Stand Apart, Stand Out
How does one exude self-confidence without appearing arrogant or conceited? It’s simple really, but first let’s put it into context. When you attend a first real interview, I’m not talking about a telephone screening or a cattle-call and assembly-line assessment center. Instead, the first real interview when the purpose for the meeting is to consider you for whatever role you’ve applied. During the interview you will be asked, “…tell me about yourself.” We’re not going to talk about how to present yourself, that’s a whole other subject unto itself. I want to focus instead on what to share when presenting yourself, your experience and qualifications.
I’m an American living and working in Europe, I have 25 years of experience as a recruiter on two continents. I recognize there are cultural differences that influence people but that should not matter as the world and especially business is more inter-connected than ever. Interview an American and, on average, they have no problem telling you about themselves and their accomplishments. Europeans are less open and I have run into many who regard such self-portraits akin to self-promotion, as if it is a bad thing when interviewing for a new job. Regardless of from where a person is, there are a lot of people who are shy or reticent to talk about themselves and their career accomplishments.
When you interview, you’ve got to tell the interviewer not only about what your responsibilities and qualifications are, but key to your candidacy is what you’ve accomplished with your qualifications; how did you handle your responsibilities? Did you rise to any challenges and what are some examples? If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Many think if it’s on their resume a hiring official will see it, but that’s a weak excuse and oh yeah, do you know when most interviewers review your resume? Too often it’s about 5 minutes before they shake your hand at the start of the meeting. The reality is that it’s up to you to get them to wake up and take notice of you; to show how you stand apart from others seeking the same job. It’s ultimately on you to demonstrate why you are the best person for the job compared to everyone else. Or are you like most people who mistakenly hope a piece of paper will do it for you?
Ask yourself, what are the things you’ve done and are most proud of? This is a good place to start. First, any successes or accomplishments you would share with an interviewer should be directly related to a current or past job position. Second, it must be somehow verifiable, you’ve got to be able to prove anything you point to with documentation of some kind or be able to produce a reference of someone willing to back up your claim. Documentation can be a performance review, a company news letter, an award, a company stack ranking list related to office, district, region, etc., listing your standing compared with others, such as what most salespeople receive on a regular periodic basis. It could be a press release within which you are noted or listed or a certificate of accomplishment. Whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to prove your claim if asked.
Then work on it, write it down, refine it, and rehearse it. Be able to speak with confidence and with some brevity. Condense the information down to brief but impactful points about which you can elaborate if asked. While most others are only parroting what’s on their resume, you’ll be talking past the piece of paper, relating to them what you’ve actually done.