From experience many sales professionals put little effort into interview preparation. Most feel that their excellent communication skills and relationship/rapport building skills will carry them through the interview. These skills will certainly help at interview BUT preparation is essential. Many jobseekers view preparation as an exercise about trying to predict what questions will arise.
It is difficult to predict what questions will arise at interview and I would normally put focus on other key areas during my interview coaching that will help jobseekers answer any question. There are some key questions that keep coming up at interview which I have outlined below.
Why should we employ you?
Tell me about your product and service. This is asking you how you meet the requirements of the job. Don’t ramble but instead focus on what the client in looking for (often highlighted in the job spec). For example: During a sales meeting there is no point telling a potential customer about the price of your product or service when their need is quality and reliability. Analyse the job specification and offer a reply covering the key points. Offer evidence to support this. For example which sounds better – “I have good communication skills” or “I have excellent communication skills and last week I made a successful 20 minute presentation to 100 key customers”
What are your weaknesses?
Possibly the most feared interview question and it stops most interviewees in their tracks. The key to answering this question is not to focus on your personal traits. The interviewer is seeking to find out if you have self awareness but more importantly if you act on potential development needs. Answering “no” to this question will not impress. A suggested reply would be something like “I continually strive to improve my presentation skills and recently joined toastmasters and volunteer to present at our monthly sales meetings”
What are your career goals?
This is often an interview filler question with no real purpose for interviewers except maybe make them look more skilled that they actually are. This aside you should answer effectively. Focus on short to medium term goals. These will vary from one jobseekers to another but a short term goal common to any jobseeker would be to secure a challenging job. I guess that is why you are at the interview.
There are key questions that keep coming up at interview and you will improve your performance at interview if you prepare for them in advance. It is impossible to predict if they will come up BUT taking a few minutes to understand these questions and have a prepared answer will help if they do surface at your next interview.
Why do you want to work for us?
With this question the interviewer is investigating if you have put much thought into your job search and if you have completed any research into their organisation. A different way to look at this question is - do you know what they want and does our role and company meet those needs. This is an important question as it is the interviewer trying to gauge if you have a scattergun approach to job hunting. Again, proper preparation ensures that you understand yourself and how the client meets your needs. This will help you master this question.
What can you offer us that other applicant’s can’t?
This question arises regularly at interview. It is the employer asking you to outline your unique selling point (USP) or what it is that makes you stand out from the crowd of other applicants. Ask yourself if there are any skills, previous experience or personality traits that will help you stand out from other applications. It is important to offer this answer in a structured summary format as many jobseekers tend to ramble on in a bit to say something relevant that strikes a cord with the interviewer.
What are three positive things your previous employers would say about you?
Interviewees often struggle with this question but think about it logically. Most of us have probably received end of year reviews or performance appraisals and the answer to this question can be found here. If you happen to be a hoarder and keep copies of your reviews the answers will be written down. For those jobseekers who don’t try to recall what was said by your manager. This question gives you the opportunity to brag but putting it in your previous employer’s words.
Paul Mullan is Director of Measurability. Measurability offers career coaching solutions (Career Direction, CV Design & Interview Coaching). For more information about our services visit www.measurability.ie.