Tag Archive for: career development

Why you need to sell yourself to the interview panel

Ever wondered why some job seekers land almost every job interview they get shortlisted for? I recently participated in a LinkedIn poll seeking opinions on the conversion rates of job interviews. The moderator wanted to gather feedback on the number of interviews a job applicant needed to attend to land an offer successfully. His responses ranged from 1-2, 3-5, >5 interviews. Interestingly, many participants believed an individual should land a job after attending between one and two job interviews. You may wonder if this reflects your current position or situation. While you might have your say, note that opinions generally differ from one individual to another, which may not reflect your status or belief. Indeed, some individuals land an offer after attending one or two job interviews; however, there is a general principle that you may need to revisit your interviewing methods or strategies if you are not hitting or attaining the desired results after attending multiple job interviews.

I will share the story of two recent graduates – Ana and Chloe. Ana and Chloe were classmates who recently completed their postgraduate degrees in Business in the US. The pair are close friends, and their classmates believe they possess certain personal and behavioural traits. However, while Ana is bold, outspoken and appears very confident when interfaced with the public, Chloe, on the other hand, is introverted and timid. Chloe does not readily speak out, except when she must do so. She prefers to listen and observe.

One striking difference between the pair is how well Ana seems to land more job offers than Chloe. On average, Ana lands 80-90% of the job interviews she attends, while Chloe, on the other hand, averages about 50-60% interview-job conversation rates. Ana attends interviews confidently and is quite good at selling herself to the panel. She speaks confidently of her strengths and communicates effectively to the interview panel. The panel would occasionally ask Ana difficult questions, especially about her weaknesses; however, Ana always seems to have a way of turning these uncomfortable questions around to showcase her strengths further. In situations where it was apparent she was not as knowledgeable in certain areas, she would circumvent this gap by letting the panel know of her plans to cover the gaps through her learning and development plans. She would also provide alternative methods for solving a challenge or task, which further showcases her problem-solving abilities. Ana readily uses the SOAR (Situation – Obstacle – Action – Results) technique to buttress her points when asked questions and systemically answers very challenging questions.

Ana puts forward relevant examples to showcase her strengths and why she was an excellent fit for the role. She would cite relevant examples from her previous work, community or volunteer experience to bolster her stories. She also has a portfolio of work where she archives specific projects, events, and projects to show the panel to support her claims. Ana is able to present proof from various sources to support her claims, rather than just talking about them. Before the interview, Ana also researched the company’s website and profile and used online resources, such as Glassdoor, to prepare herself for the interview. She utilised this website as a guide to potential interview questions and answers, reads about the experiences of previous applicants, reviews the salaries reported by insiders to help her better negotiate the salary structure.

Present stories over facts

Chloe, on the other hand, is soft-spoken. She knows her stuff and is quite intelligent; however, Chloe is not as wordy as Ana since she is not outspoken. Chloe prefers to keep it short, therefore, states facts over stories. Her responses often lack depth and do not reflect her overall contributions, as she is cautious not to overstate her claims or oversell herself. Chloe does not want the panel to perceive her as false, boastful or full of pride. She would generally provide very little or no background information to assist the panel in ascertaining her claims. Chloe thought it would be boastful of her to give these little details, which Ana, on the other hand, provides to the panel. She relied on the interview panel to quiz her for more responses with more open-ended questions before adequately stating her claims.

Consider these two graduates. While they are both bright and brilliant, one applicant can speak up more confidently, talk about her strengths and showcase her work to the panel. She carefully represents her case with relevant stories and examples from her portfolio so that the panel can see her pitch lines up with evidence. She does some prior research into what the panel might likely ask or would like to hear and prepares brief responses to these questions.

On the other hand, Chloe is just as good and prepares for the interview; however, she does little in presenting her case and selling herself to the panel. She is polite and careful not to oversell herself, so the panel does not think otherwise of her. Chloe approaches and attempts questions with caution and provides minimal answers to the questions raised by the panel. She would only broaden or expand an idea if quizzed further by the panel.

From the stories of the two graduates, you would probably have guessed why the panel would lean towards the first interviewee over the second. The panel will likely observe that Chloe is as good; however, they will probably be more confident in hiring Ana because she is more confident about herself and her skillset. While who gets hired will also depend on the role and the organisation, many recruiters would lean towards an applicant who has shown confidence and other interpersonal skills, as observed with Ana.

Be careful not to downplay yourself or your skills. Provide end-to-end stories that align with examples and facts.

Interviewing is about selling yourself. Do not assume the interviewer or panel will probe for more responses at all times. It is your duty to present your case to them so they can see the real value in you, and you have to do this such that your stories and facts align with the evidence and examples you have provided to support your claims. There is a thin line between selling yourself adequately and overselling (telling untrue or fabricated stories) yourself. Be careful not to make your reports look unreal, which may cause the panel to think your stories are false. Provide end-to-end stories to the interview questions. Do not assume the panel will always understand that you are not as outspoken and therefore prompt accordingly. You have to tell a story in line with the question being answered, with relevant examples to prove that you are the right candidate, and they will be making a good decision in hiring you. Your resume has done the job of getting you into the front door. The rest of the job lies with you; therefore, be prepared to speak the part. Be confident about your achievements and showcase this with clearly constructed stories and examples.

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Why you need a growth mindset to succeed

Mindset is crucial for success. We often come across individuals with different mindsets, whether in a workplace or academic environment. We have different mindsets, and this continues to shape our individualities and also how we approach situations.

Have you ever wondered why some young individuals seem to grow exponentially and flourish in their field of endeavour? While another category of individuals are stuck at their current state for a long time with little or no growth? Studies suggest that the mindset could be at play. Research also shows that to be a lynchpin in your area of specialisation, you need to have a growth mindset. This mindset will help you approach every event or activity as if they were new to you, which would assist in opening your mind towards learning something new and accepting that you might not know what you do not know. Having a growth mindset helps keep our minds alive as we continually seek out new ways to learn new things, whether in a work or academic setting. Individuals with a gift mindset are generally those whose minds are closed to learning new things and do believe they already know it all. They have so much confidence in their skills, qualification, and talent that they think there is nothing new to learn. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it limits us to believe we are in our best shape, and our activities, contributions or decisions are already based on best practices. While this might be an ideal way of dealing with situations or the right way to go, the danger is that it shuts our minds from accepting feedbacks and exploring new possibilities and ideas.

Have you always imagined a mentor or role model and thought the individual was successful by relying only on his innate abilities? Did you marvel at some of their skills or trait, believing they were born with these skills or traits? Granted, their natural abilities or skills might have influenced some growths; however, most successful professionals do not make it to the top, relying solely on their natural abilities. What you do not see or know is the amount of additional effort they put into their work and practice to stand out amongst their colleagues and peers. They understand that it is challenging to rise to the top by relying solely on their natural gifts or abilities. They also understand that it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, consistency, commitment, and hard work in addition to their natural abilities to achieve the level of greatness they desire. When we encounter difficulties and challenges, if you have a learning mindset, you know that you will overcome and win with persistence, effort, and openness to learning. Individuals who believe they cannot overcome challenges and difficulties in this manner, even though they are highly talented, suppose there is a limit to their talents. Once they reach that limit, further effort is useless. These are people with Dweck’s definition of a fixed mindset


Image source: Brain Pickings

I will share a story of two individuals I met in a professional setting a couple of years ago. For this illustration, we will call them Zac and Luka. Zac completed his bachelor’s in engineering from a top ten University in North America. Zac has always been a distinction grade student. His colleagues and peers knew him as a nerd, particularly for his academic achievements. Zac was an all-A student; anything short of this will hurt Zac. He worked hard to ensure his scores did not drop below the distinction grade.

Zac thankfully secured his first job a couple of months after he completed his university degree. It was an easy pick for the employer who noticed his academic credentials and wanted to have the talent to be part of their growing team. Zac fit the bill perfectly since the organisation was mainly known for hiring top talents who have distinguished themselves through fine academic performances. A few weeks into his new role, Zac was assigned a project with nine other team members, including a team manager.

During a problem-solving session with the team, Zac would occasionally volunteer and respond to the questions asked by the team manager. Some of his answers were valid, while the others were incorrect and were sometimes countered by the rest of the team members. Zac did not like this situation, as he was too used to getting all his ideas adopted. He thought the team must adopt any answer or idea he suggested. After the meeting, Zac would become furious about why his suggestions were not adopted at the team meeting. He would occasionally meet with the team manager to ask why his recommendations were not adopted. The team manager would happily provide him with feedback that the strategies he proposed were great; however, there were suggested better strategies that would enhance the team’s performance and the project deliverables. Zac occasionally felt disgruntled by this feedback, as he believed his suggestions or ideas were always superior and should always be adopted. Zac would be agitated and often portrayed an unhappy outlook, and colleagues often noticed this.

During the mid-year performance review, Zac’s line manager would invite Zac for a one-on-one meeting. During these meetings, Zac’s manager would review Zac’s performances and provide specific feedback on how Zac could improve his performance both as an individual and in teams for the benefit of the organisation. Zac would act in a defensive manner and often did not agree with the feedback and improvement strategies laid out by his manager. Zac had a firm opinion and would always defend himself, as well as his methods and techniques. Zac does not particularly enjoy feedbacks from colleagues and managers. He would inform his line manager that he believed he was doing the right thing and was helping the organisation grow. Zac would also not adopt the learning and development plans or pathways that his line manager has set out to help him succeed. He believed his academic credentials and accomplishments were tremendous and proof of his mental and professional abilities. All that mattered to him was that he did very well in college, graduating top of his class with flying colours; therefore, there was no need to continually use his manager’s feedback to improve himself and his skills.

Luka, another member of Zac’s group, behaves slightly differently. Luka had great academic results from college, although Zac’s academic reports were superior. Luka always assumed he was average, so he worked hard to ensure he did not fall short of his academic expectations. All that mattered to Luka was to continually upgrade his skills and develop himself based on research and feedback. Luka was a great team member, and his colleagues loved working with him. During team meetings, Luka would offer suggestions and provide answers to the best of his abilities. It did not matter to Luka if the team did not adopt his suggestions or ideas. All he cared about was to assist the team by responding to questions and offering advice to implement projects. He would gladly accept the feedback offered by his Team Lead and other colleagues on his work, and he would utilise this feedback to improve his skills and performance.


Image Source: Canva

During the mid-year performance review, Luka was provided with an overall assessment of his work performance. Interestingly, Luka thought he was not a great employee as he either rated himself low or average on areas where his manager rated him otherwise. Luka’s manager was highly impressed with Luka’s overall performance and only offered areas of improvement in a few areas. Luka accepted this feedback and designed his developmental plan to address these gaps.

One year later, Luka was promoted twice to a more senior role. He was now Zac’s senior. Although the position was internally advertised, the hiring manager found it convenient to promote Luka over Zac. The leadership team believed Luka was teachable and open to learning. In addition, he accepted feedback, acknowledged his weaknesses and was constantly developing himself. Zac, on the other hand, had limited growth in his career due to his gift mindset. He remained in the same role for years because he believed in his innate or gift abilities. He did not leave his comfort zone to learn new skills or accept new challenges. He was not a great team player and was open to learning. His colleagues preferred not to run ideas by him, as they thought he was not open to suggestions and feedback.


Image Source: Canva

Professionals with a growth mindset are a pleasure to work with both in a formal and informal setting. They are great team leaders, managers, mentors, peers, and subordinates at work. They accept that they might be wrong and are always open to listening to others and receiving positive feedback to improve themselves. These individuals learn from their mistakes daily and practice continuous professional improvement as they routinely check their mindset and actions against what is expected. They are quick to change their views if their arguments are weak, accept that their ideas or approaches are inadequate and are always open to learning.

When you focus on the good, the good gets better

On the other hand, professionals with a gift mindset are not as great to work within academic or professional settings. They are not great managers of teams, and neither are they the colleagues, peers and teammates you would desire to work with. They are not quick to accept there might be flaws in the ideas. They have confidence in their ideas, approach and strategies and believe they know everything they need to know. They are unwilling to accept new ideas or change their way of thinking even if evidence suggests their approach is wrong.

As professionals, we have so much greatness and power within us, and we can achieve anything we set out to achieve if we believe in ourselves as evolving individuals. We have the power to develop further the skills and abilities we think are fixed or innate. We must imbibe the growth mindset to advance and continue to be the best we can be in our education, work, career, and day-to-day lives. We need to believe that our natural abilities can be further developed and reshaped to help us get better and brighter at any endeavour by investing a tremendous amount of time and effort through constant practice. We must shift away from the gift mindset, which undermines our personality by believing that our abilities and skillsets are fixed.

In summary, to advance your career and be the professional you want to be. It would be best if you imbibed a growth mindset. You must accept that there is power in knowing what you do not know, and every feedback can be used to further improve your natural abilities and skills. You need to accept challenges as opportunities for growth and look for positive clues or lessons for tangible gains. Individuals or professionals with a gift mindset believe that their skills and qualities are constant variables, which can lead to personal, academic or career regression or stagnation. A growth mindset is based on the notion that qualities are developed through your efforts, commitment, and time you devote yourself.

We have the power to develop further the skills and abilities we think are fixed or innate.

Set out to develop a growth mindset today and be the best you can be. This new change might be a challenging step; however, this will make you a better person and help you achieve your goals by giving you the confidence you need. A growth mindset sees failure not as a failure or setback but as a catalyst or indicator for success. All that matters is not how skilled or great you are in your career but how good you want to be. A growth mentality is a mechanism for career success. Individuals with a growth mindset generally have a positive and winning outlook. They will continue to be the leaders and change-makers whom colleagues, peers and managers can trust for the leadership and motivation needed to inspire the team and achieve their goals.

Image Source: Canva

We can achieve a growth mindset by discussing setting and achieving learning and developmental goals. Setting goals is paramount to achieving them and an individual with a growth mindset will always seek out ways to achieve his or her goals using a defined plan of action over time. It’s also essential that individuals vary their approaches and question their thoughts and ideas. As much as possible, do not rest on best practices or the usual way of doing something, instead vary your approach and remain open and be approachable to new ideas. Seek out the positive aspect of feedback and use this to improve yourself. You have nothing to lose; if the feedback is great, it will improve you. If you think the feedback is not helpful, you move on; either way, you learn from it. Remember to understand and embrace your weaknesses; knowing where the gaps are can potentially motivate you to improve yourself.