Here’s an exercise to help you sell yourself in interviews

By Scott Sargis
Published In The Chicago Tribune
April 24, 2002

Although the job picture has improved slightly in the last couple months, employers are still in the driver’s seat. This means that job seekers need to develop an effective sales presentation as an edge over the competition.

Unfortunately, most candidates do not sell themselves properly in the interview process. Even marketing professionals adept at new product introductions and brand strategy fail to promote themselves effectively

A simple four-step exercise will help you better sell yourself to prospective employers:

  • Write down all your quantitative accomplishments on a small memo pad. Don’t focus on qualitative traits such as “I am good with people.” Instead, focus on specific ways you increased sales, reduced costs, won any awards or patents you obtained, or estimate ways you impacted an employer’s bottom line.

    For example, “As quality inspector, I specified a new computer system on the assembly line, which reduced manufacturing defects by 3 percent.” These will be difficult to uncover and quantify for some jobs, but be creative. Spend at least three days on this step before moving on to the next step. You probably will uncover 70 to 80 percent of your accomplishments in the first hour, but the remaining 20 or 30 percent will come to you at a later time when you least expect it, such as when you’re watching TV.

  • Spend an hour reviewing the list you’ve developed. Rank items by asking, “Why is this important to your next employer?” Then memorize the 10 most important ones.
  • Adopt the mantra “sell, sell, sell.” During the interview, whenever the conversation points to your accomplishments or ways you think you can benefit the company, jump in with a “sales bridge.”

    A sales bridge helps you compose your thoughts and deliver a stronger sales pitch. Some useful ones are: “I’m glad you brought that up” or “It’s interesting you mentioned that.” After the sales bridge, include one of the accomplishments you memorized.”

    For example, if the employee mentions that their company uses Pro-E CAD (Computer Aided Design) and you have such experience, charge in and say, “I’m glad you brought that up, because as a project engineer at ABC Company, I used Pro-E for three years, designing 18 connectors resulting in $5 million in sales.”

  • Practice the above techniques in a mock interview several times, with a friend being real tough on you.

    The harder they are on you in this practice setting, the easier and more effective the actual interview will be.