How to “Sell” Yourself in an Interview (Without Really Selling)

No one really likes to brag about themselves, let alone sell themselves. Talking about yourself is hard, even in the context of an interview where you know it’s all about you.

There’s a fine line between being too humble and underplaying your accomplishments.

But what if there’s a way to promote yourself that doesn’t make you feel like you’re inflating yourself with every word you speak?

If you focus on a strategy to put your best foot forward the next time you land a big interview, you can still make an impression without really feeling like you have to sell yourself. Here’s how.

Do your due diligence

Here’s a shocking misconception: listing a skill on your resume you don’t have is misleading. And even though we’ve all embellished a skill or two in hopes of being noticed, chances are, if a skill is it’s vital to the job, the hiring manager is going to bring it up.

Instead of feeling the pressure rising in the pit of your stomach when you know you may have padded your resume, just do your due diligence. If you’re switching fields or need to learn new software, be honest.

Do enough research on the company so you know how to speak their language. If you don’t have experience with a certain program, platform, or skill, don’t avoid the subject or feel the pressure to misrepresent your skillset. Find relative examples of what you have done that’s comparable, and what you will do when hired to continue to grow in that area.

Know yourself

If you’re self-aware, you can focus on being yourself without the pressure to sell it. Knowing yourself, and communicating about yourself is simply letting the interviewer know who you are.

The next time you start to tweak that resume, really think about who you are. What are your strengths? Your talents? Passions? Weaknesses? We all know that being a “perfectionist” is not really a weakness, so really think about some ways you may not have done your best. Then, you can demonstrate examples of improvement and your own personal growth.

When you know yourself and are self-aware, the pressure to be “on” dissolves. Be confident in who you are and know the attributes that make you different than everyone else.

Know your paperwork

Ever walked in the door to an interview to be asked about pieces of your resume you forgot about? It happens.

Know what you’ve written, and know your paperwork backward and forward. Print out a copy of your resume and cover letter and write down examples and attributes that you’ve demonstrated in these roles. Become so comfortable talking about your paperwork that you can predict the questions as they come and be prepared to answer them.

Create your talking points

Do some research on the company you’re interviewing with so you can articulate ideas and concepts you’ve demonstrated that correlate with their values. If they’re data-driven, have some examples where you’ve exceeded your quota in a similar context. Do they value leadership? Bring light on all the volunteer work you’ve done to give back to your community.

Along with your talking points, make sure you have some ideas to bridge along the way to navigate the conversation at any given time. Bridging is simply the art of taking control of the conversation and redirecting the question to ensure you are able to share what you intended to say.

Mock interview

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does make things permanent. Get some of your family, friends, mentors, or colleagues to help you get ready.

The more you practice rehearsing certain ideas, the more natural they become. Your friends and family can help make you aware of any vocal tendencies or nervous habits you may have. Mock interviews with people you know and trust can make sure you stay true to yourself, without that pressure to sell.

Ask questions

The questions you ask during your interview give your prospective employer a gauge to your skill, ability, and interest. (Plus your questions take the focus off of you.)

Questions can lead to even more in-depth conversations, so make sure you make a list and practice incorporating them into your interview. Keep a running note on your phone or document on your computer, and bring them with you when your big day comes.

When you’re prepared for an interview, the pressure to sell and perform is replaced with the readiness to share who you already are. 

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