Job searching can be gruelling, trying and even demoralising. The good news is, if you have an interview booked, it means you have successfully run the gauntlet of hurdles and are nearly there. Depending on the industry and job classification, the exact figure of how many applications to secure an interview is hard to define. However, the statistics vary from 8% to 25%. It is a staggering figure, so congratulate yourself for coming this far. Now it’s game day, so how do you ‘sell’ yourself at a job interview?
It is about self-promoting the right way.
Being comfortable talking about yourself is not easy. We tend to be shy, stumble over words and underplay our skills, experience, and attributes. Or worse, come across as overconfident and thus arrogant. Long gone are the days when an interview was focused solely on skills matching. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an essential everyday tool.
How you understand, perceive, and manage your emotions will form a critical part of your interview and self-promotion.
Self-promotion is not gloating. It demonstrates the skills and qualities one has, which are of interest or need to the other party. It is a skill imperative to master, not just at an interview but for our careers and broader life. According to recent research, while most of us suffer from this affliction, ‘women are less inclined to self-promote than men, even for a job’.
The line between being comfortable talking about our strengths and being humble is a fine one. However, there are some valuable tips to help you tell the story about yourself.
- Research the company, role and people interviewing you. Spend time on preparation, planning and research. Dig deep and look at the most relevant and recent articles, including wins and challenges faced. The same applies to the people interviewing you; research their profiles and work history. Look for any connections, commonalities and synergies. Understand the company culture, values and how they resonate with you. Show this at the interview and explain precisely why.
- Consider using a recruiter. Recruiters are skilled at representing candidates and being their cheer squad. Your recruiter will assist with interview preparation and also coach you on ‘selling’ yourself. Recruiters view past your nerves to see the real you and your potential.
- Answering interview questions. Again, preparation is vital. Before your interview, review the job advertisement or description thoroughly. Where do you have the skills and experiences to match? Look at the ‘ideal’ or ‘desirable’ criteria as well. Cornering these ‘desirable’ areas can be the deal maker for you. Interviewers are looking for specifics, real examples, and detail, not a broad-brush approach. Consider using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action and Result). Write down your examples and practice saying them out loud.
- The more comfortable you are at hearing your voice tell your stories, the more natural you will sound and the more at ease you will be, promoting yourself genuinely and appealingly.
- You will find yourself easily retrieving these examples and weaving them into the interview as a natural course of conversation. When you are at ease, your body language will follow suit in ‘backing up’ your story–think of eye contact, relaxed shoulders and hands, smiling etc.
- The humblebrag. This is what we sometimes do when we don’t know how to discuss our self-development areas. For example, saying you need to work on your ‘work-life balance’ because you find yourself working long hours is a humblebrag. When asking questions on development areas, interviewers are looking for self-reflection, self-awareness, and the actions and behaviours that confirm previous work on these areas. We all have areas to work on, and being comfortable talking about them is crucial. It shows you understand yourself, which is highly desirable in the workplace.
- Another question often asked is about the behaviour when a mistake or issue has occurred. Interviewers are again looking for self-reflection, self-regulation, accountability, taking responsibility and ownership–without laying blame elsewhere. This, too, is a form of self-promotion.
Don’t underestimate the importance of ‘selling’ yourself at an interview. Not all the people interviewing you will be skilled interviewers. Please do not count on them knowing how to peel back the layers in discovering you. So, get comfortable with self-promotion. It will make a difference in securing the right job, as well as ensuring your future career success.