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Subtle Ways to Sell Yourself at Your Next Interview

Part 1 of 3

The problem is this: In a world teeming with millions of highly experienced, accomplished, and ambitious individuals, what can you do to stand out from the rest? The chair youre sitting in is still warm from the last applicant who: (1) really wants the job, (2) is really motivated, (3) is really sure that he or she will be a big asset to the company, (4) was president of the college student council, and (5) had a 3.999 grade point average in college. And that person's duplicate is sitting outside the office door waiting for you to finish your interview so that they can have their turn.

So there you are, nervously sitting across the desk from an interviewer who has already seen 20 other people today who vaguely resembled you, and who is now waiting to hear how well you can sum up the net worth of your existence on this planet. How do you convince this person to forget the rest and hire the best (meaning you)?

To make a long story short, it comes down to three factors: preparation, a general understanding of the conduct expected in an interview situation, and, most important, a smattering of creativity. To give the interviewer what he/she wants to hear, you need to realize that a great deal hinges on whether you have the personality traits that inspire confidence(well, of course, you have them but you've got to let the interviewer know that). Your main point here is to paint yourself as a major contributor to the success of your last company and, yes, you can do the same for the new company. Here are some subtle ways to sell yourself:

Loyalty: Any interviewer is going to want to know that the person they hire is dependable, stable, honest, loyal, responsible, and has drive, but you can't walk in and simply say you are all of the above. You'll sound like a Boy Scout. You've got to imply those things through your responses.

When a potential employer asks you about a former boss, for example, by never saying anything bad about former employers you are showing a fair degree of loyalty, or at least tact. There are some interviewers who will go so far as to say: Oh, you worked for so and so? Ive heard hes very hard to work for. In a case like that you might simply say that you and he had your differences but it never seemed to get in the way of business. Even if interviewers know you are piling it high and deep, they still have to be satisfied that you won't do a hatchet job on their company when you leave (or while you are there).

Responsibility: A sought after trait and not easily displayed in an interview. One way to do it is by not making a lot of excuses for your mistakes. If you blew it in the past, admit it. It's not wonderful to have to do this, but it will go much further toward impressing the interviewer than if you sit there coming up with lame excuses. No one likes an excuse-maker.

Dependability: To illustrate its importance, I like to tell you the story of a man who showed up for an interview despite the fact that the worst rainstorm in years, practically a hurricane, was raging outside. When the employer asked the man why he decided to come in such bad weather, the man answered, I said I would be here. He got the job.

Let nothing get in the way of being on time for your interview, even if it means arriving a half-hour early and listening to the radio while you wait in your car. Its a good idea to make a dry run to the location the day before so you won't get lost.

Dependability also means that you can and will get the job done. If you had a work situation in the past where you were the one who constantly delivered when all else failed, say so. Make no bones about presenting examples in which you came through, not only on a routine basis but also in a pinch.

Drive: It's also important in the eyes of most interviewers that the person they are about to hire has drive. Many job applicants will at some point say, Oh yes, I've got a great deal of ambition and I am very motivated. This doesnt cut it. You have to show drive.

You can demonstrate your drive by getting as much advance information as possible concerning the company to which you are applying. Although this advice is so old it's probably being needlepointed into pillows, the number of candidates who don't follow it is staggering. Get on the Internet and find out as much as you can before your interview. Remember, driven people don't just want something and wish they could have it they want something and take active measures to achieve it.

Once you have company information, look for trends. What are the company's current policies? What seems to be in its future? Where can you fit with what you have to offer? Being highly motivated and extremely interested in the job doesn't even compare to the fact that the company wants to move into online marketing and you have just helped your last company do exactly that. If you can't seem to spot any trends, at least have a couple questions ready phrased in a manner that lets the interviewer know you've done your homework.

- Joe Hodowanes

Joe Hodowanes, a career strategy adviser in Tampa, Florida, offers a free resume and career analysis. Fax your resume to (813) 936-0201 or sent it to jmwanes@jmwanes.com via e-mail. For questions, call Joe at (813) 936-0091 or visit www.jmwanes.com on the Web.