May 6, 2019

Professional Development

Interviewing: The Art of Selling Yourself

By: Leah Whetstone

Interviewing can often cause overpowering feelings of nervousness, apprehension, anxiety, and excitement, to name just a few. But have you ever paused to consider if you enjoy interviewing? Or if you’re good at it?

In college, I was terrified when entering an interview. I was scared because if I failed, I felt like I was letting myself down. What if the interviewer asked me a question I didn’t know how to answer? What if there was information I wasn’t aware of? What if my outfit didn’t stand out in a positive way?

I eventually overcame these feelings, but it took sincere time and effort. It didn’t happen by mistake or because I got older. In my experience, here are several things that helped my mentality go from “I’m terrified of interviewing” to “Interviewing is a game, and I plan to win.”

You are interviewing the interviewer
The pivotal piece of information that switched how I thought about interviews is knowing that you are interviewing the interviewer just as much as they’re interviewing you. The purpose of the interview is to understand if you fit in the company and, more specifically, the role. However, there’s an alternate perspective that most people don’t talk about: YOU need to understand if the role, company, and culture fits you and your needs. Ask yourself what you value (flexibility, salary, job requirements, culture, etc.) before you start the interview process so you can determine if it’s the best fit for you too.

Hone your values
You need to understand what your life values are and how your job will cater to them. Is your job supporting a higher purpose, such as your family, a goal you’re trying to achieve, or finding deeper, more meaningful fulfillment? An essential part of the application and interview process is to determine this. If you don’t understand what you value in a job, then it’s going to be difficult to make a decision on the next career step.

I have created a personal life mission that I strive for everyday. While I support myself in my job, it was important to me that I find an organization whose mission aligns with my own. Autonomy is precious to me since I love to travel and focus on building a side business. I have been utterly blessed to live and work in a free economy that allows me to pursue these higher values and work in several jobs to support them.

Research the organization
Researching an organization isn’t just for the application or resume phase of the job search. It’s a crucial element to the interviewing process as well. You should know the company, including what it does, what it stands for, any changes it’s recently gone through, and the role you’re applying for. When walking into an interview, be prepared to emphasize specific reasons why you want to work at that organization and why they should hire you over their competition.

Have talking points
Think of your resume as a storyboard. To the viewer, your resume looks like a bulleted list of items you’ve experience and accomplished. But the interview is a time for you to discuss the stories behind those lines. For every tagline on your resume, know at least 2-4 stories that will help you navigate through an interview. Think of a time you received difficult feedback, a time when you were faced with an obstacle and had to redirect course, a time when you were creative, etc. These talking points are immensely helpful when you’re asked specific questions about your experience. Additionally, have questions prepared for the interviewer at the end of the interview. This is your time to fill in your knowledge gaps about the company and position and how you may fit within the culture.

Follow up
Once the interview is complete, follow up with an email (or even better, hand-written) thank you note. It shows the interviewer that you are sincerely appreciative of their time and remain interested in the company. It’s also a great way to stand out and be remembered.

Practice, practice, practice
I’m 25 and I’ve gone through over 100 interviews. That wasn’t by mistake. I attended career fairs, applied to jobs that required a minimum of seven interviews, went to career services in college, and worked with a career coach. I’m not an expert, but I have some experience. Like anything you want to improve on, exerting time and effort into practicing will help you defeat your negative emotions and elevate your performance in an interview.

Interviewing is difficult. I still get nervous. But doing research and employing certain “tricks of the trade” before stepping into an interview can help you alleviate nerves and perform your best. Give your interviewer a positive reason to remember you. And don’t forget, you’re choosing a company just as much as they are choosing you.