When it comes to interviewing, presenting and, yes, promoting oneself, your talents and accomplishments are what sets you apart from others and not some gimmick on your resume or online profile. In my long recruiting experience, I find that on average people either talk too much, or too little, about their own abilities and accomplishments. Sometimes it’s merely a symptom of being nervous. It’s understandable, because most of us interview only when we must, it’s not the kind of activity normal people enjoy engaging in; I don’t know anyone who interviews as a hobby, out of enjoyment. However, nervousness is an excuse and not a reason to fail because, fact is, an interview is your moment to shine – or not.
There is also a cultural component to consider. Living abroad, outside the U.S. for already fifteen years I recognize that many Continental European and Asian professionals are more reserved and reticent about discussing their accomplishments for fear of being seen as braggadocios. The result is that they tend to underwhelm hiring managers. North Americans, on the other hand, as well as peoples from the United Kingdom have less reluctance about this and are quick to share what they can do and have done. Depending on a person’s viewpoint one extreme is too timid and the other too verbose. In my experience, having witnessed both sides, I find a balance between the two is just about right.
So here’s some advice, for those on each end of the spectrum:
· If you are softer spoken and tend to say too little, yet you know you are qualified and indeed you think you’re the right person, if you think talking about yourself will be viewed as bragging or egotistical, you need to get over it. It’s not enough to have a short sentence fragment on your resume, if you don’t tell them and with some detail – how else, will they know?
· If you are one to be a little verbose, maybe you do in fact have a lot of accomplishments and a lot to say – but you’d better have facts and figures, testimonials and references at your fingertips to back up the claims. If there is something you don’t have at the time, you’d better be able to produce it within 24 hours of any interview, perhaps added to your follow-up Thank You Note. It might be wise to tone it down a bit and remember the old sales adage that suggests that one should under-sell and over-deliver.
Your goal should, in fact, be to strike a balance between the two extremes.