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Secrets for Selling Your Strengths During the Interview


You’ve got years of engineering experience, all the right certifications/licenses, and solid work-related references. However, one lackluster 30-minute interview could be what the interviewer remembers most about you. No one expects you to be perfect; a little nervousness is normal. On the other hand, you don’t want to appear lost either. The key to a successful interview, like most presentations, is preparation.

It’s impossible to anticipate every question you may be asked. However, you can feel confident going into an interview if you think about what the interviewer will want to know about you starting with your strengths. The second is “chemistry.” Will other people in the organization like you and feel comfortable working with you? Third, will you be profitable to the company by contributing directly to the bottom line?

You can’t change your experience or credentials, but you can give proper emphasis to your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. You wouldn’t go into a big sales presentation without thorough preparation, but many people think they can just “show up” for a job interview and “wing it.” Experienced interviewers will see that you haven’t prepared and you will set off alarms. It’s hard enough competing with other people for good jobs without handicapping yourself because you didn’t put your best face forward.

Secret #1–Identify your strengths and core competencies
Begin by evaluating your personal qualities, skills and abilities. In other words, what are you good at? Employers want to know what you can do as well as what you are willing to do. Self-assessment is the first step in preparing to communicate your strengths during the interview. It requires complete honesty and objectivity as you everything you can offer a prospective employer. You are laying the groundwork for your self-marketing plan and that requires a positive attitude and a high degree of motivation. Think about what it is you do well and enjoy doing. By identifying and assessing your strengths, you are on your way to capitalizing on your positives and neutralizing your negatives.

Secret #2–Don’t forget transferable skills
Whether you are changing jobs by choice, re-entering the workforce, looking for your first job, or getting organized after job loss, pointing out transferable skills during the interview is another way to promote your strengths. For example, regardless of the specific field of engineering you are in, you probably have experience in many of the following areas: problem-solving, decision-making, computer skills, supervising, sales, team building, project management, analyzing data, and maybe even fluency in a foreign language. These strengths can be transferred to a variety of positions because each is important to success regardless of the job type. Your transferable skills are key selling points that you can market via both your resume and during the job interview. When discussing your transferable skills, it is important that you highlight the skills that are most consistent with what the prospective employer needs. For example, if you have project management skills, you will want to be ready with specific examples that prove your success in managing projects from start to finish. Identifying your transferable skills and being prepared to discuss them will increase your confidence and help you sell your strengths during the interview.

Secret #3–Translate your strengths into specific accomplishments
Evaluate your accomplishments. Prepare to share five or six examples during the interview that demonstrate your success and that best support the requirements for the position. Providing examples is the best way to support your claims of achievement and convince the interviewer that your past performance is a reliable predictor of your future contributions. You say that you are a good organizer? Then be prepared to talk about a time or two when you used that strength on the job. Did it save the company money? If so, how much? Quantified contributions such as cost savings, and new sales generated are the best kind of contributions. These are the types of details you should be able discuss during the interview. The more specific the examples, the more convincing you will be in selling your strengths.

Secret #4–Prepare for telephone interviews
Effective telephone interviewing is a mutual exchange of valuable information that establishes how much of a fit there is between you and the job. Telephone interviews are screening interviews. Keep in mind that it may be tempting, but counterproductive, to get sidetracked on extraneous issues. If the interviewer veers off on a verbal tangent, take the initiative to get the conversation back on course. The end result of a brief phone conversation could mean that you are either “in” or “out.”

To prepare for a telephone interview, learn as much as you can about the company in advance of the interview. Research via the Internet. Through your professional networking, try to identify someone who has worked at the company and who can provide an insider’s perspective. Armed with this information you can sell your strengths with your answers and even the questions that you ask the interviewer. Preparing for the telephone interview can help you be more relaxed and focused in selling yourself as someone who is a problem-solver. You need to convince the interviewer that you will hit the ground running and quickly make a meaningful contribution to the company. If you succeed here, you can expect to move on to a face to face interview where you will have another opportunity to sell your strengths.

Secret #5–Give yourself a shot in the arm!
We all have days when we are not as self-confident as we would like to be. However, the job interview is NOT the time to show your vulnerability and act as if you don’t have much to offer. What you say about yourself is the verbalization of what you honestly think about yourself. If you envision yourself as a failure, your speech and body language will communicate just that. On the other hand, if you see yourself as successful with lots to offer a prospective employer, your confidence will be evident to the listener. Self-talk is an effective way to boost your self-confidence. Don’t hesitate to use it when you need to.

Secret #6–Know what to do if you don’t know the answer
Be prepared to provide an answer when you are asked a question to which you do not know the answer. In another example, maybe you do not have the exact experience required, but you don’t find this out until the interview. You therefore may not be prepared to provide a good answer. If this happens, you can’t very well fake it, but you can sell your strengths to the best of your ability. For example, Lisa is asked a question to which she doesn’t know the answer. Rather than saying, “I don’t know,” she answered by saying, “I’m not familiar with that process, but in my current job I am doing something that sounds very similar.” Lisa then shared an example with the interviewer and hoped that it was what he wanted to hear - that the process she was currently working with was definitely similar to what the prospective employer was using. In the interviewer’s mind Lisa’s strength in this area is a plus. If Lisa was not prepared, or had given up on this question, she would have lost the opportunity to sell this strength. In other words, you may have to get creative, and you definitely need to anticipate how you will handle a question to which you don’t know the answer.

Secret#7–Remember, your strengths also include your attitude, aptitude, stability, motivation and maturity
In addition to your technical expertise, you will be evaluated for the above mentioned strengths. They include your personal appearance, confidence level, communication skills, a handshake, eye contact, body language, enthusiasm and interest in the job, what you know about the job and the company, what you say about your current or previous boss, your long term career goals and more. If you have thoroughly prepared for the interview, you already know that each of these strengths are equally as important as skills, and work experience, certifications and licenses.

In conclusion, you know your strengths, but you need to make sure that the interviewer sees them too. A timid job seeker or one who is afraid to do a little “soft bragging” is at a disadvantage if he doesn’t promote himself along with the strengths that make him uniquely qualified for the job to which he’s applying. The things that you enjoy doing most likely will bring the most benefit to the company so be sure to emphasize those benefits during the interview as well.

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