Interviewing – Professionally
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If you are a recent college graduate – or have been out of the interviewing process for awhile as a more seasoned college graduate sales professional – you may not have the sharpest interviewing skills. If you are a recent college grad, the majority of work experience you’ve had until now may have been made through networking or a case of being in the right place at the right time – often involving a quick 10 minute interview and the job is yours! Similarly, if you have been at the same sales job for a considerable time, you may have not had the opportunity to practice your interviewing skills in some time.
As you begin to interview for sales roles, you’ll be going into situations “cold” and up against a plethora of good quality candidates. Especially in the current economic climate. However, don’t be discouraged. By taking a systematic and consistent approach to finding the right job, you’ll be sure to always be a step ahead of the crowd.
This isn’t a one size fits all approach that you can find on websites and blogs. This is a tried and tested formula to success from Graduate Revolution and if you follow it – you’ll start to see the offers roll in. Best of luck!!
Make sure is it no more than two pages.
Have your most recent work experience at the top and your education at the end.
Be honest on your resume as you’ll only get found out at a later date.
Where possible quantify – for example, “helped to manage a team on part time basis” doesn’t sound as professional as “managed a team of four direct reports and improved retention by 15% on previous year”
Have your contact details up to date.
2. Applying and Finding Jobs
Just because a company’s website doesn’t advertise jobs doesn’t mean they’re not hiring. Give them a call!
Be open minded – don’t rule someone out based on what you’ve read online or heard second hand.
Don’t limit yourself to one location. You should look at several cities within one state or, even better, be prepared to move out of state.
3. Preparing for the interview
Now you have the interviews lined up, it’s time to get to work. Prepare as diligently as you can.
Knowledge is power and the more you know than your competitors for the role, the better. Everyone will Google the company and look at the website – do this as well, but what else can you do?
Look for recent news articles on the company.
Call the company and speak to the front desk or someone in the department you’re interviewing with. See if they have any tips.
Check Linkedin for the background of the people you’re meeting – anything in common.
Who are their competitors, how is the market at the moment? Read the news everyday – WSJ, NYT, Statesman, know about current national and foreign affairs that could affect the economy.
- Cheesy but true “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Don’t lose roles because you failed to prepare for the interview.
4. The Interview
When going for an interview, you need to be as neutral as possible. Dress conservatively. The above may seem out of kilter with what you read about your potential employer’s dress code. No one ever lost a job for being smart, but people have lost them for wearing the wrong clothes. Once you have the job, you can dress to fit in, but get it first!
The handshake is important – it should be firm but not too hard and be accompanied by good eye contact.
Have some small talk prepared. It’s awkward for the interviewer as well and if you can break the ice and fill any silences, they’ll inwardly be grateful. (Weather, weekend, news, food etc. neutral topics!)
- Positive body language is important – sit up, good eye contact, seem attentive.
While the interview is a chance for people to find out about you, it’s also a chance for you to find out as much as you can about this new role. You’ll hopefully be spending a lot of time here, so ask away.
There are two reasons for this. First, most candidates ask 34 questions and consider that enough. How can you make an informed decision without the knowledge? Secondly, as the interviewer, if you can’t be bothered to ask more than a few run of the mill questions, I’m pretty sure you’re not too interested in my role. Who would you give the job to – someone who wants to know everything about it or someone who seems like they’ll leave as soon as something better comes up?
Ask open questions. All your questions should start with who, what, where, why, how, which or when. This allows you to gather more information and stops the interviewer from giving you short answers. Think – is there a good culture? Versus how would you describe the culture here?
Topics for questioning should cover role, progression, training, culture and package. Ask around 10 questions for each topic and don’t be afraid to delve deeper if you need to know something.
Practice makes perfect and the more you can role-play with friends, the better.
Utilize the career services department at your college, whether you are about to graduate, have just graduated, or it has been years since you received your degree. The career services department is there to help both current students AND alumni.
You should always give examples where possible without being prompted. For example, if listing being structured as a strength, follow this up by saying how you did something structured.
LISTEN to the question and give short succinct answers. Do not answer what you want to answer or ramble off on a tangent. Some interviewers will be seeing lots of candidates a day and keeping things to the point will stand in your favor.
Lookout for leading questions. For example, if you were asked “what would you do if you won the lottery?”, be thoughtful on your response. Would you hire someone who says they’d go around the world traveling or someone who says they’d keep working and invest the money?
Turn negatives into a positive. Often you’ll be asked to be critical of yourself. Turn these into positives “Too loyal”, “Too much of a perfectionist” “Too hard on myself” are perfect responses.
Some interviewers will try to sell you out of the job to see how you react. They might say something like “I don’t think you’d enjoy this role, we’re not right for each other”. While this may be true, DO NOT let them put you off! Often this is a test to see if you want the role and can get your point across. Explain calmly how you disagree and reassure them you are right for the role.
If you feel it’s going badly, don’t give up. You never know what they’re thinking and it’s best to get the offer and then decide, rather than you deciding you don’t want it half way through the interview. It’s always nicer to be able to say “no” to a company than for them to say it to you.
7. Closing and Follow up
Most people interviewing spend around an hour somewhere, sometimes more, and leave without knowing how it went! You’re going to be different and set you apart from the masses.
- Close, close and close. At the end of the interview, use the open questions discussed earlier to get some feedback. For example, “do you have any reservations about hiring me?” should be “what reservations do you have about hiring me?”
- Other closing questions:
- What would stop me getting this role?
- How do I compare to the other candidates for this role?
- How do you see me fitting in?
- What reservations do you have at this stage?
The aim of asking these questions is to let you overcome their objections. Once you leave the room, there is very little you can do to influence things, so you should always close and overcome any objections.
If they have a reservation on your location, you can say you’re looking at moving. If they question your lack of experience, say that you’re still in learning mode, are free of bad habits and would acclimatize quicker than someone coming in from a company who is set in their ways etc. Conversely, if you have substantial experience, emphasize how your current work could easily translate into sales at the new company.
In short, you need to keep overcoming objections until you can say, “assuming that has put your mind at ease, what else would stop me getting this role?”
Ensure you impress how much you want the role upon leaving and keep your upbeat persona until you’re out of sight.
Follow up with an email thanking them for their time and restating how much you would love the role.
Interviewing isn’t an exact science – but by following the above you’ll be different from the majority and will get offers on the table. Once you have those, you can make the right decisions for you!