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Is it bad to sell yourself in a job interview?



A few years ago, we redecorated our living room. There was one corner of the room that just needed something...I searched and searched, and then I came across this chair. I was so delighted to find it; it had just the right retro look next to my treasured mid-century pole lamp. It's comfortable and beautiful, and finished off the room just the way I wanted. It's the perfect spot for my Sunday evening martini!

The chair met my needs exactly. So I bought it. From a salesman. Who was not "bad", despite his chosen profession.

As someone who spent many decades of my career selling things, it irks me when people denigrate the idea of sales. Sales is simply the mutual exchange of value, and does not have to involve manipulation or trickery. Most of us buy things weekly if not daily, and these items enrich our lives in small and bigger ways. From your perfect cup of morning coffee to the car that safely transports your family, to the services of your plumber or hairdresser, goods and services add value to our lives. So why is it "bad" if someone tells you about the features and benefits of a product that you want to purchase? In my view, it isn't bad. And it isn't bad to tell prospective employers about the value you could add to their business either.

Many of my clients say, " I just don't know how to sell myself" and it's clear they view saying positive things about themselves in a job interview as akin to boasting. I appreciate that this a hurdle for many folks. The key is to remember that you have something valuable to offer, and to put yourself into your customer's shoes to imagine how your skills and experience might meet their needs.

Giving specific examples of your achievements in a job interview is a great way to demonstrate how you have added value in the past. Employers can bank on these examples; the way you've behaved in the past is likely to be repeated in the future. So how do you do that without bragging?

The key is to be observational in your relaying of your stories. What that means is, tell it like it is, without value judgement. Here's an example of a "brag" vs an observational approach.

Interviewer, Q: "Can you give me an example of a time when you achieved results at your job?"

Bragger, A: Everyone agrees I am the best worker in the department. I always achieve the most results and customers love me. The boss says I'm the best person in the team. I even won "Employee of the Month" in March!

Observational, A: Sure, let me describe a situation that happened in March. We were in a competition with our Brisbane office to see which team could achieve the highest customer satisfaction rating with our service calls. Our goal is to answer all calls and complete enquires within 3 minutes of the customer ringing in. Given my tenure and training, I could process calls very quickly, which resulted in not only the targets being met but our customers were happy too. My manager praised me on my efficiency and customer focus, and even asked me to help with training our two new hires. We did ending up winning the competition and I was honoured to be named employee of the month!

An easy way to see if you're telling a story in an observational way is to pretend you are relaying the plot of a movie to someone, or even giving a police report! Just the facts, Ma'am!

Your prospective employer has a need, and wants to know about the value you could bring. Don't let modesty keep you from sharing your achievements. Do it in an observational way and let them decide for themselves if your special brand of magic is right for them.

End of rant. Take a seat, I'll fix you a martini.


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Lisa Tozer

The Interview Coach

Level 5, 1 Moore St

Canberra, ACT 2601

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Tel: ​0439 246 372

lisa@interview.coach

Last minute? No problem.

Get in touch, we'll work something out.

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