Finally, the day has come: after sending (what seemed like) thousands of carefully adapted resumes and specifically targeted cover letters, you received a call inviting you to an interview. Despite your heart beating so loudly that you worry the employer might hear it on the phone, you manage to keep your cool and sound professional when you set a date and time to meet. You put the phone down, do your victory dance, and sit down to prepare. Where to start?
There are many things a job searcher can do to prepare for an interview, with a lot of good advice out there to help, such as in this website, but the most difficult challenge for many job searchers is to find the confidence to present themselves to the potential employer in the best way possible – self assured, clear and focused.
Speaking confidently about yourself is difficult at the best of times. This is even more so when you are unemployed, and possibly torn between the urgent pressures of finding a survival job and the hope of finding a fulfilling longer term career position. Also, when you are struggling with the self-doubt that is so commonly experienced by job searchers, the self-confidence needed to present yourself convincingly is not always easy to harness.
There are specific things that you can do to increase your confidence and present yourself as the person you want employers to see. In this series of posts, I will share with you some of the ways my clients and I have discovered to prepare for interviews, which might help you feel and sound more confident.
Part ONE: First Impressions – introduce yourself
The first step to prepare for an interview is to think about how you would like to introduce yourself to a potential employer. Career and employment professionals often talk about the importance of a “self-marketing pitch” which job searchers can use anytime they are talking about themselves to potential employers. This may be useful when you are networking, writing cover letters or interviewing for a job. In the context of a job interview, this pitch is useful when the employer asks you to “tell me about yourself”, a commonly asked interview question which invites you to describe what you bring to the position in a brief, relevant and convincing way.
Interviews can be stressful and it can be hard to sound confident when an unexpected question comes up, especially an open-ended one that is so important. However, if you are well prepared for this question, you will find that it can be an excellent opportunity to set the tone for the interview and impress the interviewer with those points which you consider most important.
Standing out and being memorable is one of the greatest challenges of the job search process, all the more so at the interview. The only way that you can achieve this is by marketing your skills in such a way that employers remember you as competent, confident and likable, and the only way to do that is through careful preparation of a short, carefully worded description of the highlights of your qualifications.
Consider how you can introduce yourself in 90 seconds or so, with a focus on the assets you have to offer. Check out the job posting to figure out what the employer considers to be valuable, and focus on your:
- Describe your background and relevant recent experience:
I am a …. professional, with 7 years experience working in ….”
- If relevant, outline your education, certification or a specific recent course you have taken:
“I am certified as…./ have a degree in…..”
- Identify 3 or so core skills that the employer might consider to be important; these may include hard skills such as specific knowledge (e.g. Accounting Principles) or personal skills (e.g. organisational):
“My skills include proficiency in….., with a special knowledge of…..”
- Chose an achievement or responsibility which demonstrates your success at work:
“in my last position, I was responsible for dealing with…, and I was successful in….”
- Outline how this job fits into your career goal: “
at this point of my career, I would like to find a position such as this, where I can contribute my skills and experience to…..”
Type out your self-marketing pitch and practice saying it out loud until you can remember it and say it fluidly and confidently. Test it on a friend or mentor, to evaluate whether you sound as clear and impressive as you intend. Remember also that you may need to adapt it, depending on the interview and context.
Have a look at this example of an answer to “tell me about yourself”:
The key to sounding confident is feeling confident, which comes from a sense of being prepared and knowing what you want to say.
Next, in Part TWO of this post, I will focus on the talking about yourself during the interview, and give you some tips for making a positive and memorable impression on the potential employer.
Any suggestions about what has helped you sound and feel confident in an interview? Please share your experiences, tips or thoughts here, or on our Facebook page.