Have you ever gone into a store to purchase something and been overwhelmed by a pushy salesperson? You know the type, they’re convinced that they’ve got exactly what you need. And they don’t leave your side while they point out every single feature of the product. While you were ready to purchase something when you walked in, you’re so put off by the salesperson that you leave and decide to get what you need somewhere else.
Well, that’s exactly what happens when you’re overly aggressive during your pageant interview. The judges have read all about the product – you – on your pageant paperwork and they’ve seen your competition headshot. They already think that you’re exactly what they’re looking for in the next titleholder. Then you walk in the room and act just like that pushy salesperson. The judges change their minds and decide to get their next titleholder somewhere else.
There are lots of adjectives that describe this type of interview style: assertive, driven, and self-assured are just a few. But they all mean the same thing: you come across as overbearing, domineering, and unlikeable.
There was a time when pageants had a strong, corporate approach to the personal and on-stage interview. That was back in the 1990’s. But since the early 2000’s, pageants have moved from a “hard sell” interview to a more conversational style. Pageants want a titleholder who’s personable and relatable. Not a titleholder who comes across as pushy and aggressive.
But many contestants are still trying to do a hard sell during their interview. It’s so sad. You work hard to come across as relatable and intelligent and then you ruin it with a couple of hard sell answers.
So, let’s get rid of those answers that are making you come across as pushy and slightly annoying. Here are some clues that point to a hard sell interview.
1. You’re Using Hard Sell Words
When you’re shopping, there are some words that instantly signal a hard sell. Words like “incredible,” or “amazing,” are intended to push the buyer into making a purchasing decision.
Just like shopping, there are some words that you use to show the judges what a great contestant you are, but these words come across as a hard sell to the judges.
- Ambitious: The judges hear “self-serving” when you refer to yourself this way and think you’ll do anything to get to the top.
- Assertive: “Aggressive” is what the judges think when you refer to yourself with this word. They worry you’re going to be difficult to work with.
- Driven: You believe you’re telling the judges that you’re goal-oriented, but they hear that you will bulldoze anything or anyone to achieve your goals.
- Obsessed: You are trying to demonstrate your commitment to something, but this word gives the impression that when you’re not announced as a semi-finalist you’ll be backstage shredding contestant evening gowns with your eyebrow scissors.
2. You’re Cramming Content Where it Doesn’t Belong
Okay, I know that you want to make sure that the judges absolutely know that you’re qualified for the title. I know you want to discuss your every award, accomplishment, and achievement. That’s what you want to say. But is it what the judges want to hear?
The judges are giving you hints as to what factors they are considering when selecting the next titleholder. And those hints are the questions that they ask. The questions are like a little trail of breadcrumbs. All you have to do is follow the breadcrumbs by answering the question the judges ask, not the questions you want to be asked.
Here’s an example. Let’s pretend a judge asks you, “What do you plan to do after college?” They’re asking you this question because they’re testing your goal-setting and ability to work towards a goal. Pretty simple. So you answer, “The year prior to graduation I plan to complete two internships so that when I graduate I have a solid job offer.” Good answer. It shows that you’ve got a plan and you’re working towards it.
But what if you want to make sure the judges know that you can put off accepting a job offer if you are the next titleholder. Your answer is, “If selected as the next titleholder, I plan to take some time off after graduation to make appearances and prepare for the national pageant.” You think that by introducing information about being the titleholder that you’ll score points. You’re won’t. The judge is wondering why you talked about what you would do if you won the title when that is not what they asked. They now see you as one of those pushy contestants who answers every single question with her personal platform or why she’d be a great titleholder. And no one votes for that girl.
No matter how great your other answers are, they now see you as a hard sell contestant. Just stick to following the breadcrumbs and resist the temptation to stray from the path.
3. You Ask for the Job
Every time a contestant tells me someone advised them they have to “ask for the job” at the end of their interview, I’m absolutely certain that I roll my eyes. I’m not rolling my eyes at the contestant, I just can’t believe that advice is still around.
The “ask for the job” technique was successful during the hard sell interview of the 1990’s. You told them that you understand that the position of titleholder is a job. Then you said how much you want the job and how dedicated you will be to the job of the titleholder. And that you’ll work hard as “your Miss Fabulous.”
The judges know you want the job, what they want to understand is why you’re qualified for the job.
So, stop asking for the job. It’s a hard sell that just doesn’t score points anymore. Focus instead on explaining why you’re qualified for the job. Judges are more sophisticated than they were in the 1990’s and they expect a more sophisticated answer.
I totally understand that it can be confusing when people tell you that you’ve got to sell yourself during your interview. And I agree. But just like pushy sales tactics don’t work in department stores, they don’t work anymore in the interview room. You can market and promote yourself as a great choice for the crown without a hard sell. You just have to soften your approach, use different words, and talk about what the judges want to know, not about what you want to say.
After all, any product that’s truly fabulous almost automatically sells itself, right?