Written by: Paula Connolly, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The New Year is here, and with it, a time for reflection on where you’ve been and where you’re going. This year, with the “great resignation” in full swing, that may mean looking for a job that aligns more with what is important to you, now more than ever – more time with family and friends, better life balance, less commute time and hybrid working opportunities.
So you’re dusting off your resume and polishing your skills to sell yourself in an interview, because the top advice for success in an interview is almost always to sell yourself. The truth is that the idea of selling oneself in an interview is uncomfortable, awkward and downright stressful. Most of us just aren’t great at sales – otherwise, we would be selling for a living, and making a lot of money at it.
What if I told you that you didn’t have to sell yourself in an interview to succeed? What if you switched your approach from selling yourself to providing evidence of your skills instead?
If you’re thinking about changing jobs in 2022, here are 5 strategies to ace your next interview – without selling yourself.
1. Know the Difference Between Tasks and Competencies
You know what tasks you have performed throughout your career; now consider what competencies, or knowledge, skills and attributes, you needed to perform those tasks. For example, if you prepared and processed invoices, you can showcase your attention to detail and your ability to assess and solve problems, even if the job you are applying for doesn’t involve processing invoices.
Refer to the job ad to see what specific knowledge, skills and attributes the company is looking for.
2. Just Include the Facts – No Selling Required
Consider what have you done in previous jobs – the evidence – that proves you can do this one. Tell the facts so interviewers can visualize you performing well in this job. The questions they ask are designed so you can share your most relevant examples. Expect to be asked behavioural‑based questions, such as these:
Tell me about a time when you designed and gave a presentation to influence the audience’s opinion.
Give me an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
Tell me about a time when you successfully coached an employee who was not meeting the job requirements.
Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
Consider your recent experience and choose a relevant example that allows you to showcase your skills at the highest level.
3. Tell a Story
The examples you provide should tell a factual “story” that demonstrates your ability to do the job well. In English 101, you learned that stories have an introduction, main and sub-characters, a plot with an issue or problem, and an outcome. Use this approach to design your response to interview questions.
If you are asked about a question about how you contributed to a team, for example, you can state the goal of the team in the introduction, then describe the team (you are the always the main character!), your role and how you specifically contributed to the team’s success. Include examples of challenges, such as disagreement on next steps, and how you led the team through a brainstorming activity to come to a consensus. The interviewers will remember a story with some twists and turns, rather than a story with no challenges – and you get to further showcase your skills.
4. Include Key Skills Listed in the Job Ad
The job ad will list key skills such as communication skills, writing, designing a web page, problem solving, applying policies and procedures, presentation skills, and using automation and time-saving software.
As you plan your stories, be sure to include key skills whenever possible. For example, in our teamwork story, you can include writing minutes of your meetings and preparing a summary report that you presented to senior management.
5. Be Yourself and Let Them Get to Know You
In your stories, tell the interviewers what’s important to you, what you value, what excites you. Use one or two key lead-in phrases in each story so the interviewers get to know you better and can decide whether you are a good fit for the job and the company culture.
The reason this was so exciting to me was…
I really valued this experience because…
I loved this challenge and learned that…
One thing that is really important to me is…
The reason I took this approach was because…
In summary, it’s not about selling yourself at all. Instead, it’s about providing evidence of your skills in story format – describing who you are and what you can do – and then letting the interviewers decide. Try this new approach in your next interview and compare how you feel and how the interviewers react, as you share your stories without the added pressure of selling yourself!
Paula Connolly, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Paula Connolly is a Certified Facilitator and Career Coach with Facilitate Discovery who, for the past 25 years, has helped leaders and employees discover their true strengths and adapt a flexible mindset to improve outcomes. She specializes in leadership and human resources classroom and virtual training and coaching. Paula has designed and customized over 40 training programs for diverse audiences. Her clients include the College of Nurses of Ontario, Professional Golfers’ Association, Ontario Public Service, Statistics Canada and Health Canada. Paula’s mission in 2022 is to help people reach higher success through her masterclass Becoming a Dynamic Presenter.