Monday 11 April 2016


Every time you've been for an interview you’re selling yourself. You're selling your skills, experience, attitude and your looks (sometimes). See yourself as a product. What are you selling? You aren't just going in there to discuss your career, you're there to see how YOU can help THEM

It's not about how many years experience you have or your education background. While that is all important. Its ultimately not what gets you the job. There are many, many, many people out there with some version of your experience and qualification. Just think about how many people graduated last year in your field.

So, in order to make you memorable in your interview, what do you need to do? SELL!

How are you a product? Let's see here... I am going to compare you and your career to a simple mass produced product - Excuse the brashness of that statement (I know you aren't a mass produced product!) Ask yourself these questions: (I will use environmental practitioners as an example). Remember this takes considerable preparation before your interview.

What is my title (Product name): 'Environmentalist' or more aptly named: Environmental Practitioner

What are my features (Product Features): I have a Masters Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Johannesburg. I have seven years experience in the environmental field. My experience includes infrastructure project, mining, commercial and Capital projects. (This is the part where they ask you about your experience with reference to specific projects)

What advantages to I have over the other candidates? (Advantages of the Product): This is the advantage your potential employer will gain from all of your features (discussed above). How will your Masters degree be an advantage. Explain this to the interviewer. Help them to see the link. You can say something like  "I have a Master degree in Environmental Science, which means I have a good idea how to conduct research and write detailed reports." or you could say "I've worked on mining and infrastructure as well as Capital projects, which means that I am comfortable with large projects and working with big teams of experienced professionals." Showing the interviewer the link here is important because a good salesperson never assumes that their prospect will come to a conclusion on their own. BUT they also don’t imply that their prospect is ignorant or stupid. It's all about CLEAR communication.

What benefits could you offer the company? (Product Benefits): Here you bring in the benefits that your advantages would have for the company. So the advantage of being comfortable working on large scale projects with big professional teams will provide the benefit that you can keep calm under pressure and maintain quality of work no matter how large the responsibility or how intimidating the team or project scale. Other benefits could also include being able to perform under pressure with teams of people from different backgrounds and being able to communicate with everyone in your team from all places in the a hierarchy.
What is your Grabber? The most important part of the interview is the questions you ask. Not the answers you give. Many people think the opposite is true. The interviewer wants to know that you have given critical thought to their company and the work they do. So once you have satisfied all of their answers and allowed them to feel as though they can trust you. You hit them with questions. Always bring the questions back to you benefits and advantages. For instance, "As you know I have worked on large scale projects, will there be opportunity for me to contribute to something of a similar scale?" OR "As I am very comfortable with report writing and research, how much of it will I be doing and would I be supervising any staff in this task?" These types of questions, give the impression that you are thinking about the job in terms of what you can offer as well as trying to understand the needs of the company. This is a very powerful approach in an interview, because you allow the potential employer to talk about their concerns and challenges and it also gives you an opportunity to see where any skills that have not yet been discussed can be of service to the interviewer.

Now, this might all sound like manipulation. I know in your scientific brain you're saying: "Why should I trick them into hiring me? That sounds fake and they will see right through me. I don't know how to sell anything, I'm not a salesperson, I'm a scientist/engineer!"
Yes... I do understand how you feel. I was once where you are. But I must reassure you that it's not manipulation in any way. You are simply making a wonderfully persuasive flow diagram in the mind of the interviewer. All you are doing is linking important points in the flow diagram that represents your product (The Professional You) for them to see it more clearly in relation to what they need. You're just making it easier for them to make a decision. Of course you must not lie because that is not sales, it's dishonesty.

Article by Janavi Da Silva (Msc)
Associate Partner