The Subtle Art of Self-Promotion

Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to most people. We’re raised to think of humility, self-effacement, and modesty as virtues – and they might be, but not when job-hunting. Whether you’re offering advice to employees hoping to move up in the organization or seeking a new HR position yourself, knowing how to market a candidate is a critical skill. The key to self-promotion is assertiveness without arrogance, and these tips will help you achieve that delicate balance.

State Facts, not Opinions

One of the best ways to keep self-promotion on target is through a rigorous focus on facts. A sales manager who talks in abstract terms of killing the competition and boosting sales tremendously hasn’t given any meaningful information. One who presents facts without editorializing – “my department showed a 28 percent increase over last year’s price-per-sale figures and a 32 percent increase in overall sales conversions” – has made a much more persuasive case without looking arrogant in the process. The more fact-based you can be when marketing yourself, the more compelling you become. Citing specific figures, listing awards, and showing evidence of frequent promotions are good ways to demonstrate value.

Keep It Subtle

Most hiring and HR directors are familiar with the candidates who come in for an interview and treat it more as a sales meeting. They’re so keen on telling you why they’re the best candidates for the job that they never take the time to understand what the position entails. Self-promotion should never feel like a hard sell or a huckster’s pitch in an interview. Instead, look for ways to inject some self-promotion where it feels natural in the context of the conversation. An interviewer who asks about what made you successful at a previous place of employment or why you became interested in a particular position is handing you an opening for contextually relevant self-promotion.

Make It Matter to Your Listener

Relevance is vital to successful self-promotion. One interviewer may not care if a candidate has taken top honors in an online gaming tournament, but another might find this valuable knowledge if the job opening involves game development and testing. Tailor what you want to highlight to your audience, and your self-promotion becomes a way to fill the interviewer’s needs rather than your own – and that’s the key to making anyone take notice. Understand what your new role would be and aim your promotional attempts at that specific role, not at impressing the interviewer in general.

Be Prepared

This little phrase is the Boy Scout motto for a reason: It’s good advice for everything from a camping trip to a tough interview. Prepare for your self-promotion junket by gathering your facts, learning about the position you’re seeking, and understanding the company culture you hope to join. Here are a few questions to get started on a successful self-promotion campaign:

– What are your top skills?
– How have you used those skills to benefit previous employers?
– What quantitative and qualitative evidence supports your skill set?
– What was the end result of your application of these skills?

Interviews are ultimately about self-promotion. Overcoming the innate reticence most people have to tooting their own horns is a challenge, but sticking with the facts and supplying self-promotional information only when it’s contextually relevant can help you get past any discomfort you might feel.

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