Just the Job: It’s you, it’s you, it’s you – how to put yourself at the heart of your interview stories

Career Advice: I didn't get the job and the feedback was that I failed to sell myself well enough. I really don't know what else I could have done. Any tips?

Q: In the interview, I felt I gave a good account of how things operate in my department. I talked about how we schedule our work, how we ensure that nothing slips through the cracks and how we evaluate completed projects. I didn't get the job and the feedback was that I failed to sell myself well enough. I really don't know what else I could have done. Any tips? (EC, email).

A: The clue might lie in your question. You talk about ‘we’ and ‘our’. It feels like you are providing an update report from your department. An interview is not a weekly meeting of department heads: you must put yourself at the heart of the answers.

I see this regularly with clients. They're accustomed to speaking on behalf of their team and wish to be seen to spread the credit around their team. This is an admirable trait but not one that works well in an interview.

You're the one going for the interview, not your team.

In this case, when they ask you to give an account of how your department has been operating, the trick is to show yourself as a team player while, crucially, keeping yourself at the centre of the stories. Ultimately, you're the one they’re looking to hire, not your colleagues.

Select stories that show you in a positive light. Within the department, there must be things you have led, initiatives you have pioneered and achievements you can chalk down to your name. Those are the stories you must get across in the interview.

I have seen clients fail to benefit from their achievements because they talk in plural rather than singular terms. By downplaying things in this way, they squander a glorious opportunity to shine. If you are the person who transformed how sales were tracked, let the interview panel know this.

Sometimes candidates suck the life out of an answer completely by saying things like” a new database was designed” when, in fact, they should be saying, without any trace of dishonesty, “I designed the new database because I knew it would help dramatically with the tracking of sales."

If you don't make it clear for the interview panel, chances are they will miss important information. They’re spending a day, or perhaps even longer, listening to people telling stories. It’s tedious work. To be remembered, serve up your stories to them in a memorable way.

You may fear you will come across as arrogant. I’ll wager good money that that will not be the case. the very fact that you incline towards the ‘we’ and the ’our’ in your answers is a strong indicator that you live miles away from that line separating confidence from arrogance.

An interview is no time to hide your light under a bushel. Display it atop a skyscraper. If you don't do so, you run the risk of good examples and stories coming to nought. And you can bet your bottom euro that someone else going for the job will talk themselves up.

Yes, it can be difficult to speak about yourself in this way. Most people I meet are quite bashful. But, in an interview, you need to turn up the heat by a few notches so that the panel can see your value.

Practice it beforehand and go in there and flourish.

Meath Chronicle

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