October 5, 2018

Professional Development

Interviewing: The Art of Selling Yourself

By: Leah Nalepa

Interviewing for a job can be one of the most intimidating activities, next to, say, public speaking. I cringe at the thought of some of my first interviews; the mistakes I made when looking at my resume during an interview, using filler words such as “um” or “like,” or not preparing questions for the interviewer beforehand. Thankfully, I overcame many of these mistakes over the course of five years, participating in almost 90 interviews.

While I am not the most experienced interviewer (or interviewee), I learned from past mistakes and accumulated several pieces of advice from others along the way. At different points, I had the opportunity to incorporate this advice. It has proved remarkably useful by helping me stand out at a career fair, get a second interview, or receive a job offer. Try these in your next interview and see how it goes!

1. Be introspective
Reflecting on what your unique strengths and talents are, where your interests and passions lie, and what your values are, is critically important to understanding yourself before an interview. What can you bring to the table that no one else can? If you have read one of my previous blog posts, you will notice authenticity is a reigning theme. In an interview, pretending to be someone else usually backfires (trust me, I have tried it). Rather, hone your professional uniqueness through the words you use, the demeanor you show, and the clothes you wear. When nervous, embody a “fake it (confidence) until you make it” attitude — it goes a long way. The very act of smiling shows confidence and is contagious. Stand up straight and have a firm handshake (yes, your heart may be throbbing inside, but the interviewer does not need to know that). A tactic I frequently deploy is wearing clothes that people will remember me by that are both professional and colorful (shocker if you know me).

Pro tip: Remember that you are interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing you. If you feel you do not fit in at the company, then you will know from the interview(s). This idea immensely helps boost inner confidence when entering an interview.

2. Create your own talking points
Research the company and the position you applied for before the interview. Some questions to ask yourself: What does the company value? What qualities is the team looking for in this role? How does this correlate with my experience? What projects, services, or mergers has the company recently engaged in? Having strong and articulate points allows a candidate to drive the conversation and avoid filler words that display nervousness.

Pro tip: Research the company on all social media platforms. It helps cultivate an image of who the company is and what image they strive to create in the eyes of the consumer. Sometimes, this helps identify what clothes to wear to an interview (there may be pictures of people in business professional, business casual, or jeans).

3. Understand the different types of interviews
There are multiple types of interviews and ways to prepare for them. Among others, the most frequent are:

i. Screen interview
ii. Selection interview
iii. Panel interview
iv. Behavioral-based interview (STAR)
v. Case interview
vi. Lunch/coffee interview

I recommend Googling the different interviews to understand them more thoroughly (I will not bore you here!). Interviews can be conducted over phone, video, or in-person. Most of the time, companies let candidates know what type of interview to prepare for ahead of time.

Pro tip: Bring several copies of your resume to the interview in a padfolio in case one of the interviewers does not have a copy. I once interviewed at a financial firm where they unexpectedly added a sixth interview to my schedule in the middle of the day. Luckily, I was prepared to provide a copy of my resume to the employee interviewing me.

4. Prepare questions for the interview
Remember how you are interviewing the company too? This is where that significantly comes into play. In every interview I have been in or conducted, there is time at the end to ask the interviewer questions. As a candidate, asking questions is extremely important as it shows interest in the company, culture, and team and also allows the interviewee to get answers to any questions or reservations they may have.

Pro tip: Ask questions based on your research, on company culture, team environment, difficulties the team may be facing, and how you may contribute to the company if hired. These often shed light on the kind of company you might join.

5. Follow up with a thank you note
This is key! A thank you note goes a long way with the interviewer and solidifies a candidate’s gratitude for the interview. (I kept all the thank you notes I received from candidates I interviewed!) A neat piece of advice I received from a former colleague is to have a thank you note already written (most likely you already know the name of the interviewer) when walking into the interview. Once the interview is finished, give the note to the receptionist upon leaving. I also recommend sending an email thank you note to all interviewers as well.

Pro tip: Ask for each of the interviewers’ business cards or contact information. It guarantees you will have each of their emails for thank you notes later.

Was this helpful? Have more questions about interviewing? Email me!