Interview Tips

The first thing to remember is that an interview is a sale.  Therefore you must approach it in exactly the same way as you would if you were to meet a potential customer

Introduction / Presentation

When companies first meet an applicant they are looking at you with the mindset of "what would this person look like in front of my customers?" It is important therefore that you create the perception of a well presented enthusiastic and structured individual. The following tips will help with this:

  • Wear a black/navy suit, formal tie(if appr.) and formal shirt/blouse, white or light blue is better as they are more conservative. With dress sense it is better to be safe and avoid garish clothes.
  • Good firm handshake is necessary to make a confident first impression. You must also look at someone directly, smile and be polite.
  • Eye contact is important to be retained throughout the meeting as it is important to use to build up trust. A company is more likely to believe what you say if you look at them when saying it.
  • Body language is also very important. Do not lean forward on the interview desk, fold your arms, sit too far back or slouch.
  • It is also important that you take a presentation pad in with you to make notes on. Companies expect this as they are interviewing a sales professional.
  • It is also important to take information in from the website or company brochures as it gives off a good impression.

What is the company looking for?

Your objective at the start should be that you need to build up a job description before you start talking about yourself. As with any sales process needs are fundamental to the success. Interviewers tend to fall into two camps. First of all there are those who start off by giving a presentation on the role and the company. This is good news because the interviewer is allowing you to relax and listen to what they have to say. They are also giving you lots of information that you can use. Remember to note information given and ask specific clarification questions that will be of benefit later to you. The second scenario is somewhat trickier. Many interviewers start off by asking one of the following questions "Tell me about yourself", or "Take me through your CV". Often applicants answer the question by trying to cram in as much of their history as possible thinking that they are bound to stumble on something relevant. This is dangerous for the following reasons:

  • You are talking incessantly and not demonstrating listening skills.
  • You are giving information that is quite possibly irrelevant for the position.
  • You may be shooting yourself in the foot by talking your way out of the position.

The way to overcome this situation and turn it to your advantage is to question the question. As a sales professional going for a sales role "open questions" are essential at this juncture to get as much information as possible but also to demonstrate good salesmanship. Ask "where would they like you to start?" and "How much detail to go into?". This allows you to clarify their question so that you can tailor your answer. Once you have done this talk about your track record in bullet point fashion keeping to no more than 5 minutes. When you have done this then take control of the interview by asking a question about the job, the more questions you ask the better you will interview. The best interviews are ones which are conversations when the interviewee and interviewer are asking and answering questions on a level.

Pre-interview/Research

You should always do the following before an interview:

  • Read and print off information from the company website
  • Read and print off information from the competitor websites.
  • If it is tangible, go out and get a feel for the product.
  • Make a list of your strengths/weaknesses.
  • Make a list of what you like about the job/what makes you good for the job.
  • If you have the time then it is always worth putting a sales/business plan together. This is not essential but always looks very impressive and it is generic so once it is done then you can tweak it for any future interviews

What are your features and benefits which make you right for the job?

Once you feel you have the necessary information it is important that you sell yourself effectively. It is useful if you have thought before hand what you are going to say about yourself. Obviously you must be able to tailor the features to the company needs.

Pick three characteristics that you believe make you as asset. It is necessary that you explain the benefits to the company. Below are a few examples:

FEATUREBENEFIT
  • Competitive
  • Relationship Builder
  • Organised
  • Want to be the best – hit target
  • People buy from people
  • Knows what target is and how to achieve it

Companies also want to know what business achievements you have made. Therefore knowing what targets you have hit is beneficial along with how you have added value to previous companies. Giving specific examples of targets and achievements add weight to the interview. For example saying you are currently 81% of target year to date and that you were 90% year before last and 110% before that is much better than not knowing what your target is or how you have performed so far in the role. Do not worry if you are behind target, as long as there are reasonable reasons it will not be held against you.

It is also important to talk here about explaining your reasons for leaving your current role. The golden rule about discussing career moves is always be positive and try to explain them as moves forward. Avoid any negativity such as not being paid enough, bad bosses or products etc. Always outline positive aspects about working for the organisation and point out what it has given you. Then explain that you are looking to move forward to something else that you are not being offered at present. Applicants who are positive come across as more attractive then applicants who are negative.

The close

There will come a point when the interview is coming to an end. At this point you must take control and get feedback on how you have done. There are certain structured steps you can take:

  • Thank the interviewer for his / her time.
  • What is the next stage in the interview process?
  • How do you compare with others seen?
  • What does he / she think of you and your suitability for the role?
  • What concerns do they have?
  • When will the next stage be?

Remember your close does not need to be aggressive it is all about how you deliver it. The close will demonstrate your sales ability and also give you the opportunity to get feedback and address any potential concerns they may have. When they give you reservations these should be seen as further opportunities to sell yourself. Overcome objections by first of all asking how much as a reservation it is? This clarifies the objections. Then ask what other skills / attributes they think you have which counteracts this concern. Ask again for a second interview or further consideration. Lastly when closing, an open question works better. Asking questions such as "do you have any reservations?" will promote the obvious reply of no as it is an easy question for a company to get out of.

Additional points

You should use the interviewers name every few minutes, you may think you do this but in reality most candidates only do it at the start and at the end. It brings the interviewers attention straight back on you.

Ask the interviewer what their background is and a bit about them in general. It is polite and it also takes the focus off you for a few minutes.

Make sure that you understand the basic rules of selling i.e understand the customers needs & requirements then sell the features and benefits of your product around those needs.

Talk about specifics, don’t waffle, if you are asked a question then answer that question then stop talking.

If you are nervous then make sure you smile, this will disguise any nerves.

If you feel the interview is too focussed on you then turn it around and ask a question about your interviewer or the job. This will ease the pressure and let them talk for a while.

Following these techniques will not necessarily get you the job but at least you will walk in feeling confident and walk out feeling you have done everything you can.

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SevenSteps are able to provide expert advice and support to both candidates and clients. The Directors set up the business with over 50 years knowledge who are fully experienced in the Sales Recruitment market across the UK.

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