We’ve all been interviewed and we know the drill: You want to be the candidate of choice. That means presenting your very best self.
Job interviews are high-stakes moments that can determine the course of your career—and your life. So think carefully when you bring out those superlatives to describe your accomplishments. You have to know how to brag—and how not to.
Showing confidence is important, but you want to do so without sounding conceited. Every firm wants to hire confident people, but no firm wants a know-it-all.
You’ll want to walk a fine line when you brag about yourself. Here’s how:
1. PREPARE YOUR BOASTS
Before your interview, get your biggest boasts down on paper. Don’t be shy at this stage. Start off with all the ammunition you’ve got.
Write down, in full sentences, at least five things you’ve accomplished that will impress the recruiter, or whomever is conducting the interview. Make them relevant to the job you’re applying for. You may not get to deliver all these points in the interview, but listing these accomplishments will give you confidence when you meet your recruiter.
Begin each sentence with “I” because you want each statement to be something you can commit to. For example: “I led the HR team in designing and implementing a new diversity program.” Or “I created financial guidelines for our organization.”
When you’ve finished, look at these statements and read them out loud. Make sure they’re accurate and highlight the qualities and skills the company is looking for.
2. EDIT THE BRAGS
Next, edit these boasts to make the language as strong and clear as possible.
Use active verbs. Don’t say “I was a manager,” or “I was an IT specialist.” It’s far more impressive to say “In my role as IT specialist I led a team that delivered extraordinary results for our global clients.” Say, “I created,” “I advanced,” “I restructured,” or “I saw (the need) and acted to implement that plan.”
Make sure your role in any project is clearly defined. Your statements should show that you solved a problem, met a need, or fulfilled a mandate.
Read this edited script out loud and you’ll start feeling like a well-deserving braggart.
3. BRING OTHERS INTO THE PICTURE
By now your written brags might seem pretty self-centered. How can you make them sound less so? Acknowledge the role others have played in your success and turn your “I” script into a more collaborative reality.
Take a line such as this: “I led my team to sales success each year, and I enabled them to exceed their targets.” Sounds conceited! If you deliver a line like that, you may not strike the right tone. Replace this “I” wording with the more collaborative: “The sales team that I led was a remarkable group and exceeded its targets every year.”
In your revisions, bring in mentors, too. The above accomplishment might be elaborated with this line: “I’d also credit my success to the wonderful mentoring I received at ABC Corporation and more generally in my career.”
You can still use “I,” but add to it “we,” and “my mentor,” and “my boss,” and others who made it possible to achieve what you have achieved.
4. INTERNALIZE THE SCRIPT
While it may seem like a lot of work to memorize this script, you’ll need to do so if you want the words to come out as you’ve written them.
So the day before your interview, study these lines (the way an actor would) and make them your own. I have found doing this—whether for a job interview or a client meeting—makes me sound polished and confident.
So take the time to make this short script your own. These sentences will be the focus of your bragging, and they will express your deepest convictions about yourself and those who enabled you to succeed.
5. DELIVER WITH CONFIDENCE
In the interview use the lines you’ve created to “sell” yourself.
Wait for the right time, and bring them forward. You can be sure there will be a question or two about what you’ve accomplished. It may come in the form of “tell me about yourself” or “Tell me why you feel you’re right for this job.” Or “what problems have you solved?” You’ll have your best brags ready.
Because your content is so good, you don’t have to be pushy or egotistical in your tone of voice. You’ll deliver these lines with pride and passion.