12 Ways to undersell yourself at interview

Job applicants can undersell themselves at interview without even realising it. Here’s how:

  1. They don’t know enough about what they have to offer.
  2. Part of your preparation is to conduct a stock take of all your skills, know-how and qualities. If you haven’t done this then you are likely to overlook what could be your main selling points as an applicant. They are so familiar with what they do they can’t see the wood for the trees. By this I mean you undervalue what you do. You’ve been doing it for so long it’s become second nature. Anyone could do it. Therefore it’s not worth mentioning.
  3. They rely on recent memory. Whatever comes top of mind is what gets mentioned. What happened recently may not be your best example.
  4. They don’t link the evidence provided to the selection criteria, duties or outcomes of the job. Examples provided just hang there, with no indication as to how they would help you do what’s needed in the job being applied for.
  5. They pitch below the level of the job. If you are applying for a promotion you need to talk in terms of the level of job you want, not the one you are in.
  6. They don’t prepare responses for self-promotion questions. These include questions about strengths, achievements, why you want the job, what you are offering.
  7. They don’t understand the sub-text of the question and therefore respond poorly. A question about weaknesses isn’t necessarily about listing all your flaws. It’s more about whether you pay attention to feedback, identify gaps in knowledge and skills, and take action.
  8. They allow negative mental rehearsal to sabotage their performance. Ruminating on all the awful things that could happen at interview increases the chances of them happening.
  9. They allow false assumptions about the process to undermine their performance. It is not helpful to assume a panel is out to make their life miserable or will make allowances for knowing the candidate.
  10. They fail to prepare and rehearse.
  11. They stick to speech habits that undersell, such as talking in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, using vague expressions like ‘I guess’.
  12. They allow poor posture and low energy to lower self confidence and create a poor impression.

To counter these habits you need to:

  • Know fully what you have to offer.
  • Be mindful of sabotaging thinking.
  • Develop the art of self-promotion talk.
  • Practice communicating with confidence and energy.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.