Is “Selling Yourself” During An Interview A Good Idea?

“You’ve got to sell yourself!”  We hear it all the time and candidates looking for a new job or consulting engagement feel the pressure of the cliché weighing down on them with every LinkedIn update, resume submitted, and exchange between recruiters, employers and colleagues.  Yes, selling is a part of an interview but your approach can either hinder or strengthen your chances of being a standout candidate.  The approach is discussed often in telesales and it applies to interviewing as well.  Here’s what I mean…

Whether you are interviewing in person or on the phone, you cannot sell yourself to others; you have to get others to buy YOU on their terms. Even if you are preceded by a great reputation and others are anticipating meeting you, your attempts to sell yourself can backfire.

People buy you, or hire you, for their reasons, not for your reasons. So when we sell people on why they should like us, it backfires. However, when they choose to buy you for their reasons, it creates a powerful connection and a relationship that makes almost anything possible. That connection comes most naturally through asking effective questions and there is no better opportunity to do so than in your interview. Such questions will “sell” your knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for the role you are interviewing without the overtly promoting yourself.

Sell yourself by becoming the interviewer…

Here’s a guide to effective questioning (compiled by Art Sobczak on his sales tips site) that comes across as elementary, but is often – and shockingly – not adhered to in interviews.  Knowing when to ask questions is important too.  No need to wait until all of the interviewers questions are asked before you begin but don’t jump the gun and start your interview with a barrage of questions.

EFFECTIVE QUESTIONING GUIDELINES

1. Ask one question at a time. If it’s not important enough to stand on its own, don’t ask it.

2. After you ask it, shut up. If they don’t answer immediately, resist the urge to answer it for them or follow up with another one. They’re likely thinking about what they’re going to say.

3. After they apparently have finished, remain quiet for 1-2 more seconds.
You might get additional information, and ensures you don’t interrupt.

4. Follow-up their answer with a related question. Don’t ping-pong around from subject to subject. For example, if they answered with, “I believe the main problem we have right now is a lack of integration testing procedures,” a logical next query would be, “Oh, what are some specific situations where lack of procedures has impacted testing?”

5. Be confident in your questioning. One reason people ask multiple questions is that they aren’t comfortable asking questions. The only way you’re going to truly help someone, or gain their interest in hiring you, is by finding out about them. You’re not intruding. You’re assisting.

Fielding multiple questions is confusing for the listener, and counterproductive for you. Ask one at a time, and listen!

Conclusion – get others to buy you instead of selling yourself.  There’s no better way to do that than to ask great questions.  Have a great interview!

About the author

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Carter Groome

Carter Groome is a Founder and the Chief Executive Officer of First Choice Professionals LLC. He brings fourteen years of healthcare information technology management, consulting, and sales leadership experience to the company.

5 Comments

  • Carter: Great post. The challenge with many candidates is they have a hard time separating the “selling” from the “talking” and they never shut up! It happens all the time. I think you have to “sell” if you have passion for what you do and you are confident in your abilities – or the company will think you have NO energy! Candidates also need to know when enough is enough. My advice: Just say more and talk less.
    That would be my two cents…

  • Thanks Tim – Knowing when enough is enough is sage advice yet difficult for candidates to follow. A good amount of the counsel around interviewing has to do with changing personality and that’s a difficult task. This is a great forum for those constantly trying to improve, including myself.

  • Such great counsel Carter! I hear so many stories about candidates who approach an interview like a performance, rather than a conversation – and it goes south every time. I love your advice, “get others to buy you instead of selling yourself.” Exactly!

  • One of the key skills required in consulting is the ability to sell services. It’s a requirement at all levels. If the candidate can sell himself/herself during the interview, the firm will have confidence that they can do it for a proposal. You’ve hit the right note here that selling services is more of a partnering with a conversation than a hard sell as if you are selling a used car.
    Lew Sauder
    Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting

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