The idea of having to sell yourself in an interview is something that a lot of job seekers might struggle with. You want to highlight your qualifications without coming off sounding too smug. But what can wind up happening instead is that you undersell yourself, or you come across as overly confident and conceited, neither of which is appealing to a potential employer.
Try these techniques so that you can sell yourself in an interview without coming across as a total egomaniac:
Be a storyteller
While some interview questions require specific stats and figures, others allow you to dive a little deeper into your answer. And there’s no better way to do that than by telling a story. Have a story (or two) prepared when you sit down for a job interview that can show off your skills and tell a bit about yourself, but still remain humble and down-to-earth. It could be about the time your company’s website got hacked, and how you worked with the hosting company to resolve the issue and reinforce the site against future hacks. Just make sure your story is comprised of three parts: a problem faced, what you did to fix it, and the outcome.
Watch your tone
Ever notice how the same sentence can sound totally different depending on the tone in which someone says it? Just like your body language can convey a lot during a job interview, so can the way in which you answer interview questions. You can talk about your accomplishments in previous positions, but do so in a more humble, low-key manner. Being loud, bold, and brash as you speak about past achievements can be a big turnoff for a potential employer.
Mind your posture
People who are trying to sell themselves in almost any situation will adopt a certain posture. They tend to lean in way too much, speak a little too loudly, and might make sweeping gestures with their arms as a way to hammer home a point. You can sell yourself—in a good way—by being mindful of your posture. Sit up straight, and lean in slightly to your interviewer as they speak to show your interest in what they’re saying. Keep good eye contact and be sure to smile naturally as you speak.
There’s a very fine line between self-promotion and bragging. The problem with bragging is that the truth tends to get overinflated and distorted. If you want to impress a hiring manager, be honest about your experiences. If you feel the need to self-promote out of feelings of insecurity about your qualifications, remember this: if you weren’t pre-qualified for the position, you wouldn’t have been called in for a job interview. So answer the questions accurately and don’t exaggerate your answers to make yourself sound better. You won’t.
Understand the brand
During your job interview, try to switch the focus off of you and instead show your interviewer what you can do for the company. It could be anything from improving their online image to streamlining systems for maximum efficiency. Then, use previous work experience or a specific skill set to highlight exactly how you would do that. In this way, you’re selling yourself, but in a positive way that is meant to help the company.
Keep it short
Egomaniacs love two things — 1) to talk about themselves, and 2) the sound of their own voice. That’s why they tend to ramble on and on when they have to answer a question. So before you take a deep breath and answer the question, compose your thoughts first. Then, come up with a response that answers the question thoroughly but doesn’t leave you looking long-winded or boastful.
Give others credit
It might be tempting to claim credit for past projects that you’ve done, even if they actually were a team effort. Thing is, it’s fairly easy for interviewers to fact-check your job application and also what you say during an interview. If a hiring manager finds out that you were part of an award-winning team and not solely responsible for the award, it can count as a big X against you.
Hogging all of the glory for yourself isn’t a good quality for someone who is going to be hired to work in a team, so try to be fair about the work you contributed to past successes.
Know your strengths — and weaknesses
A common job interview question you might get asked is, “What is your biggest weakness?” Even if you want to come across as the candidate to hire, no one is perfect, and trying to present yourself as such might only offend a hiring manager. So just as you would keep track of your former glories, you should also have an example or two to present to a potential employer of things you need to work on. You can say something like, “In looking for a remote job, I’ve found that learning how to self-manage is very important. I’ve become much better at being able to meet my all of my deadlines.” This doesn’t show failure, per se, but it does make you more human as you portray a weakness — and how you’re working to make it better.
When a hiring manager asks you about some of your biggest accomplishments in your past job, you say, “Well, without my input and expertise, the company would have made a multimillion-dollar mistake.” But before you let a doozy like that roll out of your mouth, you’d better be sure to have examples to back up your claim. Otherwise, you’ll come across as a total egomaniac and untrustworthy, which can kill your chances of being considered for the job.