July 1, 2014

Do You Know How To Pitch Yourself At Interview?

Baseball Pitcher Throwing ballWe all know that the interview process is a sales process. The client is the employer and the product is you, the candidate. To maximize your chance of being chosen for the job you need to sell yourself effectively, using skills such as: prospecting, appointment setting, pitching, answering questions, and of course, closing the deal. Closing is one of the most crucial yet most overlooked aspects of sales and the job interview process, and below I have described a technique that job seekers can use to effectively close out their job interview.

The closing technique I recommend is the one used by sales people, ABC, which stands for Always Be Closing. However, we have to be careful with how we apply this approach as it can lead to an aggressive sales approach where you are trying to highlight your value to the interviewer and trying to get them to acknowledge their need for you every five minutes or so until they cave in. This would, of course, be pressurizing and counterproductive as you can’t pressurize someone into giving you a job. It doesn’t work that way.

This is why I think you should adopt a more modern approach to closing job interviews as portrayed by Dan Pink. He talks about Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. With attunement you look to develop a rapport with your interviewer by listening, understanding and uncovering what they really need in a candidate. Buoyancy is where you show optimism and passion for your profession and that company. (If you walk into an interview room showing love and passion for the role and company and you are halfway to closing.) Clarity is about developing the classic, persuasive summary or closing statement, which pinpoints exactly why you are right for the job.

So, how does this work in practice?

To start with, you should attune yourself to the employer/interviewer and try and uncover what exactly are the main priorities for the role. You’ll have some idea of what they want before walking into the room but listen and probe for particulars. For example, you might hear them say, “What we are really looking for is someone who knows how to do XYZ.” This is a massive closing opportunity for you, a chance to hit them right between the eyes and show them how you fit. You might reply, “I am glad you mentioned that because I have very specific experience of that and I think I could really help you to solve that problem by doing X, Y and Z.” You should find several of these closing opportunities occurring during the interview and be sure to respond to them. You can encourage these mini closing opportunities by asking questions like, “What is the most important factor for you in a candidate, or what keeps you up at night?” This should uncover or expose the real crux of their problems or needs, giving you a great mini closing opportunity to show how you can meet this need. Try to remember these crucial problems and even note them down if that helps, as you will need to recall them later.

I am not going to spend too long on buoyancy as that’s self explanatory. Make sure to show genuine excitement and passion at the challenge and opportunity of joining their business, tackling issues and having successes.

At the end of the interview, you’ll be given the opportunity to close and this is where you show clarity. Ask any further questions to make sure you fully understand what their priorities are for the role.  And you then need to deliver a short, compelling summary that outlines their priorities, which  you have ascertained throughout the interview, shows how you enthusiastically meet their needs and priorities, For example, (and you might vary this to suit your personality and the situation) you might say, “From our discussion today I gather that your key priorities are X, Y and Z, and I believe that I am the perfect candidate for this role as I have shown the ability to do X (during this role/company/project), Y (during this role/project) and Z (during this role/project). I am very keen to move forward with you and would like to know what the next steps for me are to help make that happen.” The underlined part is optional and just depends how forthright you wish to be at that point, depending on the situation and personalities involved.

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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.