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Careers clinic: A job interview is no time for humility

TheJournal.ie’s resident careers guru Liam Horan advises that when it comes to interviews, be yourself – but even more so than usual…

Image: Dani Lurie via Flickr.com

AN EXCESS OF humility is rarely a good thing in a job interview.

Job interviews are not what we might call ‘the real world’. They are an unnatural environment. They are to the jobseeker what the audition is to the actor. They are condensed and they can be nerve-wracking.

But they’re still the device most frequently used by employers to select staff.

Just as the actor blanks out nerves, self-doubt, and self-consciousness to deliver those melodramatic lines from the script he’s just been handed, so must the interviewee be prepared to project himself for the duration of this 45-minute, or so, engagement.

We are not saying that you cease to ‘be yourself’: rather, we urge that you prepare to put across the best of yourself during that time. Failing to outline your assets is like leaving a star witness at home – and then wondering why you lost the case.

And, whether you like it or not, and many people don’t, a job interview requires you to speak openly and confidently about your strengths.
If you don’t say “I am particularly good at creating sales in a new territory”, nobody else will say it for you. The onus falls on you to claim your successes.

Striking the balance between nice, acceptable levels of self-confidence and outright, off-putting arrogance is the key. From what I’ve seen on the interviewer’s side of the table, and also preparing people for interviews, very few people run the risk of appearing too arrogant.

Most candidates have plenty of capacity to talk themselves up a good deal more than they currently do, and still fall well short of looking conceited. While the job interview environment is un-natural, it does tolerate confidence. The interviewer wants to know what you’re good at. To be crude about it, you’re a product, and she needs to know what she will get if she buys you.

Your CV will have told her some information. Your psychometric test, if she puts you through one, may tell her more. But she also needs to hear it in your own words.

Understandably, many people find it difficult to talk themselves up, but it is a process to which you must commit yourself in preparation for the interview. Fake it to make it: grin and bear it.

You may indeed experience a ‘did I just say that about myself’ moment during the interview (any to relay, readers?), but, rest assured, you won’t be on your own: some of the other candidates will be making similar claims about themselves.

Every employer has tales of apparently good candidates selling themselves short – and willing them to do better.

Generally speaking, employers like confidence, if not arrogance. If you tend to be bashful, know that you can pump it up a great deal more, without going over the top.

Don’t make false claims, but, equally, don’t hide your talents away. For those 45 minutes, you must extol your own virtues if you are to convince the employer of your worth.

Over to you: Share your interview tips and experiences in the comments section below>

Liam Horan runs career training company Sli Nua Careers, who have an online service that allows you to create a professional CV from the comfort of your own desk or home. For more details, click here.

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