I've talked to quite a few people recently who've said they find it really hard to 'sell themselves' in applications and interviews. Rightly or wrongly this phrase can sometimes conjure up images of aggressive Apprentice-style pitches about how great you are. But is this really what employers expect? In a nutshell they expect you to understand their needs and the needs of the role you are applying for, and to articulate confidently how you and your knowledge, skills and experience meet those needs. Doesn't sound quite so scary or aggressive, does it? So how do you present yourself positively and confidently (which employers will expect you to do) without slipping into arrogance?
A few quick thoughts:
- avoid phrases which weaken or undercut the impact of what you say, 'I only', 'it was nothing', 'I did a bit of'. Don't underestimate the value of a project or piece of work experience to a prospective employer just because it was quite short; highlight what you gained from the experience and the impact you made.
- use active phrases rather than passive constructions, i.e. 'I organised a conference' rather than 'a conference was organised'; this sounds much more proactive and positive and puts the emphasis on what YOU did and made happen which is the whole purpose of job application processes. If you're a scientist or engineer, and particularly if you're a doctoral and postdoctoral researcher and thoroughly grounded in scientific report writing, it will take a bit of a practice to train yourself out of the passive voice you're used to using for scientific report writing. Think 'analysed data', not 'the data was analysed'.
- Quantify your experience so the employer gets a sense of the scope of what you've done. How many people were in the team you led? How many years of experience have you had with a particular technique?
- Employers are looking for people who can make an impact, so emphasise your achievements within a particular role, and quantify those as well. Did you increase sales figures by 10% in that sales assistant role over the summer? Improve efficiency of a process by 20% in your engineering project? You're not 'bigging things up' when you do this, you're simply stating facts.
- Put more emphasis on yourself and the actions you took within a role than on the organisation you worked for. It's fine to give a little information about companies you've worked for, but don't let this take over or get repetitive.
- In cover letters and interviews, emphasise your enthusiasm for the job and company you're applying for. Phrase like 'this role really appeals to me because' and 'what particularly fascinates me is' will help convince the employer than you really want to work for them.
- You don't need to say you're the best thing since sliced bread, but try to find things that may be unique about your experience or skills, and talk about how these will be useful for the organisation.
- Book a Quick Query and one of our advisers will give you some feedback on how your application is coming across.