How can you feel confident communicating your success in the right way during an interview? A new study sheds light.

Imagine: You're sitting in a job interview and the hiring manager just asked you, Tell me about yourself.” Your mind starts racing, running through all of your success stories, searching for the one that will best demonstrate what the company will gain by hiring you. You find it. You have the perfect anecdote that lines up exactly with what they're looking for, and you're confident you're going to crush this question.

Not so fast. 

A new study, “Impression Management When Communicating Success', authored by Janina Steinmetz, shows that how you communicate your accomplishments is just as important as sharing the accomplishments themselves. Telling your story in the right way will leave a more positive impression on anyone you're trying to impress, whether you're in a job interview or even on a date. 

Emphasize the effort 

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that you should tell your career story in a way that emphasizes your competence and natural talents. 

“I'm a fast reader and that skill translates well to research; I reviewed twice as many papers as any other assistant in the lab.” 

Translation: I was able to do this really hard thing because I'm inherently talented and special. 

However, Steinmetz's research demonstrates over several experiments that success that's the result of competence is less attractive when in a situation where you need to self-promote. People prefer to hear success stories that arise from struggle, from effort, and from really hard work!  

To properly position oneself to make the best impression in a job interview, consider reframing your accomplishments in a way that not only touches on your competence but emphasizes your effort, too. 

“I love reading and research, and working in the lab was a perfect fit for those skills. I worked hard to go above and beyond what was expected of me, and reviewed twice as many papers as any other assistant.” 

In the example above, what was once the result of simply just being a fast reader now becomes more than that. The new response conveys emotion — love! — and more importantly, a determined attempt to be the best. Think about your own stories. Are you telling them in a manner that gives you the credit you deserve? 

Effort conveys warmth 

Why do our struggle stories often endear us to strangers we're trying to impress? Because, as the study shows, “effort conveys warmth and relatability”. Warmth is a signal to an interviewer that you can be trusted and screams “I only want the best for you!” to anyone that is present to receive the energy. 

Warmth is important because the feeling is one of the first things a new contact judges you on when meeting you for the very first time. Many extremely smart and very talented people have failed to earn favor with an acquaintance because they failed to convey an impression of warmth. You can see how being able to convey this intangible sense is extremely important — some might even argue it's critical — to success in a job interview. Emphasizing the work you put in to achieve your success when answering interview questions is an easy way to ensure you've done your best to bring a genuine warmth that everyone in the room can feel. 

Practice makes perfect 

Of course, as with all aspects of a job interview, practice makes perfect when crafting the optimal responses. We recommend taking the time to prepare a few anecdotes and the ideal way to position yourself within them. You'll know exactly what to say and won't have to reach for the words — words that may be especially hard to find due to the already mentally taxing stress that comes from being in an interview! 

Once you've written your pitch, keep practicing. You should feel comfortable and confident when you play up the hard work that led you to the place you are today in your career. After all, you earned it. Plus, you have the assurance of knowing that science is on your side when you reframe your experience to play up your efforts and hard work instead of your natural competence. 

Put any doubts about your interview performance to rest. Learn more about TopInterview's coaching today.  

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