The Art of Selling Yourself

“Impress me.”

Seated across the table is your prospective employer, your interviewer. He is relaxed, leaning back in his swivel chair, with your résumé on the table before him. “Impress me,” he repeats, making a steeple out of his hands as he patiently awaits your response.

What will you say? How can you impress and convince him that you’re the right person for the job?

Believe it or not, it isn’t all that difficult. Here we have a couple of guidelines that will help you land your dream job.

1. Dress Appropriately

Depending on the kind of job you’ve applied for, you should pick the right kind of clothing that portrays the right kind of image. This includes choosing the right colour, pattern and design, as well as looking neat and pleasant.

A more conservative image makes you look more serious and responsible: stick with ‘safe’ colours like white, blue or black and avoid fancy patterns. Subtle pinstripes are acceptable. Bolder colours and patterns give of a certain youthful and creative vibe: consider trendier shirt designs and dress styles, but you shouldn’t have patterns on everything you’re wearing. Also note that colours may convey certain messages. Red is assertive, hence the typical combination of a white shirt, a black jacket, and a red tie. Blue conveys a sense of seriousness, especially deeper shades of blue, and it is generally a very safe colour to work with. Your skin tone is important as well, so match the colours of your clothes to your skin tone. Colours such as cream complement all skin tones, as opposed to colours like dark brown and yellow.

When it comes to colours, pick a main colour and up to two more to compliment the main colour. For instance, a female interviewee aiming to join a creative company can choose pink as a main colour, and wear a pink blouse and pink pumps. A grey skirt suit helps bring out the responsible and serious side of her and counterbalances the brightness of the pink clothes.

Like colours and patterns, the designs of your clothes also matter. Most of the time, it is better to stick to safer and more conservative options. You may want to see what the employees at the company wear: it will give you a good idea of what’s acceptable and what’s not. It is also generally recommended for guys to remove all jewellery (except for wedding rings), and for women to only wear a pair of earrings.

No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, you should always make it a point to look clean, neat and fresh. Throw out the scruffy shoes and yellowed shirts. Guys should not be lazy about their hair either; your hair should be combed at the very least. Also, check yourself before you leave your house, and when you arrive at the venue for your interview. Is your shirt tucked in nicely? Are your pants sitting a little too low? Is your hair messy? Are your nails clean? Pay attention to these details, because, small as they are, they tend to stand out a lot.

2. Know What to Say

Because interviews are all about the way you sell yourself, you need to know how to best present yourself to your interviewer. Find out what you’re good at. Identify something unique that you have and can offer to the company that none of the other interviewees can. You probably already know that employers want responsible, hardworking and dedicated employees; these values are, to put it bluntly, the baseline requirements. To stand out from the rest, you need something more.

Look at your achievements and see if there’s anything that will be useful. If you were the chairperson for a student organization, you can use it as proof of your leadership skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and ability to cope with stress. Indeed, employers are looking out not just for knowledgeable people; they are looking for people with soft skills such as the aforementioned ones, and that is what you should say to win them over. Besides, your interviewer already knows your qualifications: your résumé is sitting right in front of them.

3. The Art of Speaking

With a clear idea of what you should say, the next step will be to know how to best say it. Even if you’re applying for the position of a language teacher, you don’t need flowery language and big words to impress. What you need, however, is to effectively communicate and persuade the interviewer to hire you.

First and foremost, stay calm. It is a lot easier than you think. Even though an interview is an impromptu speech of sorts, and you can’t plan a rehearsed or memorized script beforehand, you can still memorize all the important points, such as your achievements, your strengths, and how you can contribute to the company. Once you know all these like the back of your hand, you shouldn’t be fumbling with what to say in response to any questions that may come your way.

Before answering, think. Give yourself a moment to pick out what you will say, organize them in the right order, and answer confidently. Believe it or not, interviewers like it when you spend a moment to ponder over their question before answering, because you are coming up with an answer on the spot. In contrast, if you answer immediately, it sounds rehearsed and less sincere.

Speak clearly. Your pronunciation matters, and so does your accent. If you’re not sure how a word is pronounced, don’t use it. Replace it with an easier word. As for accents, you don’t need to fake a British or American accent. Keep it natural. Some of us do have a tendency to speak with an odd accent during formal presentations, speeches and interviews. If you have such a tendency, take note of it during your interview rehearsals. Record your own voice and listen to it if you have to. Also regulate the speed at which you speak. Unless you want to be a radio advertiser (whose skills are rated on how many words they can speak in a minute), it’s easier to just speak slowly. Most of us get anxious and we start speaking more and more quickly, so make it a point to slow down.

Avoid really long sentences, for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, long sentences are really difficult to follow, for the interviewer and yourself. The important points are easily lost among all the words. Secondly, it is easy for you to lose track of what you want to say, and you may end up rambling. In addition, longer sentences by default have a more complex structure, so you might struggle a little to keep it grammatically correct. Besides, there are no obvious advantages long sentences have over shorter ones, so break up your sentences.

Speak concisely. As mentioned, you don’t need to use big words, but bring your point across directly and simply. Shorter sentences will help make your points more concise, but you will also have to choose your words with care. Use simple and succinct words. You might want to memorize a few beforehand that you can use, but don’t be too focused on showcasing these prepared words. Use them when the opportunity comes.

Pause at the appropriate moments. Pauses are useful for a few reasons. Pausing between each point gives you time to think about how best to say the next. Pauses in the middle of a sentence gives you time to breathe. One of the more prevalent problems in public speaking is that speakers try to rush through each sentence without breathing. Pausing also slows down your rate of speaking, so you don’t speak at breakneck speed. Lastly, pausing allows your interviewer to digest what you have said. A lightning quick barrage of words will leave your interviewer lost, so give him or her some time to comprehend what you’ve said.

Look alert, lively and confident. Maintain a comfortable but upright posture. When you maintain an upright posture, you’ll find that it’s easier to project your voice, and you will automatically sound livelier. Avoid speaking in monotone, because it is very boring to listen to a monotonous speaker. Vary your tone appropriately, and keep your intonation natural. Gesticulate. It’s really awkward to speak without moving, but don’t overdo it either. Gesticulate for emphasis on certain points, and take note of the way you do it. You should look confident, not aggressive or overly assertive.

Look at your interviewer. There are many benefits to this actually. Maintaining eye contact is one of the keys to a successful speech, because your interviewer will feel respected, and you will appear more confident as well. Looking at your interviewer also allows you to read his or her body language. Is he or she leaning back, bored? Or do you have your interviewer leaning closer, interested? Such cues will tell you whether you should continue with what you are saying, or whether you need to change tactics to impress him or her.

Be polite and friendly. Smile at your interviewer. Give a firm handshake (but not an unconfident dead fish handshake or an aggressive bone-crushing handshake). These are subtle and simple ways you can use to look confident and friendly.

A Couple of Extra Tips…

You may also want to take note of a couple of points when you’re going for your interview. Firstly, have ample rest prior to your interviews, so you don’t end up with unflattering dark circles under your eyes. Remember that punctuality is as important as the interview itself. If you are late, your interviewer is going to get a bad impression of you even before he or she sees you. Also, take some time to visit the washroom or get a drink of water before the interview.

These guidelines are focused on helping you look and feel confident during an interview, and how you can better present yourself to your interviewee.