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How do you “sell yourself” without sounding arrogant in an interview or application?

I normally have plenty of accomplishments that can fit “experience” or what ever it is being asked. But I always have a hard time listing them because I absolutely hate bragging. #interviews #interviewing-skills #student #high-school #job


Experience is factual and doesn’t have to be boastful. Bragging is always being boastful. Just stick to the facts and don’t minimize what you have to offer. Tricia Timmons

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Sindhu’s Answer

Olive, some aspect of selling yourself is the expectation from every interview, but try not thinking of it as a sales pitch but more about putting your best foot forward and showing the interviewer how you fit in and how you would contribute to the role and the organization.

For behavioral questions, using the STAR - situation, task, action, results - is a good way to structure your answer and with the tasks, actions, and results you can talk about what you did and what you achieved in a factual way without bragging.

Practice is also key, so try your answers out with family and friends who can tell you if you are being your best self with the answers vs. bragging.

Hope that helps.

Thank you this is really helpful. Bragging or sounding arrogant is a personal pet peeve of mine that I CAN'T stand, it drives me nuts. So it's even harder for me to do things where I am basically walking on a line of giving enough that I can show that I am qualified, while not going overboard. Thank You Again, Olive olive P.

You are most welcome Sindhu Kutty

It is a tough balance, Olive. I find quantitative measures make it easier e.g. a project that helped improve outcomes by 20%, impacted 5% of customers, etc. Good luck in finding the right balance for you! Sindhu Kutty

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Tricia’s Answer

Coming across as confident and bragging are not the same thing. If you simply list your awards and achievements and don’t answer the questions being asked, you’ll come across as bragging. If you answer the question and back it up with experience you have, that shows confidence. The interview likely took the interview with you because something impressed them with your resume (likely your awards and achievements). Be confident but interview like you want the job, don’t ‘have it in the bag’ and you’ll likely make a good impression.

Tricia recommends the following next steps:

Be confident
Share how your experiences make you a good fit for the job
Interview with an attitude of wanting the job, not that you have-it-in-the-bag

Thank you this is really helpful! olive P.

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Nathalie’s Answer

Hi Olive,

I agree with Judy's answer and all of the above; make some notes of your experience and buddy up with a trusted advisor, to do some dry run interviews so you get more comfortable talking about yourself with someone who can give you genuine feedback on how you come across.
Take the feedback in your stride, tweak your answers after each dry run to mix humility to the factual. Do many dry-runs with trusted mentors/advisors.
Have fun doing this, the more comfortable you become, talking about yourself and your achievements, the less stressed you will be, the more natural you will come across and you get a chance to show case your experience in the best possible light while injecting humility in your speech. Do multiple dry-runs and modify your choice of words as you gather feedback. This is how you will best learn to 'sell yourself'
When you interview, it is essential to be professional and equally important to be authentic, so, as you prepare using the STAR - situation, task, action, results - model: write down what you want to convey; but it is essential that you practice out loud with a mentor/ trusted advisor so you can hear how you sound: make sure your message is clear and concise, while your body language is professional, yet not stressed and authentic, this way your personality and charisma transpires, beyond the words. Be authentic, People hire People!.
Preparing yourself for the interview is key:
- Think about what you will wear; this is part of your first impression, you need to be both comfortable (so you can move, sit etc) and professional in your appearance.
- Have copies of your resume and reference letters with you in a folder, should the interviewer(s) want a copy on the day.
- Dry run (rehearse) what you want to say and how you want to say it: the pace of your speech, your posture, your body language, everything counts. Ask your mentor/ advisor to take notes on those non-verbal cues while you dry run the interview.
- Be concise and humble as you prepare your points/answers in writing, this will help you determine the best language so you come across as confident, yet humble.
- Observe your interviewer, listen well before answering, pause before answering if you are nervous and take a breath. Jot down the Question and answer on paper if it is a long/tough question, it will help you think. Don't rush, remember to breathe and smile.
- Remember that beyond the words and experience, it is you, the person that will be hired; so be authentic during the interview.
- Do the wonder-woman pause for a few mn in private before you walk in the interview to boost your confidence if you feel shaky, but overall try to relax, be confident and be yourself.
I hope this helps, best of luck.

Nathalie recommends the following next steps:

Prepare, prepare, prepare
Dry run your interview
Tweak your choice of language to inject humility in the factual experience
Be authentic

Thank you! This is really helpful and covered things I never would have considered olive P.

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Judy’s Answer

Olive,

You're not alone. In an interview, whether over video, by phone or in person (one day), it will be important how you present yourself and how the interviewers or recruiters experience your brand.

There are ways you can tell a great story of the work you've done without sounding arrogant. It requires good storytelling and a decent amount of details and facts.

As a Sophomore in HS, it will be good to start practicing by taking notes of your experience. Start studying behavioral interview questions and writing out responses to start.


Thank you! olive P.

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Nathan’s Answer

I think that its important to not be afraid to sell yourself in an interview. You're there because you feel you are qualified, and you should definitely not be afraid to speak to the accomplishments that have gotten you to that interview.

One thing I like to do to prepare is to list out the emphasis points in my answer. This allows me to analyze what I'll be saying and make sure that it conveys my accomplishment in the way that I intended. You can then fill in around you emphasis points with filler language, which I think helps keep things concise. This will help you craft answers that convey your accomplishments and their value without sounding pretentious.

Finally, be confident. If you prepare for the interview by crafting your answers and use your own evaluation as well as feedback from friends and family to ensure that your answers are cohesive and professional, then you have nothing to worry about! Just be confident and proud of your work.

Thank You So Much! olive P.

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Ben’s Answer

To convey your skills during an interview, simply address them through a story narrative. Have "stories" prepared prior to the interview. These tend to deal with overcoming an obstacle, planning out your life, best accomplishments, etc. If you can remember the story you create, it would be easier to address key skills you hold.

Make the stories concise and easy to follow. To make your stories easier to remember, simply make each story consist of different "chapters". Chapters display different key skills the story addresses. This way, you can be sure to address the skills you have intended to promote yourself. Remember to address hardships / obstacles you experienced in order to attain the skills. Put emphasis on your passions to improve yourself.

Review the stories you have created. Sit down with someone, preferably a career counselor at your institution, your professors, or peers. Make sure they can give sincere and thoughtful advice / recommendations. Perfect your story and recite it to memory.

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Marissa’s Answer

Hi Olive,

Great question! This is certainly a relatable issue for anyone preparing for an interview. First, you mentioned that you have completed several accomplishments - I understand that you may feel strange essentially "bragging" about them. The good thing is that you already have the experience. Now, the next step is simply conveying these accomplishments in a way that is impressive, yet concise and honest. From my own personal interview experience, I have found that it is easiest to translate my strengths and accomplishments, without bragging, by way of example. For instance, instead of vaguely listing a skill, such as "hardworking," attach an example of a time in which you demonstrated that attribute. "One of my strengths is that I am hardworking. While working on the executive board for my residence hall, I allocated one hour each day to fundraising and managed to raise $X. Within one month, I contributed to the board by raising a total of $Y." In short, you are halfway there! You have the experiences. Once you attach a story to your experiences, you can convey them in a way that shows your skill in context with results. This will make it seem less like "bragging" and more like honest explaining. Remember: don't minimize your accomplishments! You can practice this by finding the proper balance. Good luck!

Marissa recommends the following next steps:

List out your accomplishments.
Determine how your accomplishments match against the company's requirements/ qualifications.
Attach a story and/or example to each accomplishment to explain it further.
Convey your skill in a context that has proven results.
Be confident! You worked hard to get experience, and don't be afraid to explain why that makes you qualified for the position!

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Miriam’s Answer

Hello!

Having a lot of accomplishments is always something to be proud of and there is nothing wrong with sharing what you have accomplished. In an interview or on an application, instead of thinking of it as boasting or arrogant, think of it as marketing yourself; you are your own brand. As long as you can tie those experiences back to the specific questions in an interview or an application without getting off topic, you should be good to go! At the beginning of my professional career, I thought the same way, and after attending webinars and such, one thing that was consistent was Brand and Marketing. On the other side of the interview or application, the interviewer or reader want's a story and that gives them a front row seat into your journey.

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Carrie’s Answer

Hi Olive,

I agree with many of the answers already provided. I would add that in my experience, I've found it's easier to talk about accomplishments if you focus on data and staying objective. Speak to your accomplishments as facts and they will feel less like a brag.

It can also be helpful to practice and talk about your accomplishments as if they were the accomplishments of a friend. For some reason, it's often easier to brag about a friend instead of talking about ourselves. Pay attention to the words and phrases you use, and apply those same ideas when talking about yourself in the interview.

Good luck!

Thank You So Much! olive P.

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Zach’s Answer

Hi Olive!

I sometimes still get uncomfortable in this situation. However, I have found some strategies to be particularly helpful when it comes to selling yourself but still sounding (and feeling) humble.

1.) Instead of talking about what you've accomplished or about your strengths, talk about the processes you went through to develop those strengths. This not only sounds better to the interviewer because it showcases your ability to learn and overcome challenges, but also acknowledges that you were able to succeed and accomplish your goal. By talking about your struggle, you depict your victory in a humble way.

2.) Show enthusiasm to imply confidence. An easy way to show someone your strength in a particular area is to talk about how much you enjoy it. Phrasing your strengths as "things you love to do" is a humble way to pair enthusiasm with aptitude. For example, when asked to talk about your strengths, saying "I am a great problem solver" can be less effective than saying "I love having an opportunity to solve a challenging problem." This also allows for an easy transition into talking about some of your experiences that highlight that strength.

Personally, I think the easiest way to sell yourself is to demonstrate your passion for the things you are good at. This will not only impress your interviewer with your personality but will also convey your strengths in a humble way that eases the discomfort that can occur when trying to talk about yourself.

Good luck!

Thank You So Much! olive P.

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Josiah’s Answer

Olive,

I think this is a really common problem amongst college students and young professionals, so know that you are not alone!

One of the best things you can do is to practice with a friend or and advisor. Write down a list of your accomplishments and practice both your interview and your elevator pitch (A 45 second spiel about yourself and your skills). Recruiters love confidence, so let sounding confident be your goal.

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Lily’s Answer

Hi Olive!

The first couple of times I interviewed, I felt strange and disingenuous because I too saw it as bragging about accomplishments. However, whether you are presenting yourself in person during an interview, by cover letter, a personal statement or through a resume, the purpose is to tell your story. The most important preparation for your career or college search is to discover your own story. People are drawn to those that can describe, in a story-like fashion, who they are and what they've accomplished.

In an interview, or a circumstance in which you feel you might be 'selling yourself', consider what about you is important for your audience to know. An achievement, award, or great grades are certainly highlights but developing your personal narrative will help you feel genuine and will prepare you for any question thrown your way.

Make sure to do this preparation now and be open to changes in the future. Also, always be careful about what details you include in these conversations or through written word - remember that you always want to put your best foot forward.

Below I came up with some next steps for you to address this growth opportunity:

Lily recommends the following next steps:

Sit down and brainstorm what is important about your story and what you'd like the 'audience' to know
Imagine questions you may receive that will allow you to emphasize the highlights of your story
Research additional questions you may not know how to answer or how your answer could benefit you
Reach out to people who know you best to share what you've come up with and ask for their input (friend, family, teacher...)
Revisit, reflect, and revise this story throughout your career

Thank You So Much! olive P.

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Lucia’s Answer

Hi Olive!
I understand your struggle in wanting to highlight your strengths in an interview, without sounding like you are bragging. I think a great way to avoid coming off in that manner is to maintain confidence but also display your passion for the position or organization you are interviewing with! You want to show your potential employer that you are genuinely interested in the position, as well as highlighting the skills you have which would make you a great candidate for the spot!
It is common for interviewers to ask you to explain your strengths in any manner, as they want to know why you would be a good fit for a certain role. You can certainly discuss different scenarios you have been in which have helped you develop these strengths and be prepared to discuss how you have been able to overcome weaknesses as well. Just be sure to show your interviewer who you are by explaining your journey thus far and highlighting your accomplishments up to this point!

Some points of advice:
- Show your accomplishments, experience, and awards on your resume and provide stories behind each one to make them meaningful
- Be polite and answer your interviewer's questions while interacting in a more conversational manner (refrain from only listing your skills, awards, etc. and show your interviewer who you are!)
- Be actively listening and stay engaged

Overall, I think you should enter any and all interviews with the confidence that you have the know-how and skills to get the job, but refrain from acting like you deserve it and instead show how you want it!

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Brandon’s Answer

Hey Olive!

I totally get what you're saying - it can be challenging to lay out the facts (even when asked) without making it sound like you're bragging. But it's important to remember that the recruiter only knows as much as your resume shows, so it's on you to offer that added layer of context so they understand how you and your past work experiences could be a fit for them.

Additionally, an interview isn't just used to showcase your work experience. Use it as an opportunity to tell the recruiter your story and what brought you to that industry. Take a look at the company website, their work, and social media channels. Show the recruiter you've done your homework and that you're interested in the company, their values, and what they stand for.

And lastly, use the interview to ask thoughtful questions about the company culture, work-life balance, their DE&I / Allyship initiatives, and more. This is also your time to learn more about the company and make sure it's where you really want to work if hired.

Be yourself, be confident, and speak clearly. It's okay to not know the answer immediately - take a moment to breathe, clear your thoughts, and respond to the best of your ability!

(Pro tip: If your interview is over the phone, write out your talking points to reference during the call. Remember the recruiter can't see you!)

Best of luck Olive, I'm rooting for ya!

Thank you so much! olive P.

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