Candidates; ‘Sell the Sizzle’ at Your Next Job Interview!

Marketing professionals know that when it comes to selling a product, it is best to emphasize “the sizzle, not the steak.” By that they mean that when selling something, it makes sense to invest in heightening the customers anticipation and desire for something, prior to delivering the goods or services, to enhance the perceived benefits.

When an applicant seeks a new position, he becomes the steak (please note this is used as an analogy, no disrespect intended) and the interviewer, or hiring manager, the consumer. To encourage the buyer that he wants to purchase and use your services, you have to convince him that he will accrue benefits from bringing you on board. You ( the candidate) are the steak, and your ability to spin what you have learned, experienced, and accomplished throughout your career are the ‘sizzle’.

By framing each of your interview responses in terms of how your previous successes will translate to benefits for the new company, you will be well on your way to helping the firm choose you from among all the other “products” on the shelf. Here’s how:


  •  Do your best to get your hands on a job description, or ad. Something that shows the mandatory qualifications required for the position, as well as ‘highly preferred skills, but not mandatory’. These are the answers to the test. These are vital clues regarding what the company desires most from candidates. Some desires will be obvious. The announcement for a Director of IT role may advertise for someone “to lead the overhaul of our patient record keeping system and database.” If you have not managed an identical project, prepare to discuss how you designed or built other large systems – perhaps a data security, or customer resource management network. Memorize a few keywords in the announcement, and sprinkle them into your conversation when outlining your experience. Highlight your experience as it pertains to what they are looking for. Commit to memory all the mandatory qualifications listed on the job as well as preferred, and make a point of directing the conversation and your answers towards your ability to fill those needs.


Give your accomplishments the STAR treatment at your next interview;


    • Think critically about your resume and cover letter. These documents earned you the interview, so they must contain something the hiring manager likes. She probably will highlight those items and ask you to elaborate on them. Make a list of the important tasks you completed at your previous jobs. How can the skills, knowledge, and experience you used then (or the lessons you learned from your mistakes) be beneficial in the job you are seeking? Note that it is never a good idea to change your resume from when you apply and gain the interview, and the interview itself. If you want to emphasize different things during the interview after you have learned more about the opportunity, and understand more about the skills & experience that the hiring manager has listed as being the most critical, just bring an addendum to the resume with bullet points on how your background and experienced qualifies you to do what they need done, and be sure to bring enough copies to leave with everyone you meet with.
    • Develop and practice a few “stock answers” that you can use for virtually any interview question. There are dozens of sources on the Internet listing the most common interview questions. Study them, and practice telling stories of your prior successes  that can tell interviewers what they want to know. After all, no matter what the interviewer asks, she really just wants to know how you would perform when faced with possible job-related scenarios. For instance, an interviewer may ask a Regional Sales Manager to tell about a time he solved a problem, or how he took charge of an under-performing former superstar, or to describe his strengths in developing sales reps selling skills. If you can give some forethought to thinking of good, concise answers that highlights some of your strengths that they have also listed as crucial to success, you will be miles ahead of your competition.
    • PRACTICE telling a concise, 3-5 minute story on your career, listing bare highlights and accomplishments. This is your elevator pitch about yourself. Tell it to your spouse, your dog, yourself in the mirror. Physically say it out loud and work out the kinks. A smooth ‘elevator pitch’ that you can pull out as needed when unexpectedly thrust into an opportunity where it may be very beneficial to make a professional contact should not be wasted due to being ill-prepared.
    • Academy Award winning actors still REHEARSE. Rehearse OUT LOUD your answers to the point that you are comfortable sharing your story in a concise, fluent manner.
    • Ultimately, when hiring managers are faced with two equally qualified candidates, they will ALWAYS go with the most enthusiastic candidate. ENTHUSIASM in and of itself is extremely appealing, and when it is combined with the perception of ENERGY, is the most powerful commodity that a candidate can have. There is nothing that you can magnify about yourself that will be more appealing to a hiring manager, than genuine enthusiasm for the job.
    • If you truly want the job and are genuinely excited at the possibility of working with someone, TELL THEM!

Ann Zaslow- Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in Executive Search since 1999. Please reach out to ISC for any recruitment needs in the following 5 areas of focus: Sales, Financial Services, Healthcare (non-clinical), Human Resources, & Real Estate Acquisition & Development.

You can reach the author directly at or via phone at 888-866-7276.