The Power Of Humility

Words: Alan JONES

When you are selling yourself on paper to achieve job meetings, humility has little, or no role, to play. But during the meeting it can play an important part as you may sometimes need to sell it. Most buyers [employers] like to feel that they are getting somewhere.

They expect to be able to find a few chinks in your armour. If you ‘over-sell,’ they might begin to think that you are a candidate for canonisation and must be too good to be true. This is professionally frustrating for them and, thus, disadvantageous for you. You must be sensitive to this and if you feel you are knocking them for a six all the time you ought to take your foot off the gas. If you are waxing too lyrical about your achievements, then sell some humility by giving credit to others. Throw them a bone to chew on if you perceive that they are getting hungry.

It is much more likely, however, that you are in more danger of under-selling through an excess of humility. Deference can be more marked in some cultures than in others. In a more classless society like the USA, for example, job seekers are on the whole more psychologically disposed towards and in tune with the concept of ‘self-promotion,’ whereas in India, and to a lesser extent the UK, self-promotion can be a more alien concept.

But, wherever you go business is business and an ‘interview’ is a business meeting — no more, no less. So, you may still be harbouring doubts about the necessity of selling yourself in a competitive marketplace. You may even find it in some way distasteful. In which case take succour from this. If the buyers you are going to meet are in the private sector, they have something to sell, and they will, if their need is urgent and your skills rare in the marketplace, do a pretty good job of selling the company to you. They won’t go out of their way to tell you why you shouldn’t join them. Moreover, they represent a company that has a product, or service, to sell.

They may invest big money every year in their own PR, sales and marketing promotions. So, here’s what you do — before the meeting get hold of their sales literature and find the bit where they tell you what their products’ greatest weakness is. You might find it next to the section highlighting what it can’t do. If it’s not there, you might stumble across it under the heading, ‘Why you shouldn’t buy our product.’

Now turn up for that meeting and do what you’ve got to do. In the world of recruitment, we like to feel that it’s all about getting the right person for the right role. In a sense it is, but it’s a very imprecise world, a world in which the right person didn’t even get invited to the meeting, because they were far too modest on their CV. If you are by nature modest, fine; but, it won’t serve you well at these meetings.

Everything you say during the meeting must be true and supportable, so stick with those guiding principles and you can’t go wrong. This is the bottom line. You can’t afford to run the risk of competing with others not half as good as you, but who are quite willing, and prepared, to ‘talk the talk.’ For they will win, and you will lose.

Should you need any more convincing, consider this: think about your colleagues in your present, or previous, organisation. Some of them I’m sure were really on top of their game and respected by everyone. Others were average, some mediocre and some downright bad [so, which category are you in?]. Well, if recruiting people was such an exact science how come all those poor performers got themselves hired?

You get the point? Right? Think aloud; act smartly and don’t react.

You will win.

ALAN JONES, a career counsellor of international repute, is the author of five books, including Winning at Interview, How to Write a Winning CV, and How to Build a Successful Career — all notable best-sellers. He lives in Wiltshire, UK.

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