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Not to brag, but I’ve interviewed the best. Wait, actually I do want to brag. Let me sing my praises!
I’ve interviewed CEOs of billion dollar corporations. IT Architects with certifications no one else possesses in the Southern Hemisphere. Change managers who have singlehandedly turned failing multi-million dollar projects around. Their superiority isn’t just opinion; they back it up with concrete evidence—their seemingly outrageous salaries back up their talk. They are confident, but not arrogant; after speaking with them, you want to work with them.
You believe them.
Well, maybe they are arrogant. They have a right to be.
Why sell yourself?
You don’t have to be the best at anything to secure work, but you do need to know how to present yourself in a manner that honestly extols the strengths you can offer to an organisation without false modesty or false bravado. It’s a tightrope walk over a thousand foot drop, and the rope is thin as floss. Be sure to get your interview preparation right. This is about selling yourself positively and creating a personal brand using personal value propositions (see my blog How To Create Your Personal Value Proposition)
I’ve had seemingly excellent candidates get rejected for roles solely due to their perceived arrogance. It’s, unfortunately, largely subjective. Employers want confidence, but they also want someone who can work well with others, acknowledge the contributions of their team, and follow procedures—someone able to think on their own, take appropriate risks, lead and follow.
Seems like a bag of contradictions. If you’re good at something, how do you present yourself without seeming arrogant?
Err on the safe side. State your strengths or accomplishments matter-of-factly, then speak directly about how that can potentially help the team and the organisation. The candidate I mentioned who was perceived by the client as being too arrogant failed because he indicated that he was such an expert that he’d ignore current processes, create his own systems, and (I quote), “It’s my way or the highway.”
He went too far, falling off the tightrope of confidence into the pit of empty arrogance.
To be fair, being so concerned about arrogance is somewhat of an Australian hang-up. We’re a culture of dropping people down a peg, getting them back to earth, and “taking the piss” out of them.
Use examples to validate your claims
When you’re singing your own praises in a job interview, do so in a way that demonstrates that you’re taking full responsibility for the outcomes of the work you do. Support your claims with clear evidence—specific increases in profit, greater positivity in customer surveys, increased efficiencies to technology, thank-you letters from managing directors, etc. You owe it to potential employers to show the full strength of what you have to offer; just be prepared to be equally direct with how you managed your failures and where you need to improve.
Self-promotion is the fastest way to a promotion
How can your current managers utilise your strengths if they’re not fully aware of your accomplishments? Nobody likes a braggart: someone who always steers every conversation toward themselves, exaggerates the most minor contribution and broadcasts it companywide. But when you’ve done something really well, and have evidence, send out that email, have that conversation, slip the accomplishment into a conversation—even using humour to do so.
Make yourself memorable
According to a recent article in Forbes, people hear or read 100,000 words a day. Studies also show we forget 80% of what we hear within 24 hours. If you aren’t promoting yourself—whether in your current role or during a job interview—who the hell else is going to do it for you?
Share your story. Inspire others with the great things you’ve done. It’s not arrogance, it’s not bragging: it’s letting people know what you can do, so you can help others.
Of course, you can be humble, just make sure you take credit for your accomplishments. It’s the best way to promote your career. If you’d like some help learning how to sell yourself in interviews, check out our career coaching services. Guaranteed to impress.
In another blog, I’ve also presented a simple framework for building your personal value propositions. It is a fantastic way to sell your personal brand without bragging (too much). You can read the blog here.