How to Sell Your Success Story in an Interview: The Subtle Art of Verbal Branding
Let's face it: we're living in the era of the sound byte. Everyone from politicians to advertisers has come to appreciate the power of compact, unforgettable catchphrases to convey information and persuade audiences. In a perfect world, complexity might be king, but in this day and age, for better or for worse, the sound byte rules.
Believe it or not, the very same principles that are used to guide marketing campaigns and shape political stump speeches can help you sell yourself in an interview. It's all a matter of honing in on the core message you want to communicate and then finding a few clever phrases and themes to use to help you consistently get your point across in your interview responses.
Verbal Branding 101: What It Is…and What It Isn't
Don't worry -- you won't have to become the sort of slick, artificial persona who speaks only in glib slogans and mottos. Instead, the art of verbal branding in interviews -- and elsewhere -- involves distilling your strengths and past successes into a series of catchy, concise, memorable explanations. It also involves identifying a handful of themes and narratives that you want to use to help shape the way your success story comes across in the interview.
Sound complicated? In truth, it's actually easier than you might think. With a little forethought and planning, you'll be speaking in perfectly-formed sound bytes in no time at all. Here are a few of the sound bytes that will help you succeed in your next job search.
Your personal commercial.
Like all sound bytes, your personal commercial needs to be brief and to-the-point, clocking in at no more than thirty seconds. Its chief components are the characteristics that you see as your three primary strengths. You can structure this mini-speech any way you like, but the three primary strengths have to be the memorable highlights of your personal commercial.
Your value proposition.
A variation on your personal commercial, your value proposition borrows a concept from the world of sales. In this statement, you choose the three strengths, skills, or experiences that will offer the most value to your potential employer. What will hiring you do for their organization? Shrink your answer down to a thirty-second sound byte and memorize it.
Your condensed autobiography.
If you had a nickel for every time you've been asked, "Tell me about yourself," you probably wouldn't even need to be looking for a job! In interviews, in elevators, in networking situations, in a million other places -- you need to be prepared to answer this inevitable question in a polished, professional, and memorable manner at a moment's notice. Write a list of your personal, academic, and professional highlights, and then ruthlessly edit until you can get it under a minute.
Your personal glossary.
Your final feat of verbal branding is coming up with a list of memorable catchphrases that will help you reinforce your success story. Using your résumé as a guideline, translate all of your major strengths, experiences, skills, and resources into two-to-three word catchphrases. Get in the habit of weaving these catchphrases into your interview responses. Used consistently, they will help create a sense of unity and coherence in your answers. This subtle but effective verbal branding strategy will help you stand out from the crowd.
At first, it may feel a bit strange to use these verbal branding strategies. Admittedly, getting in the habit of thinking of yourself as a "product" that must be marketed can be a learning process for many job seekers. But once you get the hang of it, you'll enjoy the added confidence you get from having a repertoire of prepared marketing messages to call on in any situation. Plus, the added edge that verbal branding gives you just may be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors -- and helps you land you your dream job.