There’s a saying: “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” It’s cute, and completely wrong. Bragging is bragging. So in a job search, how do you talk about yourself and what you’ve done without it sounding like you’re bragging?
It can be tough. After all, when you’re looking for a job, you need stand out. You need to promote you. A list of job responsibilities on a resume doesn’t make you stand out. There are 100 candidates applying for the same job who have similar experience. So, whether it’s on your resume or in the interview, you need to self-promote without bragging. Here’s how:
Show, don’t tell
There’s a phrase that storytellers use: Show, don’t tell. Essentially, don’t tell me the main character is embarrassed. Show me his embarrassment – his red face, his mumbled words. The same can be said when you are in an interview. Avoid starting sentences with “I,” especially “I am.” Those “I am” statements – I am in innovator; I am creative – are unsupported. They are only true because you say they are. Instead, show the interviewer how you’re an innovator. Show him or her how you’re creative.
Don’t forget the details
When doing this, don’t be vague. Get specific. You didn’t lead a team that created new revenue. You led a team of engineers that found efficiencies that resulted in a savings of $15 million and helped generate $10 million in new revenue. Talk about specific projects and specific accomplishments and what they did for the company.
Turn your accomplishments into a narrative
A great way to avoid those “I am” statements, especially in a job interview, is to turn your accomplishments into a short story. Make it a narrative. Set up the problem. Talk about how it was solved. This will give you a chance to talk about the team you led or the people you worked with. The only thing you have to remember is to make sure you aren’t trying too hard to minimize your own contribution. This is about you, after all.
A little goes a long way
The key to making the story work – and really any of this advice – is to make sure you don’t overdo it. A little self-promotion goes a long way. Make sure your narrative is short. Make sure your examples are concise. Self=promote where it’s needed, but don’t linger.