Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tell’em What You’re Made Of

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. 

In the U.S., most Americans have no problem talking about themselves or their accomplishments. We Americans belong to an inherently competitive culture where striving to improve oneself or attain goals is common. However, since 2001 I live in Europe and as a second generation Czech – American living and working for 12 years in the nation from where my family emigrated, I understand my heritage and have re-learned traits and sensitivities that are European. While there are many similarities, there are of course differences I respect, admire and celebrate; the world is already becoming far too global, which is just another way of saying generic. I prefer to celebrate differences as a good thing and that which makes us individuals. 

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. But everyone should recognize during the interview process 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 the challenge? If you don’t or are unwilling to tell them, how will they know or make an informed decision about you for a job you are seeking? Many think if it’s on their resume a hiring official will see it, but that is weak at best and pathetic at worst. Do you know when most interviewers review your resume? You might be surprised to know it’s usually about 5 minutes before they shake your hand at the start of the meeting, and often it is during the interview. 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. Are you one of those who mistakenly hope a piece of paper will do that for you? 

Okay, I recognize the primary question from most people isn’t about the need to present the information, that’s understood, but what information and to what degree? For the how, as mentioned in the first paragraph, you’ll have to watch for a future blog entry when I will address the best manner I know of how to present yourself and your accomplishments to a potential employer. Or refer to my book. 

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. Third, and what will make the most impact, is to ask yourself for what you have done which you are most proud? Regardless of whether it’s a short or a long list, choose the best among them. However, if you don’t have anything to offer, don’t manufacture fiction. 

Now work on it, write it down, refine it, and rehearse it. Be able to speak with confidence and with some brevity. Condense your points down to making brief but impactful points. You can always elaborate if asked to back up your claims. Tell’em what you’re made of, while most others are talking about what they were already supposed to be doing, reciting their current or past job descriptions, you’ll be talking about what you’ve actually done.
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