Job Advice: What to Do if You Oversell Yourself in a Job Interview

job interview
You can recover from a major job interview mistake. | AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

After a long job search, getting called in for a job interview is a great feeling. To prepare for the interview, you’re likely looking for a great interview outfit, researching the company, and practicing answers to common job interview questions. Although it’s great to be prepared, one thing you don’t want is to overdo it when it comes to selling yourself.

The Cheat Sheet spoke with Erika Warren, Wyzant‘s VP of Product, to learn how to make sure you don’t come on too strong in a job interview. Here’s what she had to say.

The Cheat Sheet: What exactly does it mean to “sell yourself” during a job interview? What does that look like?

Erika Warren:  Your job interview is an extension of what you put on your application and in your résumé.  To really sell yourself, you should be able to speak to why your experience and credentials make you an asset to the specific company you’re interviewing with.

Just like you highlight your skills, strengths and job wins on paper, during your interview, you should confidently align your expertise alongside the business’s specific needs and goals—using relevant, real-world examples from past jobs.

CS: What are some signs that you’ve oversold yourself?

EW: While most people are aware if they’ve exaggerated their skills a bit (or a lot) during the interview, you won’t know how much you’ve oversold yourself until you’re asked to perform a function of your job.  You can usually tell you’ve oversold yourself by watching for these three signs:

  1. You’re unfamiliar with the software you’ve been asked to use—like Salesforce or Pipedrive—even though you may have listed it under the “skills” section of your résumé.
  2. You find yourself leaning heavily on your co-workers for support—not just for access to certain materials, and not just once or twice—but when you need help for those same tasks again and again.
  3. Your colleagues (or, worse, your supervisors) are surprised that you’re unfamiliar or inexperienced with certain tasks or processes–or that it takes you abnormally long to complete them.

CS: What are some signs you’ve undersold?

EW: Signs you’ve undersold yourself include:

  1. Once you’ve taken the job you find out that you don’t have enough to do.
  2. Being under-compensated for your work or your level of experience.

CS: How can you recover if you oversell yourself in a job interview?

EW: The best thing to do if you’ve oversold yourself in an interview is to be honest. Let your new employer know the limits of your experience–but stress that you’re adaptable and willing to get additional help (like using an online instructor) to bring yourself up to speed.

Getting an online tutor with experience in the area where you’re struggling is another great way to recover from overselling yourself. Wyzant offers affordable, personalized tutoring from over 75,000 qualified instructors in nearly every imaginable topic–and you’re not alone. Lots of career professionals have already used us for this exact reason.

CS: How can online tutoring help in situations where a candidate has a history of overselling?

EW: Overselling is usually innocent. It could be that you have a skill but don’t know the exact software required to put it to use in your current position. For example, you’re skilled at data visualization but you don’t know Tableau. Working with an online tutor can help bridge the gap between your skills and the application of your skills to the task at hand.

CS: Anything to add?

EW: Most professionals don’t think of tutoring for their career, but it’s an affordable, efficient, and personalized way to learn new skills on your own time, which makes it useful for busy, working professionals.

Erika Warren is the VP of product for Wyzant, the largest tutoring marketplace in the US that supports more than one million hours of one-on-one, online, and in-person instruction each year for students K-career.

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