Interviews are often intimidating, but they can get a lot less stressful (and more successful) if you develop a salesman's approach to handling them. You'll never be able to predict the questions you'll be asked, but if you've honed your key selling points, studied the company's needs, and perfected your attitude, answering will get a lot easier.
Try these five tips and watch your batting average soar:
1. Develop a Pitch (or Two, or Three)
Imagine you're the head of a company whose products you truly believe in. You don't need to oversell your products—you just need to connect with the potential buyer and let your faith and enthusiasm in the product shine through.
Interviews are a lot like a sales meeting, with you as the product. Just as you might prepare a presentation of strengths and uses for merchandise, make one for yourself. What are your core strengths? Who are you as a person and how does that reflect in your work? Once you've developed your "story," you can answer any interview question in a way that underscores your key values.
2. Research the Company
Consultants working with sales clients sometimes draft documents called "appetizers" for their clients, in preparation for big meetings with potential buyers. Apps, for short, highlight the current needs and concerns of the prospective buyer so that the selling client can tailor their product pitch accordingly, marketing themselves as the perfect solution for the company's problems.
Be your own consultant: start reading press releases and checking out the competition with a mission to find the company's weak areas. Then, list ways your talents and expertise can help. Extra points are awarded for tying in success stories at your last job.
3. Assemble Your Anecdotes
Testimonies and customer reviews have become a big part of sealing a sales deal. Potential customers want to know how the product has worked for others, assessing their odds for success accordingly.
Since you can only speak for yourself, be prepared to weave a great yarn about your track record. Brainstorm a list of your great success at work, or a time when you overcame a difficulty or challenge. From these stories, make quality categories they could be filled in. Did you once have to jump in and lead a presentation for a sick coworker? Put that in a "leadership" category, or possibly the "thinking on your feet" one.
Then at the interview, you'll have a mental list of stories you can pull from to illustrate a point—and, of course, underscore your overarching pitch.
4. Cop an attitude
No matter what's going on in life, how nervous you are, or how many bad interviews you've come off of, go into each new appointment with a fresh, confident attitude. Your goal is to engage with the interviewer (your prospective buyer), so try to relax and treat the interview like you would a conversation.
Remember too, that you're doing some interviewing as well. Even salespeople need to get a feel for a potential client's expectations—and the smart ones know that if they don't match the product, it's better to walk away from the transaction than tarnish a good track record. So ask some questions of your own and keep confident that what you're selling is worth buying!
5. Follow Up
Sales and business people alike will tell you that neglecting to follow up can result in "money left on the table." This is just as true for the job search process, from applying through to accepting an offer.
If you've made it to the interview stage, remember your ABCs: Always Be Closing. Re-iterate your interest in the position at the end of an interview, and ask about the next steps in the selection process. Then be sure to get a business card, as this enables you to take the next two important actions: sending a thank you note, and reaching out at the agreed upon time to discuss the decision.
The key to this approach is to consider your interview-self a product that you have to sell—and to treat setbacks as a problem with the pitch or the buyer, rather than the product itself. After all, if a salesperson took every rejection personally, they'd never get anywhere. Instead, the best salespeople just focus on the next opportunity, and don't stop until they've found a satisfied buyer—exactly what you're looking for in your interview.