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How to humblebrag your way into a new job

Learn the art of boasting during a job interview (without seeming like a narcissist).

How to humblebrag your way into a new job

Great interviews are all about selling yourself to an employer. The hiring manager has seen your resume. She knows what you’re like on paper. Now you’ve got to close the deal.

Naturally, this means highlighting your achievements. But when you’re in the hot seat, do you suddenly get bashful, and worry that you’ll sound like a big bragger when talking about your career or educational accomplishments? Don’t. That’s what you’re there for.

New grads and entry-level workers, in particular, struggle with this. “Because you don’t have experience interviewing for jobs, you’re not accustomed to selling your skills to hiring managers,” says Peggy Klaus, author of Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. However, “every time you open your mouth during a job interview, you are selling yourself,” Klaus says.

Fortunately, there are ways to talk about what you’ve accomplished without coming across as an egomaniac or pretentious braggart. Take these steps to show them what you’re made of, without coming across as a showoff.

Use your resume as a brag sheet

Start by taking a good look at your resume. If you don’t have a section on “accomplishments” or “awards,” add one, and use that as a starting point. But remember, your resume is just a piece of paper—it doesn’t tell a story, says Klaus. Plus, there’s also no guarantee that hiring managers will read it all the way through.

The job interview gives you an opportunity to expand on your achievements. “You need to lift the information off your resume and make it interesting,” says Klaus. For example, give the backstory to how you got into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Or talk about exactly what it took to manage the college radio station and how you launched a creative marketing campaign to attract more listeners.

Let numbers do your bragging for you

Hiring managers latch on to numbers, says Rob Sullivan, author of Selling Yourself Without Bragging. So, when discussing your successes, use metrics to underscore your skills.  That way, the results speak for themselves, and it won’t even seem like you’re boasting.

If you wrote a blog post that got 10,000 views, or you exceeded sales goals at your internship by 50%, say so. “Hard numbers are compelling,” says Sullivan.

Tailor your message to the job description

Job postings aren’t just advertisements for job openings—they also offer insight into what skills the employer is looking for in candidates. Therefore, you want to tie your achievements to the job responsibilities. When you do that, you’re not boasting; you’re simply stating the facts: that you have experience in an area where they need expertise.

So, if you’re applying to be a graphic designer at a startup, use the interview to talk about how you built a personal website that’s not only visually appealing but also SEO friendly.  You’re not showing off; you’re showing that you’ve got experience, and that’s what interviews are for.

Get others to vouch for your awesomeness

Sometimes the best approach is to let others sing your praises. But go a step further than simply asking your former internship supervisor to be a reference for you. (After all, the employer might not even contact your references.)

Ask the person to write a short testimonial that you can include on your resume or cover letter that endorses your skills, work ethic and talent; then, share this information with hiring managers during job interviews. Doing so takes some of the pressure off of you having to tout your own achievements.

Let your body do the talking

When describing your accomplishments, you need to convey enthusiasm and passion. “You should be excited about your achievements, not ho-hum,” says Klaus. One way to express zeal is through body language. Translation: You need to make the right nonverbal impression.

“Don’t be overly casual,” says Jeffrey Kudisch, managing director at the University of Maryland’s Office of Career Services. “Don’t slouch, and don’t sit with your arms crossed.” Maintain eye contact with the interviewer, lean in when the interviewer speaks, and, instead of resting your hands on your lap the entire time, use hand gestures to emphasize or reinforce key points. A basic but proven tactic: Practice by talking in front of a mirror or videotaping yourself.

Avoid overt humblebragging

When self-promotion becomes an act of false modesty, it rubs employers the wrong way, according to a 2015 Harvard Business School study. Unfortunately, many job seekers humble brag when a hiring manager asks what their biggest weakness is (e.g. “I can be too much of a perfectionist sometimes”).

“Employers want genuine responses that convey vulnerability,” says Kudisch.

Make sure your answer minimizes the weakness and explains how you’re working to get stronger in that area. For example, “My time-management skills aren’t as strong as I’d like them to be, so I’m experimenting with ways I can improve in that area.” 


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