Talking about ourselves. It’s not something we do in polite company.
Etiquette dictates that we avoid bragging. We’re taught instead to ask other people questions and demure when we’re given a compliment.
But how do you make sense of these unspoken cultural rules when it comes time to interview for a job? How, exactly, do you toot your own horn without coming across as, well, a self-promoting braggart?
The thing is, being able to talk about your work, skills, and experience doesn’t have to feel like a bragging session. Talking about what makes you a great team member or leader is a skill in itself that you can learn.
Here are some ways you can embrace your next interview and learn to communicate the things about your work that make you a great hire.
Shift your mindset
“Selling yourself” may feel pushy. But in reality, you’re a salesperson every single day.
You may be lobbying your boss to approve a big project, encouraging another organization to partner with you, or recruiting volunteers for an event. These are all collaborative efforts and collaboration is, at its heart, a negotiation that benefits you and your company.
Take this attitude with you into the interview.
If you hold back because you’re worried that you’re going to look arrogant, it may have the opposite effect. Your interviewers may wonder how you expect them to discern your qualifications if you can’t share it with them.
“If you can’t tell me about yourself,” they may think, “how are you going to help me solve my immediate need? Why should I hire you?”
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes
Employers want employees who are good members of a team, who are just as excited about their work as they are. They’re looking for innovative ideas, solid skills, and people who will contribute positively to the work environment.
When you talk about yourself, you’re talking with a company about how you fit into their picture of their company. What value do you have to offer?
Think of your interview as a “will-we-fit-together?” exploration instead of a harsh evaluation: “You have a lot to offer and so do I. Let’s explore our strengths, needs, and skills and see if we can help each other.”
Tell your best anecdotes
To share about your work and qualifications in a way that’s meaningful to the employer, talk with your interviewer about real-life experiences you’ve had in your professional life, a limited number of high-qualities examples of how your work has made a positive impact.
Anecdotes can give your potential employer information about how you communicate and what motivates you without sounding like you’re reading off a long, bulleted list of qualifications.
In fact, sharing anecdotes about how you handled a sticky work situation or worked with a team to craft an innovative solution is a great way to fulfill the goal of an interview: To share who you are.
Your interviewers already know a lot about you in 2-D, from your resume, but what are you like in person? Anecdotes can answer that question.
If you share a meaningful anecdote about the way you work, it will communicate–at once–your problem-solving and collaboration skills, personality, successes, and areas where you have learned and changed.
Credit where credit is due
When you’re preparing anecdotes to share, weave in positive results and things you’ve learned from colleagues and you’ll come across as someone who believes in yourself–and has the skills to back it up.
Focus on outcomes. Demonstrate your skills by describing what happened as the result of the situation and highlight how the workplace benefitted or project succeeded as a result.
If you worked particularly well with someone or learned something meaningful from a collaborator, talk about it. This will highlight your generosity and show that you’re clear-eyed about the contributions of everyone on a team.
Don’t be afraid to talk about how proud you feel of a job well done. You’ll come across as confident and your confidence will help your interviewer Sharing your best accomplishments will help your interviewer feel great about the possibility of you joining their team.
Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!
P. T. Barnum