Imagine this scenario… A salesperson walks into your office to sell you a new accounting system. After a brief getting-acquainted conversation the sales representative listens to your requirements for the system and then proceeds to sit attentively and answer a series of questions you ask about the system. Once you have exhausted your questions, you ask if the sales rep has any questions for you, you answer a couple of questions, if he or she has any, and then you end the sales call. After going through this process with a few salespeople you make a decision about what system to buy.Consider this: would you buy an accounting system without hearing a sales presentation? Would you expect a good salesperson to be reactive and passive, depending on you to ask the right questions to make the sale? If a salesperson makes a sales presentation during the meeting is he or she being aggressive and “taking control” of the sales call? Would you buy from a salesperson who could not clearly and concisely communicate the benefits of their product and why it’s your best choice?A job interview is a sales call. A candidate is selling his or her services to the hiring organization. In the interview, good candidates want to communicate their match with the critical job requirements, their fit with the company culture, and why they are the best choice for the position. In other words, why the company should buy their services.In today’s interview, candidates are passive salespeople hoping they get the right questions so they can give the right answers and make the sale. If the interviewer asks the right questions, they get to hear the critical “purchase” information. An unskilled interviewer will miss most of this information, shortchange the candidate, and hire the wrong person. So, why should a candidate be a passive reactive salesperson and risk losing the opportunity?Using a proactive sales approach, a candidate develops a presentation that he or she brings to the interview. The presentation communicates how the candidate’s background, skills and experience matches the critical requirements of the job and why the interviewee is an excellent candidate for the position. An effective interview presentation consists of a format that presents the reasons a candidate is the best choice, covers all relevant job requirements, transitions smoothly from topic to topic, and makes a strong finish. In addition, it should be well organized, short, focused and relevant. A powerful interview presentation includes the following content areas:A list of critical job requirements as the candidate understands themThis list creates a conversation about the job requirements and leads to alignment between the candidate and the hiring manager about what the job entails.The candidate’s match with the critical job requirementsThis component is a list of skills, experiences, and education that supports the candidate’s match with the job requirements.Additional Areas of Expertise the candidate brings to the positionThis list includes skills, areas of knowledge, and experiences that comprise the candidate’s “unique selling proposition” or “value adds” that the candidate will bring to the organization.Success Stories: Examples of when the candidate was at his or her bestThese success stories are “behavioral” examples of what the candidate has done in the past and what he or she can do for the prospective in the future.Personal Success Factors: Strengths and personal traits that make the candidate successful on the jobThese success factors provide insight into the candidate’s areas of strength and how the candidate will fit the culture of the organization.A 30/60 day Strategic Action Plan for providing value to the company quicklyThis plan communicates the candidate’s immediate goals and his or her thoughts about how he or she will begin to benefit the company.A summary of the benefits the candidate provides and why he or she is the best choice for the positionThis is a summation of why the candidate should be hired with particular emphasis on the benefits he or she will provide.Powerful closing questions that demonstrate knowledge of the job, company, industryThis is the candidate’s opportunity to get answers to his or her most pressing questions.A written visual presentation (which makes an excellent leave-behind) with all of the above elements is the most powerful way to persuade in an interview. Candidates who have used interview presentations report dramatic results, and hiring managers are impressed by their level of preparation, professionalism, and organization.Here is a testimonial from a candidate who felt he gained a competitive edge by delivering an interview presentation:
- “The presentation not only enabled me to highlight my skill set, but it allowed me to take it to the next level, where I could match my skill sets with what the employer defined in the job description. Additionally, the opportunity for a prospective employer to see me present myself objectively demonstrated my commitment to the hiring process. I’m sure the other candidates did not approach the process the same way. I believe the interview presentation was responsible for creating the interest the company had for me. I still had to get through the aptitude exam and the four executive interviews to get the offer. However, I think the interview presentation provided the edge and positioned me ahead of the other candidates.”
— Charles T.Senior Production Manager, technology companyEven without using the written presentation in the interview, developing an interview presentation as part of the interview preparation process is an excellent way to organize critical job-interview information. Once the information is collected and organized the candidate is well prepared to sell his or her skills to the hiring manager.By thinking and acting like a salesperson, a job candidate becomes an active participant in the interview as opposed to a passive participant hoping for the right questions. The hiring manager has the advantage of observing the candidate presenting information and responding to questions. An interview presentation improves the interview process assuring the company buys the best services from the right vendor.You can see sample slides for sales presentation interviews here.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Eric Kramer is a “serial careerist,” who, having held 10 jobs in six distinctly different careers, knows interviewing. Eric is founder and chief innovation officer for Innovative Career Services, a career-services firm, and creator of the InterviewBest Interview Presentation. Eric has authored two books, What to Think What to Do — 100+ Hints for Successful Interviewing, and What to Think What to Do — 100+ Hints for Successful Networking. He is identified as a recruiting Thought Leader by Kennedy Information, contributing articles to Kennedy’s Recruiter Trends magazine. He writes the Interview Your Best blog. Eric is also a frequent presenter at local and national conferences on interview presentations, online identity optimization, and career management.