Why you need to sell yourself to the interview panel
Ever wondered why some job seekers land almost every job interview they get shortlisted for? I recently participated in a LinkedIn poll seeking opinions on the conversion rates of job interviews. The moderator wanted to gather feedback on the number of interviews a job applicant needed to attend to land an offer successfully. His responses ranged from 1-2, 3-5, >5 interviews. Interestingly, many participants believed an individual should land a job after attending between one and two job interviews. You may wonder if this reflects your current position or situation. While you might have your say, note that opinions generally differ from one individual to another, which may not reflect your status or belief. Indeed, some individuals land an offer after attending one or two job interviews; however, there is a general principle that you may need to revisit your interviewing methods or strategies if you are not hitting or attaining the desired results after attending multiple job interviews.
I will share the story of two recent graduates – Ana and Chloe. Ana and Chloe were classmates who recently completed their postgraduate degrees in Business in the US. The pair are close friends, and their classmates believe they possess certain personal and behavioural traits. However, while Ana is bold, outspoken and appears very confident when interfaced with the public, Chloe, on the other hand, is introverted and timid. Chloe does not readily speak out, except when she must do so. She prefers to listen and observe.
One striking difference between the pair is how well Ana seems to land more job offers than Chloe. On average, Ana lands 80-90% of the job interviews she attends, while Chloe, on the other hand, averages about 50-60% interview-job conversation rates. Ana attends interviews confidently and is quite good at selling herself to the panel. She speaks confidently of her strengths and communicates effectively to the interview panel. The panel would occasionally ask Ana difficult questions, especially about her weaknesses; however, Ana always seems to have a way of turning these uncomfortable questions around to showcase her strengths further. In situations where it was apparent she was not as knowledgeable in certain areas, she would circumvent this gap by letting the panel know of her plans to cover the gaps through her learning and development plans. She would also provide alternative methods for solving a challenge or task, which further showcases her problem-solving abilities. Ana readily uses the SOAR (Situation – Obstacle – Action – Results) technique to buttress her points when asked questions and systemically answers very challenging questions.
Ana puts forward relevant examples to showcase her strengths and why she was an excellent fit for the role. She would cite relevant examples from her previous work, community or volunteer experience to bolster her stories. She also has a portfolio of work where she archives specific projects, events, and projects to show the panel to support her claims. Ana is able to present proof from various sources to support her claims, rather than just talking about them. Before the interview, Ana also researched the company’s website and profile and used online resources, such as Glassdoor, to prepare herself for the interview. She utilised this website as a guide to potential interview questions and answers, reads about the experiences of previous applicants, reviews the salaries reported by insiders to help her better negotiate the salary structure.
Present stories over facts
Chloe, on the other hand, is soft-spoken. She knows her stuff and is quite intelligent; however, Chloe is not as wordy as Ana since she is not outspoken. Chloe prefers to keep it short, therefore, states facts over stories. Her responses often lack depth and do not reflect her overall contributions, as she is cautious not to overstate her claims or oversell herself. Chloe does not want the panel to perceive her as false, boastful or full of pride. She would generally provide very little or no background information to assist the panel in ascertaining her claims. Chloe thought it would be boastful of her to give these little details, which Ana, on the other hand, provides to the panel. She relied on the interview panel to quiz her for more responses with more open-ended questions before adequately stating her claims.
Consider these two graduates. While they are both bright and brilliant, one applicant can speak up more confidently, talk about her strengths and showcase her work to the panel. She carefully represents her case with relevant stories and examples from her portfolio so that the panel can see her pitch lines up with evidence. She does some prior research into what the panel might likely ask or would like to hear and prepares brief responses to these questions.
On the other hand, Chloe is just as good and prepares for the interview; however, she does little in presenting her case and selling herself to the panel. She is polite and careful not to oversell herself, so the panel does not think otherwise of her. Chloe approaches and attempts questions with caution and provides minimal answers to the questions raised by the panel. She would only broaden or expand an idea if quizzed further by the panel.
From the stories of the two graduates, you would probably have guessed why the panel would lean towards the first interviewee over the second. The panel will likely observe that Chloe is as good; however, they will probably be more confident in hiring Ana because she is more confident about herself and her skillset. While who gets hired will also depend on the role and the organisation, many recruiters would lean towards an applicant who has shown confidence and other interpersonal skills, as observed with Ana.
Be careful not to downplay yourself or your skills. Provide end-to-end stories that align with examples and facts.
Interviewing is about selling yourself. Do not assume the interviewer or panel will probe for more responses at all times. It is your duty to present your case to them so they can see the real value in you, and you have to do this such that your stories and facts align with the evidence and examples you have provided to support your claims. There is a thin line between selling yourself adequately and overselling (telling untrue or fabricated stories) yourself. Be careful not to make your reports look unreal, which may cause the panel to think your stories are false. Provide end-to-end stories to the interview questions. Do not assume the panel will always understand that you are not as outspoken and therefore prompt accordingly. You have to tell a story in line with the question being answered, with relevant examples to prove that you are the right candidate, and they will be making a good decision in hiring you. Your resume has done the job of getting you into the front door. The rest of the job lies with you; therefore, be prepared to speak the part. Be confident about your achievements and showcase this with clearly constructed stories and examples.