What do you “sell” at a job interview?

It’s been a week since you had an interview, you thought you did well because you told them what you did at your last (current) job and some achievements. Somehow, the long-awaiting job offer has still not arrived…

Obviously, luck might always play a role here. However, our real experience in helping our international students successfully pass the interview suggest a “sale approach” in which if you apply consistently, your chance of passing the interview is increased tremendously.

We are surprised by the fact that most students don’t think they are going to actually “sell” something when they go to the interview. Let’s have a look when you are a “seller’ and the interviewer is a “buyer”.

The Sale Process

Going to the interview is like buying a winter coat at a mall… seriously? The sale representative (the sale rep) welcomes you and asks you a few questions to “detect” what you “need”. He/She then shows you some coats that might fit into your “need”.

1.The Introduction (i.e “Please tell me about yourself?”)

If the sale rep starts introducing the material of the coat by telling you “This coat’s material is Polyglycolide which consists of  Polycaprolactone and Polyhydroxyalkanoate. We have our KANBAN manufacturing process to make this great coat. The 1st step is….” You will be like the below picture.

young-man-looking-shocked_4460x4460Source: Internet – “what did you just say?”

This is exactly like you introduce yourself by listing all the tasks you did at your last job with specific process and jargon that are only understandable to you  “At my last job, I used the FUNSERVRT system to input KYC data for reconciliation purpose and I analyze those data to deal with legal structure for our DQM project” Sounds cool? The interview will be like this:


Source: Internet – “…”

It is not cool because of a dangerous assumption: the interviewer knows your last job pretty well, like you know what “Polyglycolide” is. The fact is the interviewer probably knows nothing specific about your last job. If you had a good resume, the best scenario would be he/she just “generally” knows some of your work.

It is the art of balance between “general” and “details” to make sure your answer is general enough to not to cause confusion as well as specific enough for the interviewer to understand your work. For example, most entry-level finance/accounting work require data-processing skill. A clear simple example of how you input an invoice and ensure accuracy in your last job will make a good impression as the interviewer doesn’t have to know your system name or your project.

2. The Persuasion

Next, you surely have some concerns or questions about the coat and it is the sale rep‘s job to answer and assure that this coat is “the best” for you. Thus, it is your job to persuade the interviewer you are “the best” candidate for that job.

Clear results and numbers are helpful in persuasion.

If you are looking for a “stylish and warm” winter coat, the sale rep’s answer should prove that this coat has these features. In processing data, accuracy is the most important things. We have seen many candidates simply list all their actions without any results. Answering “I did….and I also did….” is like the sale rep is saying “the coat is water-proof and it is also light and it is very durable” all these features are great, but your top needs are “stylish and warm” and you can’t see how these features relate to your “need”

“This coat’s design is young and energetic and it can keep you warm at -30 C, we already sold 200 units and about to run out of stock soon” Does it sound better with some numbers? It does, obviously. As a job seeker, you should say “As a detailed-oriented person, I normally process 200 invoices per day with 100% accuracy and this helps my manager make better decision when using my data”. Numbers and clear results catch attention and create a clear understanding of how you can contribute to solve the interviewer’s “need”. For example, “we have many clients” and “ we have many clients whose total net worth is over $100 million”, which one catches your attention?

What if the sale rep does none of 1 or 2? You simply go to another store. Similarly, if the interviewer is not clear or not convinced how you can contribute to solve his/her “need”, he/she simply hires another candidate.

3. You are NOT the only one going to the interview

99% of time you only prepare for the questions and don’t think much about the “competition”. Remember, the interviewer also listens to 10 stories from the other 10 candidates.

You should think of “relative” or comparing to other candidates, what is your difference? Degree and technical knowledge are not differentiators for entry-level job as everybody has a degree and studies the same material at school.

Two coats might be manufactured by the same company but a good sale rep who knows how to present the coat in its “best light” possible will make the sale.

Learn how to tell stories

So what is unique about you? Your experience, your stories of how you handle an angry customer is unique about you. Prepare a clear and condensed example with your unique experience is key to a great “sale” pitch for the job interview. All candidates can say “I have communication skills”, you need to go a step further with a clear example to demonstrate how you use your communication skill to deliver result.

Asking yourself this question “What is the number one thing I want the interviewer take away from this interview?” and “Is this number one thing what they are looking for?”

Even if it is an accounting/finance job, approaching a job interview with a sale mindset will make you re-think about all your answers. You might have a 1-hour answer because you want to include every “best” things about you, unfortunately you only have 1-2 minutes to say something and catch the interviewer’s attention. You will not listen to the sale rep for 1 hour, will you?

Good luck to your next interview, let us know how it goes.

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The TGH team – jobs@trainandgethired.com – January 26, 2018

1 thought on “What do you “sell” at a job interview?”

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