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The Art of the Humblebrag: Effective Interview Tips

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Interviewing for a job is challenging. Standing out from a group of potential candidates means you are riding a fine line between conveying confidence and being braggadocious. An ideal tool for a moment like this is the humblebrag, or the art of expressing confidence in one’s accomplishments while presenting them humbly. But this tool must be precisely timed if it is to be used effectively.

I had always struggled with promoting my own accomplishments during an interview because I saw it as bragging. However, that view received a reframe in my career shift from instructional designer to a staffing relationship manager I found that whether you are on the hunt for an opportunity or the opportunity presents itself, the time comes for you to explain why you are right for the role and how you stand head and shoulders above the rest of the talent pool. I have come to see humblebragging as an effective, necessary tool for being recruited in a highly specialized field in which talent is abundant.

Now, my view from the relationship manager side of the desk is that some prospects struggle uncomfortably with humblebragging while others seek chances to tout their success. Those who carefully navigate this situation are our most successful consultants. How have they mastered the art of the humblebrag? The answer is simple: expert timing. Here are three easy steps (and a bonus tip!) for how to get it right.

Step 1: Gather Details

Get as many details as possible about the project or job before your interview so you can arrange your skills and experiences to match the requirements of the opportunity. This will help you lay out how to talk about your accomplishments during the interview. Not all skill sets line up congruently, however. For example, if the role requires the use of a tool that you don’t have experience with, it is important not to gloss over your experience or exaggerate your experience related to a job. It is obvious when this is happening, which often results in you being excluded or dismissed from future opportunities that would be perfect for you. Do not interject the humblebrag here. While you are learning about the role, listen and probe. Gather the necessary information so you can organize your experience in your mind and be ready to present your experience confidently – at the right time.

Step 2: Pair Experience With Details

If you have done a good job of listening and probing, the next step will be easy. Make note of your experiences that align with the needs and requirements of the role. Here is where the humblebrag starts to take shape. Think of a time you have used skills or methodologies that have worked well for you in a similar project and frame it as a story. This story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, and include team efforts (with proper credit given), your individual wins, and the wins scored by the team. Remember, you are the hero of your story. A well-told story shows how you are the top of the talent pool and rides the fine line between bragging and calm, humble confidence.

Step 3: Provide Proof

Muhammad Ali said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Bring evidence to the table with a portfolio that helps illustrate and fill out your story. Your portfolio is the perfect place to humblebrag. Write a description of your work process — being sure to mention the players, the win and your contribution to victory — and include it with the portfolio sample. This is not bragging. Your work is “proof” that speaks for itself, and shows that you are a highly valued, top-shelf consultant who would be integral to the success of the role and its impact on the organization.

Bonus Tip: Show and Tell

When presenting your skills and accomplishments, there is a specific way to utilize statistics and metrics effectively. They tend to work well when included on resumes rather than in visually-based portfolios, or in a general conversation. The ideal time to point them out is when you are doing a walkthrough of your portfolio. Think show, not tell. That is the perfect space to share about how your work on a particular project contributed to growth, process efficiencies, or cost savings.

With preparation, a well-crafted story, and proof of your accomplishments, you will help a potential client or employer focus on the value and business impact you can bring to their organization. Timing is everything when presenting. And remember: It ain’t bragging if it’s humblebragging.

Ty Wheeler
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