Friday, 27 February 2015

How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview

Showcase Your Strengths Without Feeling Like a Used Car Salesman

“I just don’t know how to sell myself!” It’s one of the most common complaints that I hear in my job interview coaching practice.
I love hearing these words because I know I can help these clients make a dramatic improvement in their interview game pretty quickly. They tend to be people who are successful and confident and poised, but just a bit too modest when it comes to talking about themselves.
Take Neha for example. She is an accomplished IT professional with an impressive resume and no problem getting up in front of a room full of colleagues.
However, she hasn’t interviewed in a while and she’s always been a fairly humble girl.
In our first practice interview, she managed to avoid talking about her most impressive accomplishments and to stumble and mumble when asked about her strengths.
After one session, Neha went from modest and forgettable to irresistible (well, she got the job offer that she wanted anyway).

Why You Aren’t Getting the Offers That You Deserve

neon light
If you can relate to Neha, you’re definitely not alone. Some of my most impressive clients have suffered from this same discomfort with self-promotion. Most were going on lots of job interviews and never getting offers (a few weren’t even getting called in for interviews because their resumes weren’t doing them justice).
The truth is that most people aren’t used to talking about themselves, let alone “selling” themselves. In daily life, we are rarely called upon to list our strengths or detail our accomplishments.
In fact, many of us grew up with the conditioning that it’s obnoxious to brag or call attention to our achievements. This is just good manners when it comes to cocktail parties, but will definitely hold you back in job interviews.
A job interview is unlike any other form of interaction. The interviewer wants you to communicate what makes you stand out from other candidates. His job is to pick the best candidate.
It’s impossible to get a full and complete picture of any human being from a 30-40 minute conversation, so the interviewer has to rely on a limited set of data — what you tell him in the interview.
As a result, great candidates often get passed over for people with worse qualifications but better presentation.
The good news is that it’s very possible to learn to “sell yourself” in a way that will still feel authentic. It’s not about trickery or false representation — it’s about understanding what your key strengths are and being able to communicate them in a concise and compelling way.

Approach it Like a Marketing Challenge

neon light
It can be useful to approach it as a marketing challenge. Amusingly enough, some of my most modest clients have been marketing executives who were brilliant at marketing but struggled with applying this knowledge to promoting themselves.
An interview is a conversation, yes. It’s an opportunity to get to know a potential manager or colleague and discuss a potential opportunity. You want to be likable and authentic.
However, don’t forget that the interview is also an exercise in positioning yourself for the position. You want to convey what sets you apart from the competition and how you could benefit the organization if hired.
Some products are all marketing and little substance. You may know a few people like this. That’s not the approach that I’m recommending.
I’m talking about putting your best foot forward, about knowing your strengths and communicating them in a memorable and persuasive way.
So now that we’re running with this metaphor of you as the great product and the interview as your marketing opportunity, let’s look at how to approach your interview like a marketer.

Step 1. Analysis

Any good marketer understands the value of market research.Who is your target audience? What are they looking for? What does the competition offer? How can your product solve the customer’s problem and/or improve the customer’s life?
Take a good look at the job description. Where are you a great match? Which of the top requirements do you bring to the table? Can you claim expert status or impressive accomplishments that can separate you from the pack?
Understand what they are looking for and emphasize how you specifically fit those needs.
Sometimes it’s difficult to analyze yourself clearly (especially if you have been job hunting for a while and are feeling bruised by the process). This is where a trusted mentor or coach can help with some objective feedback on what to emphasize and what to downplay.

Step 2. Hone Your Speaking Points

Be proactive about what you want to convey in your interview.Based on the analysis conducted in Step 1, you should have a pretty good sense of the key selling points that your interviewer will be most interested in.
Now it’s time to frame these selling points so that you can communicate them concisely and powerfully.
I’m not advising you to write a script and I’m certainly not advising you to make stuff up.
However, it’s useful to do some preparation around what you want to say and how you want to say it. In fact, this is particularly important for those who consider themselves a bit modest or uncomfortable “selling” themselves.
If you have a history of being too modest in interviews, it’s going to feel weird at first. If you wing it, even if you've analyzed your fit and told yourself that you’re going talk yourself up more, I can almost guarantee that you will hold back because it won’t feel natural.
That’s why it’s so important to think about the approach and language that will be most natural for you — that will still feel like YOU, just more confident and articulate about your positive qualities. The process of writing down your speaking points will make a tremendous difference.
Sit down and list your top selling points. What do you want your interviewer to remember about you? Aim for at least five main points —these can be areas of expertise, key accomplishments, education or training, soft skills, personality qualities, and/or other strengths.
For each of these, write a proof statement. This proof statement can be a brief example or a more general statement about how you have demonstrated that strength in the past.
Example selling point #1: Management skills/experience
For a management role, you’ll want to demonstrate that you can successfully lead others. If this is one of your strengths, highlight it with specifics:
Proof Statement A (specific example): In my current role, I have built a great team that has grown from 3 to 14 over the last five years. Early on, I learned a lot from my mentors about how to hire the right people and coach them to success. Now I’m proud to say that my team has been acknowledged as the most productive and cohesive group in the division. Now my bosses send young managers to me to mentor!
Proof Statement B (general description): I love being a manager and I believe it’s one of my greatest strengths. I have managed customer service teams at both large and small companies for more than four years, so I know how to get the best out of customer service professionals.
Example selling point #2: Hard worker
A strong work ethic is a great asset and a desirable quality for almost any position.
Just keep in mind that interviewers hear this “hard worker” claim a lot and may not see it as a huge differentiator. If you choose this as one of your interview selling points, make sure you have a great example or proof statement that shows how you personify this quality.
Also, be sure to supplement this one with additional selling points that are more specific to the role and set you apart more clearly.
Proof Statement A (specific example): In my previous position, I put in many late nights to ensure that our monthly client newsletter went out on time — and that it met the company’s high quality standards. Because of layoffs, we were understaffed and I volunteered to take on many additional tasks beyond my role — I wrote stories, edited for our other writers, oversaw layout, and served as the final proofreader to ensure no mistakes made it to press. The issue was a huge success and resulted in lots of positive feedback from clients and from senior management.
Proof Statement B (general description): I have always been that person who’s first in the office in the morning and last to leave in the evening. I’m the guy who taught himself programming so that I could be more valuable to my team on our site redesign project. I’m not happy unless I know I’m giving my all.

Step 3: Practice Until It Feels Natural

Just like you would practice for an important speech or a big performance, you must practice for your interview. Most people know this is true, but my experience shows that few candidates actually put enough (if any) time into effective practice.
Practicing is especially important for those inclined to modesty (anyone who feels skittish about the idea of “selling” themselves!)
In Step 2, you outlined your main speaking points in writing (remember, not word for word).
To make sure you can deliver this crucial information in a compelling and natural way, you’ll need to speak those selling points out loud (with your notes at first and eventually without them).
I can’t emphasize the value of practice enough. The process of practicing can feel awkward (check out Big Interview for a way to practice on your own with minimum awkwardness), but it allows you to work out the kinks BEFORE you walk into the interview.
As you practice, you’ll likely make tweaks to the content and how you deliver it. Your answers should come out a little bit differently each time, but still cover the selling points that you’ve identified as most important.
This practice will also make you more comfortable with saying positive things about yourself and help you own your strengths in your own voice.
Finally, practice will help you with remembering what you want to say — even if your nerves act up when the pressure is on in the interview.

When to Sell Yourself in an Interview

Once you know your selling points and have a sense of how you want to describe them, you need to get proactive about finding opportunities to pitch yourself during the interview.
Unfortunately, there are many untrained interviewers out there who ask lame questions and/or don’t really give candidates a chance to talk.
Here are some questions that provide useful openings for pitching your selling points:
1) Tell me about yourself — Most interviews open with this question or a variation (Walk me through your resume/background, etc.). This is an opportunity for you to start strong and steer the interview discussion to your strengths. Our article on answering the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” interview question will help you craft a great answer that incorporates your selling points.
2) Your strengths — Any question about your strengths is an invitation to share your selling points. Variations on “the strengths question” include:
• Why would you be a good fit?
• Why should we hire you?
3) Your role descriptions — Any decent interviewer will ask you about your most recent positions. Instead of just rattling off your duties, weave in examples that show off your key qualifications.
4) Your behavioral stories — Most interviews will include some behavioral questions (any questions that start with “Tell me about a time…” or otherwise prompt you for specific examples from your past). I work with all of my clients to prepare at least 3-5 strong stories that showcase their strengths and achievements. These stories can be used for answering behavioral questions and also for weaving into the conversion in other ways (see points 1-3 above).

More Self-Promotion Tips for the Modest and Shy

neon light
If you’re trying to craft your selling points and still struggle with feeling comfortable saying nice things about yourself, I have some tricks you can use.
1) Stick with the facts. Instead of stating an opinion about yourself (awkward sometimes), present some nice objective facts that demonstrate your point.
Instead of: I’m a very strong writer.
Try: I've been published by Publication X and Z and was very excited to be selected for Writing Prize ABC during my senior year.
2) Quote somebody else. Sometimes it can feel less “braggy” to quote somebody else’s positive opinion of you. Truthfully, this approach can lend additional credibility even if you’re perfectly okay with tooting your own horn.
Instead of: I’m a very effective project manager.
Try: My manager told me that I am the best project manager at the company and the CEO specifically requested me to lead our highest-profile client engagement this quarter.
3) Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Give yourself permission to brag. Try writing your selling point bullets as if you were a brazen self-promoter. You can always dial it back later if the results feel obnoxious. However, I have seen many clients benefit from pushing themselves a little.
4) Get feedback from a trusted (and objective) advisor. Try it out loud with a friend or coach and get some honest feedback. You’ll likely find that you’re too close to the topic to evaluate without some outside perspective.

If you follow this advice, you can follow Neha’s example and dramatically improve your job interview performance. You can learn to “sell” yourself without feeling like a sellout.

Ref: Careersunbound

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Quick question: Do you know anybody who isn't suffering from work overload?
We live in a highly connected world that is coming even closer with social media. At the push of a button we can get to know what our boss was doing last night and why is he happy today!
It is hard to imagine the feeling your colleague who just got fired in front of the entire office undergoes. But lessons can be learnt. And with ethics around you, it is imperative that you treat your work with respect when it is paying all your bills!
So avoid the 6 common mistakes below at all costs. They waste your time without offering value in return and stain your career!
6 common mistakes that are wasting your productivity
6 common mistakes that are wasting your productivity
Mistake #1 Don’t get too social
At time you are expected to be friendly and cheerful to be able make the work environment healthy. This requires socializing. But never mix socializing with gossiping, flirting or unnecessary talking. Especially when customers are waiting to be served!
Mistake #2 Don’t be part of controversies
Like the Indian Army, have a rule not to discuss women, politics and religion at work. Doing so can keep the work relationship fair and transparent because you will never know who holds what views. Avoid talking about controversial topics that have nothing to do with your work.
Mistake #3 Keep in mind that your employer is not your parent
An employer needs business and you are his business need. The benefits, bonuses and luxuries at work are retention policies and not their way to show their love towards you. Stop taking bosses for granted and don’t expect them to put your happiness before profit, for a downturn may cost you your job.
Mistake #4 Own up your mistakes like your accomplishments
There is very little to explain since the title is easy and understandable. All you have to do is be honest and face the consequences, good or bad don’t matter.
Mistake #5 Keep your work opinion to yourself
Always keep in mind to give advice only when you are asked to. There is a reason why certain policies are in force, you don’t know all of them, don’t try to guess and spread the wrong word. After all, BBC of the office is not a nick name you want!
Mistake #6 Don’t be difficult to work with
The easiest way to succeed in your job is to have a reputation as good at your job, happy and easy to work with and talk to. Try to suppress your original personality to get along.
And now, the harsh truth about work …
Your employers don’t need another boss.
Your employers don’t need even more problems.
What your employers need is you — your wisdom, your ideas and your area of expertise.
Never take your work for granted. Be grateful because you at least have a job. Use this opportunity wisely.
Ref: Careersunbound

Saturday, 31 January 2015


While looking for a job, one often asks, “How do I make an attention grabbing resume?” Your natural instinct will be to “Google” the web for a solution and find yourself confused with a dizzying array of data about what content and method will present you the best. It is very difficult to make sense from all of it. So, here it is made easy for you. With a strong backing of extensive research and recruiter insights, we have compiled a list of important tips you will need to know and do while drafting an impressive resume:
  • One size does not fit all! The single resume approach won’t make it in today’s competitive market, which continuously demands specialized needs. So, plan and draft many versions of your resume that fit perfectly to the variety of jobs that you are applying for. It is necessary to include ways in which you can immediately add value to the organization you are applying to; this reflects your homework and your passion to be part of that particular organization. Before sending it to the recruiters, make sure that you carefully review your resume and adjust it to contain the key words that the recruiters will be looking for.
  • Unread objective! Stop worrying about the objective of the resume. Normally, employers overlook this section. It is very rare that an employer will screen a resume based on an objective. Instead concentrate your efforts on your experience, skills and result driven descriptions. Let the later components make the case for you.
  • Prioritize your content! “Space gives you importance”, placing the most important information at the top will grab the employers needed attention. Also, invest more time in writing more information about skills, experience, undertaken projects that are directly related to the applied job.
  • Keep it simple! Avoid using complicated fonts and designs in your resume. With such complications, the chances of your resume being read effectively minimize because, the application tracking system of the company or the third party website cannot decipher elaborate fonts and complicated designs.

  • Prove yourself! It is not as difficult as it sounds nor impossible. We work in a metrics driven world and quantifying your work will easily prove your point. Instead of plainly saying that you increased the sales or contributed to the marketing activities, support it with quantifiable data whenever possible.
  • Check, recheck! One spelling mistake, inaccuracy or an alignment error can cost you second look or even rejection. Proof read your resume for grammar, spelling mistakes, typos and formatting. Get a trustworthy person also to do the same for you. Sometimes, a fresh eye points an obvious mistake overlooked by us.
  • Omit needless words!, there is no need to mention any controversial information like sexual orientation, racist comments or political associations in a resume. It is not only illegal, but also irrelevant and may cost you your dream job.
  • Size matters! Long resumes need time and patience which employers don’t have. Keep the resume one or two pages. If it exceeds more than a page, mention your name and email id on every page and do your best for the employer to keep on reading!

Friday, 30 January 2015


What are “soft” skills? Why do I need them, if I have “technical” skills?
What are “soft” skills?
“Soft” skills are the abilities of an individual to prioritize work, possess decent interpersonal communication, be a team player and easily overcome conflicts.
Why are “soft” skills important for my career?
If you apply for a vacancy in an organization and another candidate has the same skill sets as you do, same expertise as you, then what will be the differentiating factor?
“Soft” skills.
The candidate who is able to articulate his or her ideas effectively will surely be the preferred candidate. “Soft” skills are particularly important in recruiting recent graduates.
According to a BBC article, employers prefer “soft” skills rather than technical knowledge in recruiting recent graduates. They look for “determination and ability” to learn new things, instead of banking on skills acquired through education.
There is a well-known saying within recruitment – “Recruit for attitude and train for skill.”
Do you have the required soft skills?
When you spend time with your friends, teachers, parents or mentors you should try and get a solicit feedback on your behavior. It is always from a third person’s point of view that you understand things that you can’t see yourself. How you present yourself in situations like these will pave your way to success.
If you do realize you lack in some “soft” skill areas, just know that practice makes perfect. Practice speeches in front of the mirror and attend networking events to force yourself to socialize in a business atmosphere. Challenge yourself and show initiative at work. If you possess both “soft” skills and technical skills, your career opportunities will be limitless.

Ref: Careerunbound

Thursday, 29 January 2015


How can you improve your presentation skills? Effective presentation skills are very important to learn and develop, no matter what industry you work in. When you improve your public speaking and presentation skills, you will feel more confident and your presentations will be more impressive.
Stage fright
Studies show that the majority of people get uncomfortable while facing a group or while giving a performance. If you have stage fright or feel some anxiety you are not alone. Even great speakers like Winston Churchill experienced this fear.
To overcome stage fright:
1. Be calm and positive. Tell yourself that you are going to make a great presentation and that the audience will listen carefully.
2. Rehearse  in front of the mirror. Start with simple topics that won’t cause your brain to over think; this will help to boost your confidence. Look into your eyes in the mirror when you talk and observe your expressions. You will get an idea about what needs improvement and what works best.
Preparation is important when looking to improve your oral presentation skills. A detailed study of your topic is a must. Also, understand your audience. What do they want? Why would they listen to you? If you want to reach them with your presentation, you must reach them through their needs. Give real life examples relevant to your topic so that the audience finds it easy to understand.
Rehearsing your presentation
Rehearse your speech on your feet at least three times. It is okay to rehearse parts of it in your car or sitting at your desk. Try to get used to the feeling of delivering your presentation. The best way to reinforce a set of skills is by repeating the pattern the way you plan to deliver.
Eye Contact
Talk directly to people. The best presentation is delivered as a conversation to every person in your audience one person at a time. If you want to be believed – talk to every individual and this will help to give you credibility.
Your posture can tell your audience about your confidence & comfort level. Standing up straight tells the audience that you are comfortable and ready to give a stellar presentation.
Help your audience remember the important parts
Repeat the points you want them to remember. Use a story to illustrate the point.
We find it easier to remember images and feelings. If you want your audience to remember the key points of your presentation attach those points to images or emotions.
Look your best
You look your best when you smile. You look most trustworthy, friendly and confident when you smile.Don’t keep smiling all the time, your audience may not listen it carefully. Make it a warm friendly smile. When you smile you look confident and help to improve the confidence of your audience.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be?

It’s the question missing from so much of leadership development: “What kind of leader do you want to be?”
We facilitate and encourage self-awareness among up-and-coming leaders (what kind of leader you are), get them to map their journeys so far (what has made you the leader you are), share knowledge and ideas (what kind of leader you should be), and help them acquire new skills and adopt new behaviors (this is how you can become that kind of leader).
But we don’t focus strongly enough on arguably the most central components to successful leadership – leadership intent (the kind of leader you want to be) and impact (the legacy you want to leave). As a shorthand, I refer to these two components, combined, as your “leadership footprint.”
In my experience, many have thought about their leadership footprint at some point, but few have defined it clearly enough to guide their behavior and evaluate their “success.” Of those who have, fewer give it regular consideration – letting it guide their daily decisions – or share it with others, to get feedback and be held accountable.
Here’s an example of how this looks in action. Gail Kelly, CEO of the Westpac Group, one of Australia’s biggest banks and winner of the “Most Sustainable Company” award at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, has spoken openly and honestly about her personal leadership legacy goals. She’s described these goals as “generosity of spirit.” There are two key elements to generosity of spirit, according to Kelly. The first is believing in the power of people to make a difference (leadership intent). The second is creating an environment that empowers them to flourish to be the best they can be and thereby make that difference (leadership impact).
Kelly does also think about leadership tactics, but these act in service to the greater leadership footprint she’s defined. She defines leaders who have this generosity of spirit as having humility, listening to others, and demonstrating empathy. They are not selfish, intolerant, judgmental, quick to shoot the messenger or find scapegoats, and they don’t sit on the fence to see which way something works out before they decide if they’re going to support it. They deliver feedback honestly and in a timely manner – you don’t wait six or twelve months for your annual performance review. Poor performance is dealt with quickly. And perhaps most importantly, managers choose their assumptions. As Kelly puts it, “I choose to assume that you (my colleague) want the best for me personally and for others. I am generous in my assumptions of your underlying motivations and your intent towards me. Hard as it may be at times, I will assume good intent.”
I’m certainly not arguing that the one-stop shop for everyone’s leadership success is this idea of generosity of spirit. It works for Gail Kelly because it’s a footprint she has personally chosen and defined. She builds it into her leadership team and ties it directly to results she wants to see in the business.
We shouldn't all have the same leadership success criteria. We have to define it ourselves. Leaders must give themselves space, time, and permission, and ask for help where they need it, in order to clearly define the culture of leadership they want to build around them. They must assess – both from their own observations and others’ feedback – how they are living up to it, and make the changes necessary to keep building it on a day-to-day basis.
Central to creating a leadership footprint is:
  • Defining the kind of leader you want to be.
  • Knowing clearly how that aligns with, and helps achieve, your organizational vision and purpose.
  • Fostering self-awareness, reflecting on your own behavior and encouraging others to give you feedback.
  • Recognizing differences that may arise between your intent and your impact.
  • Self-regulating. 
  • Choosing the assumptions about yourself and others that you need to rely on for your leadership footprint to be realistic and sustainable.
My challenge now to every client, whether established or new to their leadership journey, will be the same as the question I need to regularly ask myself: Do you know — and are you mindful on a daily basis of — what leadership footprint you want to make?
Ref: Harvard Business Review