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I’m Not Good at Selling Myself

An area where applicants often fall down is failing to sell yourself in the job application. One of the most frequent things I have heard in 20 years of giving people feedback on selection criteria responses is the statement

I’m not good at selling myself.

To be blunt, you need to learn how to. Selection criteria is competitive so to get select you need to pitch yourself as someone who the selection panel want to employ.

In the “Formatting a Selection Criteria Response” blog I discuss that in relation to making your written application visually appealing and drawing parallels with well-designed websites:

Websites need good design for functionality and conversion, not just screen appeal. Your written document has aspects of conversion to it too; you’re trying to get the reader to buy you. If the reader is faced with a wall of text, no spacing and no margins they are going to have the same initial reaction as you would if you came across a poorly designed website; roughly speaking ugh

It’s not just your written work that sells you ……………..

Coloured words on black background that say SALE


You’re Applying for a job; not a salesperson

I’m not suggesting everyone needs to learn to be the worlds highest selling salesperson. Nor am I suggesting you should approach a job application/selection criteria and interview as if you are the best person with the most skills that’s ever lived and brag about how awesome you are.


Be the best

You do need to be able to position yourself as someone who is skilled, confident and can explain why they are the best person for the job. As a job applicant, that is your task. To say why you are the best person for the job.  Emphasis on best. You are not throwing your hat in the ring as one of many people who could do the job; because coming second or third or being on the order of merit as ‘suitable’ does not get you the job. You need to show how you are the best person because the best person is the one who gets the job.

With that in mind, how do you sell yourself in a job application, other than making sure your application is not visually repulsive?


Confidence not Modesty or Boasting

To discuss these concepts, I want to get some definitions on the table.

Boast – to speak too proudly or happily about what you have done or what you own.

Modesty – the quality of not talking about or not trying to make people notice your abilities and achievements.

Confidence – the quality of being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future.



I’ll deal with boasting first because it’s quick.

You don’t want to be boastful. Don’t overstate your claims and claim you have done more than you have. Also don’t be so enthusiastic that people find your behaviour and how you present yourself as offensive.

You don’t want to approach a job with an attitude of “I’m so good, why haven’t you employed me already?”



You may be reading this and thinking “Why isn’t modesty ok?  It’s good to be modest?” I would argue not so much.

Looking at the definition it includes “the quality of not talking about or not trying to make people notice your abilities and achievements” which is exactly what you don’t want to do in a job interview!

A modest person is a wallflower A wallflower is someone with an introverted personality type who will attend parties and social gatherings, but will usually distance themselves from the crowd and actively avoid being in the limelight“.

What about humble I hear you ask? Humble is kind of like modest but it’s not being too proud or boasting so is that ok?  Well no, because humble is “not proud or not believing that you are important“. You never want to undersell yourself, distance yourself from your achievements and/or not acknowledge things you have done.

Three women sitting at a meeting table in an office

The Panel

Put yourself in the selection panel’s position. You have a person in front of you who is mentioning an achievement like delivering a big project on time, under budget and with a massive change in scope or a conflict with a delivery partner. You say to them something like “Well done, that’s a great achievement you must be really proud?” and they reply saying “Not really, it wasn’t that much”.

What’s your response?  Remember you’re looking for someone to deliver results for your organisation and team. Are you feeling confident they can go forward and deliver results for you, or, are you wondering how they delivered what they did, or perhaps even if they delivered what they claimed at all?


Words Words Words

These aren’t just words, it’s important to understanding what they mean and how it looks when you’re applying/interviewing, and, what you need to do to present yourself in the best light and most competitive.



Speaking of presenting yourself in the best possible light, confidence. You could also say assertive Someone who is assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe“.


Put Yourself in the Panel’s Shoes

Always bear in mind you don’t want the panel having any doubts about you, what you say or how they feel you can deliver in the role. You don’t want them trying to decide why you said one thing verbally but your body language or attitude or underselling contradicted what you said.

To get jobs you need to be able to sell yourself in a job application and in the interview. It is a skill that comes with practice. Before you begin practicing though, make sure you are practicing the right skills.

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