2018: Time to Put on Your Sales Hat and Sell Yourself 

It’s a popular time of year to get yourself geared up for the job search. Which means, everyone’s at it. New budgets = new hires, so from an employer’s perspective, it’s time to start thinking about getting the right people on board. And, if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to move your career to the next level, you’re probably finding yourself starting to scour those job boards.

But you know you can’t do it half-heartedly. Once you’ve got your objective clear and your CV polished, the most important thing to get right next is your ‘pitch’. Luckily for you, this is the one thing you can use tactically to your advantage – as most people run screaming at the thought of ‘selling’ their strengths, despite it being one of the most common interview questions you can get.

Prepare this, and you’re on to a winner.

Understand why you’re being asked to pitch yourself

Before you do anything, stop and consider why you are being asked you to sell your strengths. Most likely, it is because they are busy, have either just come out of a meeting, off the phone or out of another interview, and they want to get to the point. They’re probably asking, not as a trick to make you feel uncomfortable, but because they need to know, quickly, what you’re all about. In this manner, you want to make your answer convey your point of difference, not the core competencies everyone else will be using. Forget words like ‘hard working, passionate and honest’. Everyone will be using similar adjectives and concepts – this is the place to tell them why you’re better than everyone else, not the same.

Get clear on your defining strength, or USP

Yes, we’ve crossed off common adjectives from the list. So, what can you use? Technical skills? Maybe. But what’s key is that what you present as a strength, or strengths, give you competitive advantage. If you are an FC with 5 years’ experience in FMCG, telling them this when they are interviewing 5 other people of this profile won’t get you anywhere. Think about what makes you different to one of your peers who has had a similar career progression to you? This isn’t an easy question, but it is one you need to think through with some clarity. Think about what others rely on you for, where you have been commended in the past, or where you have your most success in work. Also think about where perhaps you see others fail, or not perform as well as you do – why are you able to do it better? This point of difference is your defining strength.

Back yourself up with an example

To give us an example to work with, let’s say you’ve said your defining strength is your ability to communicate financial data and insights to non-finance stakeholders. It’s something that’s got you promoted before, and you know that others you’ve worked with don’t find this as easy as you. So much so, people from outside of finance always come to you first.  That’s a perfect USP – but don’t just say it, prove it. Think of a practical example you can now use to back this up. For example, working with account management to resolve a customer profitability issue arising from a lack of understanding of how to calculate prices.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Above all, don’t fear it. And the only way to achieve this is to practice it. It’s no good having an idea in your head and thinking you can wing it. Speak it out loud, to your partner or friends (if they’ll listen!), or record yourself on your phone (cringe, but worth it to spot those little errors!). Learn to live it and love it!

Good luck!



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