It is easy to have a casual attitude towards interviews, particularly if you have attended many in the past. However, you may find this isn’t working anymore. Why?
The job market has changed drastically since the recession, forcing recruitment to take a new form. Of course, CVs are still the backbone of any job application, but there are also ways in which to stand out amongst other candidates when it comes to your interview. First impressions count and you will get a very small window to show off what you can offer.
This is why it’s important now more than ever to learn how to ‘sell yourself’ as effectively as you can. Think of it as if you were selling a product to a customer in a store. Remember to keep in mind what you are selling, who you are selling to, and what the unique selling point is.
What are you selling?
Remember that in this situation it is yourself that is the product up for grabs. You want to highlight your strengths to maximise the conversion rate like you would do if you were selling an item on eBay.
So, how do you make yourself look as good as possible? Firstly, ensure that you have the correct qualifications needed for the position. It is true that more employers are looking for people with experience, but for many academic careers, a minimum educational level is a must. If you don’t have the formal qualifications to argue that you’re knowledgeable on a topic then why do you think you’d be good for this position? Make sure you have adequate experience to make up for this.
Alternatively, turn to the internet. There is a wealth of free information online, so although you may not have the means to attend an educational establishment, it doesn’t mean you can’t advance your knowledge.
In terms of experience, get out there and get some! It’s important to bear in mind that employers will consider your past performances as an indication of your potential future accomplishments.
In fact, Phil McCabe of the Forum of Private Business lobby group has stated that the education system doesn’t produce the right level of work-ready young people. More than one million 16-24-year-olds are now unemployed in Britain, and study after study has shown that employers would rather hire someone with some work experience under their belts, than a degree.
If you’re new to the job market, try some unpaid work experience. The fact that you have sacrificed your time and money to advance your career prospects speaks volumes to an employer. They don’t always want the finished package. They want someone who will develop and grow within a company. If this is you, state it explicitly in an interview. The employer will be impressed by your straightforward approach and willingness to progress.
What’s most important to a company is proven results. Whether you get this from a previous job or from an unpaid internship, it doesn’t matter. Better yourself, not just for the interview, but for your career in the long term.
Who are you selling to?
Make sure you research the market you are looking to enter. The majority of interviews fail due to a lack of preparation or because of nerves. Kill two birds with one stone here by over-preparing. If you are well researched, you will come across as more confident.
Also, think about how you match up against their criteria. Is it a small business? If so, they may want someone who can multi-task and take on more responsibilities from the beginning.
If there is a minimum requirement for the position, then it would be necessary to make sure you pay attention. Recruiters prefer when their instructions are followed. For example, if you feel you have ways to make up for a lack of experience, make this clear in your covering letter. It’s worth a shot.
One way to stand out in your interview is by asking the right questions. Look through the job description and other company literature to find relevant questions you could ask. This shows enthusiasm and confidence. If you ask about the company’s plans, it shows you are thinking about long-term plans. Furthermore, asking questions in reference to their website, business strategy, or press they have received, is evidence that you’ve done your homework and makes a fantastic first impression. You’d be amazed how many people don’t research prior to interviews. Make sure you’re not one of them.
What’s the USP?
The USP is a unique selling proposition, which you can implement by putting yourself in the position of the interviewee and showing them what you have that other competitors don’t. They might see a large number of candidates in one day, so find a way to be memorable, whilst professional.
When discussing experience, you don’t always have to reference an employment example. Perhaps an unusual hobby of yours has given you some desirable skills for the job.
There are three Ps to think about when it comes to your USP:
- Performance (what have you achieved so far in your career?)
- Potential (what are you capable of in the future?)
- Perseverance (enthusiasm can speak volumes)
Go through these prior to the interview and think of evidence where you have shown these traits. If you have any documentation or a portfolio to back it up, always bring it with you.
Most of all, relax and be yourself. Just because the situation is formal, doesn’t mean you can’t be cheerful. Most people are so nervous, showing your smiley bubbly side could be the easy solution to standing out amongst the crowd.