Marketing a product is one thing but marketing yourself adds a whole layer of complexity. So, how do you avoid sounding full of yourself? It’s a common concern and I’ve seen this backfire, where, to avoid sounding arrogant, people have accidentally undermined themselves. It’s tricky, but I’ve laid out some strategies to help you approach this on your CV, cover letter, or application answers.
To start, avoid generically positive phrases like ‘amazing’ or ‘fantastic communication skills’. It’s more convincing to use adjectives like ‘clear’, ‘concise’, ‘empathetic’ depending on what kind of communicator the employer wants. Reason being, an all-round wonderful person is ambiguous, and to be honest, makes as much sense as saying you’re a unicorn. This leads us to our next point…
Focus on skills; not self. Rather than framing yourself as inherently good at something, you could talk about the skills you’ve cultivated. In this way, you’re focusing on how your experiences have shaped you and your continual learning. Depending on the culture of the company, you could position yourself as someone who will thrive in this role.
Point out suitability by showing how you could be useful to them. If you say how a particular skill or experience would help you with a job responsibility, you’re showing that you have thought about how you might apply yourself. In this way, you’re presenting your skills in a focused way that keeps the employer in mind. To go even further, if you point out a common goal, it shows you’re thinking beyond yourself. Surely an arrogant person wouldn’t do that.
Make it about results. Highlighting the results of your actions and putting focus on how you improved something is an objective statement. If you increased overall production by 10% or organised an event that raised £200 for charity, then who can argue with that? On that note…
Be factual. Simply changing phrases like ‘I was able to’ or ‘I had the opportunity’ to saying what you actually did prevents you from swinging the opposite way and doing yourself down.
I hope you're feeling a bit more confident in getting your tone right. If you are still unsure, check out Anne’s article on “selling yourself” . Here, you’ll get more tips on treading that fine line between confidence and arrogance.