The least effective way to impress an interviewer is to share your own high opinion of yourself. Confidence is good, but when it slips into boasting, the hiring manager will simply think, “Eh, maybe. I’ll be the judge of that.” And most hiring managers will find it off-putting.
The plain fact is that in an interview, the hiring manager rarely believes anything you say about yourself, but they do believe the conclusions they form about you. So your goal in an interview should be to give them the evidence they need to reach the right conclusion—namely, that you are awesome.
To impress an interviewer, your best bet is to share facts and concrete examples without any embellishment. Your opinions of yourself actively get in the way of building trust. When you say, “I’m a hard-working self-starter,” they will not believe a word of it. But when you share a few brief, vivid examples of times when you took the initiative on tough projects, they will conclude you are a hard-working self-starter without you ever saying so.
One of the best ways to organize your answers to interview questions is the CAR method — Context, Action, Result. Before the interview, think of relevant examples from your past, situations that are factual, able to be verified by your references, and can be distilled into 2 to 3-minute answers. (Long-winded answers are particularly dull in a video interview format.)
Let’s put this into practice with a few common interview questions you can expect.
When they ask:
- “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t describe yourself. Just give them a short (two-minute maximum) synopsis of your professional career. Stick to the facts, and highlight your more recent and relevant work.
- “What are your strengths?” Don’t give your opinion. Say, “Other people often comment that I’m good with [whatever you’re good at]; I’m confident you’ll hear that from several people when you check my references.”
- “Tell me about a time when…” You should answer virtually every behavioral interview question like this in the same format. Be bright, be brief, and pause, giving the interviewer time to process what you said and ask for more information if they need it. Use facts, not opinions, with the CAR method mentioned above. (The link has more information about CAR.)
Interviewers will rarely believe your opinions but will often believe your facts, particularly when you mention that your references will confirm them. So keep your opinions to yourself and let the facts speak for themselves. Let CAR take you where you want to go.