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How to sell your skills for a job application and prepare for interview

Build your confidence and play to your strengths by following these expert tips.

The easing of lockdown has been delayed by four weeks until July 19 and we are moving closer to the end of furlough. If you’re searching for a job, try these tips to sell your skills and prepare for interview.

Promoting yourself when applying for a job can be challenging, especially if you’ve lost confidence after redundancy, being out of work or getting rejections.

Taking the time to identify your own skills and strengths is a really positive way to overcome this and also to be prepared throughout the application process.

How to identify your skills and strengths

“Before an applicant can sell their skills, they need to know what they are,” says Tammy Harman, specialist career coach at Evenbreak, an accessible job search site for disabled people.

According to Evenbreak, to identify your strengths, start by asking yourself three questions:

  • What skills do I have?
  • How will an employer value them?
  • How can I prove I have them?

There are several ways you can explore these questions. The key is finding out what works for you. Here are some ideas to try:

Write a list

“Sit down and list all the jobs you’ve done and all the activities you did there. Narrow it down further and think about the skills you used,” says Harman. Doing this may help identify transferable skills that you used for one job and are more relevant for a new role than you first think.

“Skills aren’t just about the workplace, they can be from any aspect of your life.” Harman adds.

Experience can range from jobs whether they are paid, work experience or part-time, plus things you have done outside work from neighbourhood watch to coaching a sports team. You can also include voluntary work, life skills and hobbies.

Use an online tool

Writing a list doesn’t work for everyone. Harman also recommends searching for skills assessments online: “Find what works for you and try them out.” Her personal favourite is the skills quiz on this Canadian jobs site.

Talk it out

“For some people it works to sit down with someone else and talk about the things that you’ve done,” says Harman. “Different things work for different people but everyone needs to remember they have stuff to offer.”

Working with a career coach or someone you trust may help you build confidence if you have acquired a disability, gone through a rough patch in life or have had a difficult experience with an employer.

“Sometimes you can get lost in the applications and the rejections and not knowing where to go or how to get it right. Knowing who you are and what you have to offer and knowing where you can find that is key. It’s very much about remembering you have your entire life experience to offer. You’re looking at the whole of you and the best bits of you and they are there.”

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Ask for feedback

Another good way to add to your list is to ask friends and family, who may think of things you take for granted or help boost your confidence. Hopefully seeing a long list of your good qualities will motivate you.

Your list can also include your personality and attitude, from working well as a team or on your own, or managing your time well. People who know you or have worked with you may be able to help you see things from a different point of view.

Skills gained through disability or impairment

You may have gained skills through disability. Perhaps you have examples of finding ways around obstacles that demonstrate creativity or succeeding despite barriers that show your determination. Having to explain things over and over again may mean you can demonstrate patience, while managing personal budgets or personal assistants are also transferable skills. Your disability can give you life experience and skills that employers are looking for. For example someone who is autistic might promote themselves as having great attention to detail.

What to do next

Evenbreak’s top tip is to go through your list and keep asking yourself “So what?” to think about why it might be attractive to an employer. For example if you are good at communicating and people tell you about their problems, you could use that as an example for a customer-facing role.

“You don’t have to use all of your skills,” says Harman. The key is to read the job description carefully and pick out the skills you have that are relevant for the role.

How to prepare for a job interview

Going back over all the skills you have prepared that are relevant for the role is a really good idea. It’s important to feel well prepared for an interview so you can feel grounded and confident to focus on what you want to say rather than worry about what you don’t know. Preparing and planning the practicalities as much as you can is key.

“Know your work and life history inside out,” says Harman. “Know what you would be willing to talk about.”

Research the company

It’s also a good idea to research the company you would be working for. This will help you feel prepared for any questions that come your way. It might also help you decide whether it is an organisation you actually want to be employed by.

Plan ahead

If you have an in-person interview, you may want to make the journey the day before to be sure of timings. If you need adjustments for disability it is important to ask for them in advance. If your interview is online, make sure that your tech such as your camera and microphone works and if you are using someone else’s tech, double check your booking before your interview.

Be prepared

Harman says it can be useful to ask someone to give you a mock job interview. There are lots of resources on the questions you might be asked online and in books. “The questions might not exactly match but it will help you express yourself well,” says Harman.

How to set yourself up for interview success

“Preparation is really really important. Make sure you’ve done it by the day before and not on the day itself,” says Harman. “Don’t stay up late. Go to bed early. Eat properly even if you’re really nervous. Wear clothes that you have worn before and know you feel comfortable in.”

“When you get to the interview, if you’re able to, sit upright in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your shoulders back because it opens up the chest and makes breathing easier. If you’re breathing more clearly, your brain will work better and you also won’t stumble and rush over your answers.”

Remember if you have done your research and prepared good answers there is no reason not to be confident.

“Believe in yourself because that’s just half of the challenge,” adds Harman. “It’s easier to convince someone else you can do it if you know you can do it.”

More resources to help people sell their skills and feel prepared for interviews are available on the Evenbreak website.

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