How to Sell Yourself in an Interview

Male professional smiling and engaged during an interview

An interview is unlike nearly every other situation you will encounter – both in business and your personal life. You’re tasked with trying to be self-serving but also be humble. You want to know what you’re talking about but don’t want to seem arrogant! The objective is to leave the interviewer convinced of your potential to be a great hire or, at least, that you are well qualified for the job. Hanging in this delicate balance is difficult. So, how exactly do you sell yourself in an interview without appearing arrogant? Follow our tips below to figure out how to secure the job of your dreams by acing your interview.

Land Your Dream Job With These Interview Tips

Prepare for the interview

The first mistake that people make when going into an interview is they underestimate just how challenging it will be. Yes, you’re talking about yourself. But, it’s so much more than a simple conversation. Technically, an interview is a conversation that is designed to elicit information about a candidate’s experience and skills. It is usually structured to some degree and may include more than one interviewer and one or more scheduled sessions. If you go into the interview without preparing, you’re bound to fail. Learn as much as you can about the company and practice your interview answers in a way that will specifically tailor to this company. So, if you’re looking to be hired in a finance department, talk about your skills in accounting and finance, not your skills in answering phones!

Figure out how to differentiate yourself

There’s a very good chance that you aren’t the only qualified candidate for the job. Imagine a folder with multiple qualified resumes waiting on the interviewer’s desk as soon as your interview is complete. That’s one of the reasons you need to differentiate yourself from others! Make sure your qualifications are clearly visible on your resume. But, on top of that, you should also be likable. When your interviewer is going through your qualifications, make sure you remain humble but accomplished. The interview is designed to determine if you’ll fit in well with the other members of the work-family. After all, you will spend more weekday hours with them than with your own family. Try to look into the company culture beforehand so you can differentiate yourself in this way.

Know your answers to difficult questions

One of the ways to sell yourself in an interview is to be prepared for some of the seemingly innocent questions that interviewees sometimes don’t handle well. Like, tell me about yourself, or, why are you interested in this job/company?

These seem like another of those “easy” things to respond to. But, the first one is not really a question, so there’s no right or wrong answer. Both are open-ended and totally up to the candidate to share as much, or as little information as they want. The problem? Candidates who are nervous tend to talk and divulge more, so the danger here is the potential to say too much of the wrong thing. 

Reciting your entire work history isn’t what the interviewer is looking for. They have your resume/application in front of them and will ask specific questions at some point. They want to see how you respond and if you take the lead. It’s a definite opportunity to sell yourself by focusing on the skills that will be beneficial to the company/job.

The best response is to give a broad overview of who you are and what led you to this interview.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

You have strengths and weaknesses, but it’s important to explain those in a way that doesn’t hurt your interview chances. Believe it or not, in a misguided attempt to be forthcoming, a significant number of people actually give the interviewer weaknesses that will eliminate them immediately. This is not the time to talk about adventures on spring break or when you just couldn’t seem to wake up early enough to arrive at work on time! The solution is to turn a previous weakness into a strength. Notice the emphasis on “previous”. Pick something that was an issue in the past and explain how you identified that it was an issue (vs. someone else having to tell you to fix it), what you learned from it, and why that has never been an issue again. This shows that you’re adaptable. Present it so that it’s clear that you’re insightful (because you identified it yourself) and how that experience further strengthened your qualifications. 

When it comes to talking about your strengths, you obviously want to highlight what you’re good at, but that also has the potential to backfire. You don’t want to be viewed as arrogant or as the lone wolf who doesn’t give credit to the factors that helped you to develop that skill. So, what can you do? Pick a skill, preferably from the job description that you have high competence in. Describe it factually, like how you identified the need for the skill and the steps that you took to obtain it (education, working with a mentor or someone who already had the skill, volunteering for projects that used that skill) and why you enjoy using that skill to accomplish something.

There’s a very wide valley between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance is usually off-putting and, in an interview especially, usually only sounds like “I” vs. “we”. It is important to know not just your strengths, but why they’re useful to this job and this organization and how to present them factually and collaboratively. Ultimately, this can actually eliminate the possibility of bragging.  In some highly competitive fields, it may be acceptable to be more aggressive about skills, but arrogance generally has no value in the workplace. And, if we consider the meaning of being arrogant, it puts things into perspective. When done right, an interview is an opportunity for both sides; company and candidate alike, to determine if the requirements, skills, and personalities make for a good fit.  Remember to be yourself, but be the warm, likable you who is comfortable and knowledgeable about your skills and potential to be successful in the job….and expect a great outcome!

Related: What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

Look the part

Never underestimate the skill involved in interviewing – both on the part of the interviewer and the candidate. An interview is a structured discussion designed to find out who the candidate really is (and when done correctly, who the company and interviewer really are, too). Though this may not be the most important way to sell yourself in an interview, it certainly matters. You need to look the part. You should be professional and dress as if you’re about to secure the position because you are! Make sure you take time choosing what you’re going to wear and how you style yourself.

Related: Business Casual vs. Business Professional (What to Wear to an Interview)

Practice, practice, practice

The number one rule – Do your homework! Know the job, know the company, know the field. Practice answering questions in the mirror, with a friend, and in a mock interview. Record yourself and play it back to catch nervous habits (it’s okay to be nervous; it’s what you do about it that counts). Refine it until you have a comfort level with your performance. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for the interview day.

Review standard and not-so-standard interview questions and prepare your thoughts. You don’t need to memorize canned answers, but you should feel comfortable enough that you can provide an honest and thorough answer to every question.

Practice answering questions using the STAR approach – Situation, Task, Actions, and Results. The interviewer may use STAR or behavioral/competency-based questions to ascertain how you would handle similar situations in this job so use this approach in your practice sessions.

Related: How To Answer Interview Questions Using the STAR Method