Lessons From Salespeople: How To Sell Yourself In An Interview
Posted By: Reginald Culpepper on September 06, 2023 |
You may not think of yourself as a salesperson. When you’re in the market for a job, though, it’s time to start thinking like one. Your product? Yourself.
Shake off your misconceptions about selling
What comes to mind when you hear the word “salesperson”? Do you imagine someone who’s pushy, aggressive, or unwilling to take no for an answer? Someone trying to get you to buy something you don’t need? We’ve all encountered salespeople like that. Selling yourself in the job market doesn’t mean you have to act that way. There is a different kind of selling that’s more about connecting and authenticity than making a quick sale.
Steve works as a Fidelity retirement director and workplace investing sales manager. He says, “Some of the best sales managers that I’ve ever had are the folks that speak the least amount.” Those sales managers listen to what the other person needs. They allow the person they’re selling to do most of the talking. This approach often translates into not just more sales, but better sales—the kind of sales where everyone wins and the relationship continues.
This is the kind of thinking that will help you sell yourself in the job market.
"Remember there is someone, in some organization who needs exactly what you have to offer."
A new way to think about selling yourself
When we talk about selling yourself in your job search, we’re talking about:
Think of it this way: You are a treasure chest of your life experiences, knowledge, skills, and insights. Hiding those treasures away is a shame. Nobody wants to see human potential go untapped.
You’re doing the world a favor by learning to toot your own horn—at least a little. We’re not talking about being obnoxious or boastful. Just being confident in your unique value.
When you feel yourself fading into the shadows, remember there is someone, in some organization who needs exactly what you have to offer. Think about how putting yourself out there helps them.
Going forward, remember that selling yourself can be about being exactly who you are. It can be about authenticity, shining your light, and putting your talents to use for the betterment of yourself and others.
Nail down your elevator pitch
To sell employers on what you have to offer, you need to become clear about your specific selling points. You can’t be all things to all people. It helps to narrow down your unique offering to a short statement.
That’s where the elevator pitch comes in. An elevator pitch is something you can share about yourself in the time it takes to ride an elevator. It’s a message you want to put out into the world about yourself.
How do you create an elevator pitch? It takes some work.
A typical elevator pitch runs something like this.
Who you are: Hi, I’m (your name).
What you do: I am a (insert the type of work you do including your skills and strengths).
Who you help and how: I help (the type of businesses you help or clients you serve) by (your unique value and services).
What you want: I am interested in (working with an organization that does x, learning more about y, or talking with someone who does z type of work).
Next steps: Could I send you my resume? Can I connect with you on LinkedIn? Would you like to chat next week? (Pick one.)
Don’t be afraid to tear up your first or second or fifth attempts at this. You may go through several different versions before you are happy with it. Read what you have aloud to yourself. How does it sound when you say it? Get feedback from other people.
Once you’re satisfied, practice saying it until it sounds natural. When an acquaintance asks what type of job you’re looking for, this is what you say. When you’re at a job fair, meeting recruiters, this is what you say. Having a clear message will help you sell yourself throughout your job search process.
Selling yourself during interviews
We know. Interviews are nerve-wracking. Sometimes those nerves cause us to talk too much. You have a person or people (hopefully not too many people!) who have a laser focus on you. They are asking all about you. Take a breath. Interviews are a chance for you to shine, but resist the urge to ramble on.
Remember the salespeople who were great at their jobs because they listened? Steve says, “Being a good, active listener is very well received in any sort of interview.”
Focus on the problem the interviewer is trying to solve. Steve advises, “It’s all about putting yourself in the shoes of the person that you’re speaking to ... and understanding their objective. Make sure that you’re addressing the basic needs that this employer is looking for.”
Selling yourself during other phases of the job search process
You’ll have plenty of chances to sell yourself well before you have an interview. Let’s dig into two of them.
LinkedIn is an effective networking platform for people at all stages of their career paths. The profile headline is the perfect place to leverage your elevator pitch. It’s one of the first things people see when they open your profile page. Further down, you can expand on your offerings in the “About” section.
Know your audience and tell your story. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you different? Steve says, “I think sales really comes down to telling a good story and having it come from the heart and believing in what you’re actually talking about.”
Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your posts. Posts that show humor, humility, and heart get a lot of traction.
Support people you admire and engage with their content. It’s a great way to get your name out there and build your network.
In-person or online, networking events are the perfect place to connect with other people. You’ll meet recruiters, yes, but don’t overlook other job seekers. Ask them, “Is there a way I can support you in your job search?” They’ll likely return the favor. Connect with them on LinkedIn and continue the conversation.
"I think sales really comes down to telling a good story and having it come from the heart."
- Steve, Fidelity sales manager
Selling yourself as a job seeker can feel uncomfortable. It helps to think deeply about what you have to offer your next employer. There is nobody out there with your exact experience and talents. Think of selling yourself as sharing your best self with the world. The world is waiting for you.
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