In this article, we will share best practices on how to sell yourself to the interviewer.
If you consider yourself an introvert or a shy person, this exercise will teach you to keep the healthy balance between being yourself and communicating your value to another person – an interviewer, in the case of a job interview. Does this sound like stepping out of your comfort zone? Fear not, it isn’t. This exercise will just help you to be better aware of yourself.
If you don’t consider yourself an introvert, use the guidance in this article to help you focus on how to present yourself in the best light and make the best impression on an interviewer.
What makes you unique?
How well do you present yourself to the interviewer? Do you possess the personal qualities and skills that are unique to you?
OK, maybe none of your qualities and skills are unique just to you. After all, there are hundreds of millions of us and we cannot all be completely unique from one another, right?
However, a collection of skills and qualities such as integrity, focus, leadership, organization, intelligence and communications wrapped up in one individual – You for Instance! – indeed does make you unique and can leave a lasting impression on an interviewer. Presented clearly and properly, your Key Selling Points will communicate your value in such a memorable and pronounced way that if this job is a fit for you, the interviewer will be able to see it. (And if there is no fit, you don’t need this job anyway…)
Identifying your Key Selling Points
So, just how do you go about identifying what your Key Selling Points are, and how to make the most of them?
Perhaps the best place to start is right at the beginning.
Step 1: Qualities vs Skills
Think about particular qualities (traits) that you possess as well as the skills you have developed over the years, and how these have defined you both in your life and your career.
Let’s begin by defining each.
Personal Qualities are your natural characteristics and traits.
You may have inherited those from your parents. For example, my father was a man of the utmost personal integrity and, just like him, I find that I can recognize the right and/or wrong in pretty much any situation, which has helped me greatly in my career, especially in the field of corporate compliance, where integrity is highly valued.
For the purpose of this exercise let’s also rank your values like honesty, dependability and intelligence as qualities.
Personal Skills, on the other hand, are learned behaviors, and often they are learned through your professional life or through your school and student learning experiences, especially if you are in the early career stage in your life. For instance, early in my career, I was asked to coach a boys' football team and that experience taught me to be patient with the boys and understand their needs and feelings while ensuring they received the right guidance for playing the game. These skills are in high demand nowadays and are called emotional intelligence.
Skills are usually divided into two categories – soft and hard:
Soft Skills often sprout from traits. They enable you to interact effectively with other people and the external world in general and include such things as leadership, communication, analytical and problem-solving.
Hard Skills are usually taught and can be measured. They might include Computer Technology (think HTML, software design, coding), Accounting (think CPA license), Marketing (think search engine optimization, Google analytics) and dozens more.
Although the hard skills are the most likely to be featured on your resume, it is just as important to remember that during your interview your personal qualities, as well as both your soft and hard skills will be on display. Most of the soft skills can be transferred to any new job you are applying for. When you are asked questions during the interview, many of your responses will require you to call on your Key Selling Points to provide the basis of your answer.
Step 2: Your Full Inventory
Now, take a moment to think about your unique collection of qualities and skills.
Write them down. The list can be as long as you want - you can always cut it down to a more manageable number later.
To spark your imagination, here are 10 common qualities and skills (both soft and hard) that people use to describe themselves in an interview. *
* These 3 lists are examples only. If you have thought of another skill or quality that fits for you, please use it to your best advantage. In particular, there are many other hard skills to choose from. Google the term “hard skills” to see what else might work specifically for your situation.
If you’re still not sure of what would best represent you, you can check with your friends or colleagues and ask each of them to define your top 3 professional qualities. This will not require much from each person but in the end will give you quite a good list to choose from. One of the benefits of this approach is that it will give you a strong level of confidence.
Step 3: Choosing What’s Relevant
Now that you have a long list of qualities and skills that you possess, how do you choose which ones to focus on?
Typical Requirements. Analyze the job role you are looking for, in general. What are some typical job descriptions? What qualities do employers usually look for?
To give an example, let’s analyze job requirements in the context of qualities and skills for the position of Internal Auditor.
Here are some of the key requirements found in a typical job description for this position:
- Identify and assess significant business risks
- Develop, implement and maintain internal audit policies and procedures
- Develop an annual internal audit plan
- Conduct investigations into identified or reported risks
- Conduct risk-based audits of financial and operational processes
- Timely report audit findings to senior management and the Audit Committee of the Board
What skills and qualities are they looking for? Let’s make a list, based on this job description:
- Most likely a degree/advanced degree in financial accounting or auditing (Skills)
- CPA or Accreditation with the Institute of Internal Auditors (Skills)
- Honesty, integrity, intelligence and truthfulness (Qualities)
- Critical thinking and communications (Skills)
- Analytical abilities (Skills)
The Intersection. Which of the required qualities of the position you are interested in match those from your own inventory? Highlight them.
Specific Requirements. Research the company and the job position you are going to interview for. Are there any specific variations or differences that you need to consider? Any specific qualities or skills? Do you have them on your list? If yes, emphasize them.
Narrow your list down to 3-5 most relevant to the position and strongest to you as a professional.
Step 4: Looking Back
Once you have decided on what fits you best in these categories, your next step should be to look back at your career (and your life in general) to see how each one of the selections you make came from actual events or real circumstances.
Reminder – Always be Truthful. Your Key Selling Points should help you define yourself and should be based on REALITY.
To find context for the selections that you make, take a look back on the events, circumstances, jobs you have held and things that you have done in your life and career that will resonate with the interviewer.
Here are some examples of how this works.
Special recognition at work. Think of a time when you led a team that brought a project in on time and under budget and were recognized by the company's president for your efforts. Demonstrates Leadership, Intelligence and Teamwork.
What are you best at? If you really like doing something, you probably excel at it. Think of a task you can accomplish with relative ease that others may not be as good at. You will naturally be called upon to get the job done! Demonstrates Dependability, Problem-solving and Adaptability.
What did your old boss say about you in your last performance review? She was pleased that you took a course on your own time that greatly enhanced your skills as a data analyst, thereby increasing the capability of your department. Demonstrates Loyalty, Dependability, Critical-thinking and the Hard Skill of Data Analysis.
What if you are just starting out in your career? You should still be able to demonstrate many of the qualities and skills needed, you just have to look at your life and school career to find them. Let’s say you volunteer at the local animal shelter and have done so for several years. Demonstrates Empathy, Dependability and Teamwork.
Being comfortable with the qualities and skills that are both particular as well as special to you, will enable you to use them in telling your STAR stories and also to give you the confidence to speak well about yourself. You want the hiring manager to have the same confidence in you as you feel about yourself. Nothing gives you that confidence like your Key Selling Points.
Step 5: Presenting your Unique Value Proposition
The Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is based on a marketing concept (also called the Unique Selling Proposition) used by a company to sell customers on the idea that its product is better, different, more unique than that of its competitors.
The UVP can also be used by job seekers to differentiate themselves from their competitors in their job searches. The UVP is often used by a job candidate in a cover letter to a hiring manager or recruiter. It is generally quite brief, only a sentence or two, but it is packed with information about the candidate. It can also be used in an interview, especially as a response to the inevitable “Tell me about yourself” question.
The thing about a UVP is that it is made up of several Key Selling Points woven into a brief statement. Once you have decided which of your Key Selling Points are most important, they can be incorporated into a UVP that can be used whenever or wherever it is needed. It will be the definitive statement about you!
Here are some examples of UVPs:
A. Master’s educated, goal-oriented professional with strong organizational skills and a proven track record of leading successful projects to completion.
B. Certified Healthcare Privacy Officer with a master’s in computer network security and a subject matter expert in HIPAA Privacy and Security. Committed to maintaining the highest level of integrity, communication and education in the healthcare industry.
C. Project Manager with PMP certification and a proven record of project initiation, leadership and execution.
In summary, your Key Selling Points are really YOU! They are the combination of qualities and skills that form you as a person, represent your character, and, in the end, are what make you special, valuable, and relevant as both a person and an employee.
Follow the five steps mentioned above, and they will lead you to a better understanding of yourself. And the better this understanding is, the better you will be able to present yourself to the interviewer - or to anyone, for that matter!
About the Author: Stuart Weiner has over 25 years of experience as a compliance officer and auditor primarily in the healthcare field and is currently the Principal of Integrated Compliance, a compliance consulting firm. He also serves as the registrar for the training committee at the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ) – a US-based organization that helps job seekers in their career transition.