Many a time, I have been asked about this question by job seekers. Everyone knows that in order to increase the chance to be shortlisted and then offered a job, interviewees have to sell themselves really well. In the fierce competition for jobs, having the ability to sell oneself is undoubtedly a must. It not only sets one from the other candidates but also exemplifies his/her communication skill which is a common requirement for almost all of the positions. Recently, I was shared about a situation where the candidate misled the information in order to land an offer, got the job, then was fired shortly after due to below-expectation performance. This is absolutely no-brainer. The consequence is far beyond loosing a job: narrowing or loosing the future opportunities as the world is small and people talk. So what is the line between telling lies and selling right?
What selling here means is to most effectively demonstrate how one’s experience, skills, potential,… would meet the job requirements, and to show that only he/she would be the best candidate for the opening. It ranges from talking about real experiences, skill set and qualification with a strong conviction, establishing ground for potential or future ability, to not telling the truth (!) about past negative dealings by having positive attitude or growth mindset instead. Telling lies can be making up experiences and capabilities that do not exist at all and/or creating fake educational certificates, professional credentials, and references. Examples are as below:
SELLING RIGHT vs. DEMONSTRATING WHO YOU WILL AND CAN BECOME instead of MAKING UP WHO YOU ARE
Interviewer: Tell me about your marketing experiences that make your a great fit for this job.
Reality: The candidate(s) does not have that “much” experience stated in the job requirement.
Candidate 1: I strongly believe that I have solid marketing experience as I have been working in marketing positions for well established companies including Little House, The Thorn Birds, Capital, etc. First of all, at Little House, I was the sole marketing executive that…
Candidate 2: My marketing experience with a corresponding title may be not as intensive as those wearing the hat. However, apart from the quality 3 years of experience as a marketing assistant for the most marketing savvy company in the FMCG industry, I believe what makes me unique as a candidate is the ability to leverage on social media through my personal social media project. Within the course of 6 months only, I managed to generate one million followers for my Vlogs on social branding. If I am to benchmark myself against my peer social media influencers in the industry, I am among the top 5%.
Analysis: In reality, candidate 1 did not work for Capital. Therefore, this is a blatant lie. For candidate 2, he realizes that he does not have enough formal experience with the exact title; however, he mobilizes all relevant experiences to sell.
What you can do: Do include all experience and qualification that are relevant to the job requirements. You do not need to be titled “sales executive” to have sales experience. You do not need to wear a “communication manager” at to have communication experience. Instead and indeed, give a title to your related experiences (e.g. Domestic Chief Entertainment Officer for experience in organizing events for an event manager job, Social Media Champion for experience in managing friends’ popularly visited Facebook pages for a community management job, etc.)
Interviewer: How familiar are you with the electronic retail markets in Asia Pacific?
Reality: Out of the listed countries in Asia Pacific, the candidate is familiar with 80% of them and for the rest, only at high level.
Answer option 1: I am very familiar with the electronic retail markets in the region. If I am to work on projects that require my knowledge and network, I could easily lead them to success. In deed,…
Answer option 2: Out of the 10 countries that the company covers in the region, I am very familiar with the electronic retail industry in the key markets naming India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam. For Australia and New Zealand, I am about 50 – 60% knowledgeable about the markets there; most of my current knowledge is at high level. However, I have a big network and great resources that I could mobilize to understand about them and to navigate them effectively. I also learnt that the company has a so-called “Golden Box” resource, so I believe that with my tapping on that, your support together with and my hard work and get-things-done mindset, I would become South Pacific expert quickly and contribute to the expansion of our products there within 2 – 3 months.
Analysis: In the answer option 1, the candidate obviously makes up the capability. This could make him/her paralyzed in the new job if he/she ever lands it. In the answer option 2, the candidate shares the truth but also demonstrates about his “potential” with a strong conviction. If he lands the job, the company has the right expectation for him during the first few months and provides him with the needed support to be successful, given his great potential.
What you can do: Have a growth mindset. Talk about your your potential with examples including being a quick learner, ability to be successful in a job where your skill set partially met the requirement initially, etc.
SELLING RIGHT vs. NOT DIVING INTO (NOT TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT) PAST NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES and FOCUSING ON THE EXCITING FUTURE
Interviewer: Why do you want to leave the current company?
Reality: The candidate is very fed up with the manager who is perceived to be a tyranny with unfair treatment.
Answer option 1: It is said that employees join company and leave managers. And this is not an exception for me. While I have always been trying to be my best to contribute, my manager always finds fault with and creates bottlenecks for me in my work. It is not only ineffective but also mentally draining. Therefore, I need to find a great manager that I can work for.
Answer option 2: While I love my current job and my current team so much, I find this opportunity a great one for my career development. It comes at the right time when I think I have made tangible and value-added contribution to my company and there is little for me to learn and grow there. Based on what I read from the job description, the position will allow me to leverage on my past experiences to build things in a new industry. Also, the position represents an excellent opportunity for me to manage people, which I really love as I aspire to be a Director within the next few years. So it has everything I am looking for as the right next step.
Analysis: In the answer option 1, the candidate delves into the past drama. While this is the truth, talking about it may make the interviewer question what his relationship with the hiring manager would be like if he takes on the position and doubt his working with people skill as well. In answer option 2, the candidate focuses on the future goal, the job and development, and shows his passion for it instead.
What you can do: You may have a turbulent relationship with your co-workers or you may actually have a nasty boss, set your mind on the job you are interviewing for with positivity and passion instead. It is not that your ex-boss or co-workers will thank you: you will thank yourself.
So selling right may mean not telling about negative experiences (which may be the truth) and demonstrating about who you will and can become but never means telling lies about who you are. Focus on the job and growth opportunity with great passion (instead of diving into past dramas) and demonstrate your experience AND potential with a strong conviction, then who does not want to hire those with the right skills and experience, ambition for career growth, plus a positive mindset and can-do attitude?
Last but not least, you will become what you think (and say)!