I need someone who is strong and decisive but who has a human side.”

“Why do you want to leave your current employer?”

This question invites negativity, but should be answered with positive traits such as challenge seeking.

“Why do you want to work for us?”

The unstated question here is “why choose us over any other company”.

In addition to the above, the guide goes onto suggest over 40 further questions to consider. It also offers the following general advice:

Interview answers should be succinct but not abrupt – avoid tangents and waffle

Always give yourself a short amount of time to consider the question posed to you

It is acceptable to not have an answer to a question, though you should be sure to only allow this to happen once or twice

Even if you decide the role isn’t for you, complete the interview as if you would be interested in taking the job

How to end an interview

First impressions may be important, but your last actions inside an interview room will carry a certain degree of extra weight too. Body language best practice is much the same as at the start of an interview: firm handshakes and attentiveness are key. Also important is the opportunity to ask a couple of questions of your interviewers. The complete guide suggests 14 questions, but the following general advice should be considered:

Questions about the company demonstrate enthusiasm and existing knowledge. Ask about future growth plans, the company’s success, or about their position in the industry.

Candidates usually feel obliged to ask questions at this stage and they don’t consider things that would be useful to know, but are impossible to know from the outside. Ask why the position has become available, what the company culture is like and what training is offered.

This is also a chance to treat your interviewers as actual employees of a company, as opposed to functionaries in the interview system: ask them what they think about working at the company or about growth plans.

For comprehensive advice on interview techniques, read our eight page guide to interview preparation. If you’re confident about your interview technique, it’s time to start your job search. Sign up for job alerts from Badenoch & Clark, or begin your job search immediately.

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