In interviews, one of the most important things you need to do is persuasively communicate how you can add value—to the company and to the specific team. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to do this, largely because it’s hard to know what to focus on in your pitch. So, here are four steps to take to help you narrow your focus and clearly communicate why you’re the perfect fit for the position.
1. Identify your interviewer’s needs, desires, and challenges.
In order to influence anyone, you must first understand their core interests. People are most interested in their own needs, desires, and problems. When preparing your pitch, start with understanding the most important qualities desired by your interviewer.
Never forget that it’s not about you; it’s about them. The interviewer doesn’t care about 100 percent of your skills, knowledge, and experiences. They only care about those they need and desire for the open position. So the qualities you focus on communicating must align with the qualities being sought by the interviewer.
The first way to research and understand what’s most important to the interviewer is to read, analyze, and extract from job descriptions. This means finding out the responsibilities and preferred skills, knowledge, and experience for your target position. Cross-analyzing multiple job descriptions will allow you to confidently understand what’s most important for your target position.
The second way is to network. Talk with people currently in your target position—ideally within the company you’re interviewing with—to learn first-hand which skills and experiences are most important. You can also directly ask: In your opinion, what do you believe are the most important skills or qualities needed to be successful in your position?
2. Decide on the three most important qualities you want to talk about.
After doing your research, you must make a judgment call. Decide which three qualities to focus on when pitching your value to the interviewer.
3. Craft your pitch around these three qualities.
Now you must define supporting examples and achievements from your experiences that prove you bring these qualities to the table. You can’t simply state you’re capable of doing something or have a specific skill set. You must prove it through supporting evidence.
For each of the three qualities you’re focused on, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the best outcome I’ve achieved in the past that proves my ability or experience?
- What strong example or story do I have that demonstrates my ability or experience?
- What sources of credibility do I have that support my ability or experience?
- Can I actually show my ability or experience instead of talking about it?
After brainstorming your supporting evidence, create a document that includes each desired quality along with three supporting evidence talking points. Then, after you complete that, you’ll have enough information to construct an answer, which will look something like this:
“Based on my understanding of the position and what your team is looking for, I believe there are three strong ways I can add value to your team …
One, [first desired quality #1, followed by three supporting evidence talking points]. Two, [second desired quality, followed by three supporting evidence talking points]. And three, [third desired quality, followed by three supporting evidence talking points] …
I believe these three qualities would transfer very well to this position, and I’d love the opportunity to contribute to your team.”
4. Practice your pitch.
The single biggest mistake most professionals make when it comes to interviewing is winging it. If you catch yourself not wanting to practice, the question to ask yourself is: Am I willing to blow this opportunity because I don’t want to practice?
The best actors know their lines cold and only improv after mastering the original script; the best quarterbacks know their plays cold and only audible after reading the defense; the best leaders know their strategies cold and only adjust after acquiring new information.
You must practice your delivery and master it. It should come across as natural, conversational, and confident. The best way to practice is to record yourself on your phone talking through your pitch. When listening to your own recording, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I sound natural, as if I’m having a pleasant conversation with someone?
- Does my voice sound monotone and dead or lively and conversational?
- Does my response come across as fluid or choppy?
- Do I clearly structure my response so it’s easy to discern my three value propositions?
Don’t try to memorize full sentences or paragraphs. Ironically, this is what causes most people to freeze in interviews; they forget one word or sentence, and everything falls apart. Instead, practice talking through bullet points. If your response is slightly different every time, that’s okay, as long as you’re communicating your core talking points. And finally, for length, your response should be no longer than one-and-a-half to two minutes.
Few professionals confidently pitch their ability to contribute value in an interview. Most people simply answer questions. If you pitch how you can add value, you’ll immediately differentiate yourself from other applicants.