Tips on “Selling yourself” during the interview


Having trouble making the "next step" in my career.

I have a good/decent resume, story brands names and good responsibilities, but, despite getting director/VP interviews I can't seems to make the jump. I fear that all the progress I've made goes out the window when I open my mouth. I've asked friends/colleagues about this, and they don't agree. Nonetheless, I can't help but think I'm not "selling" myself enough during interviews.

How do you sell yourself with being bragging or coming off as arrogant/difficult to manage?

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Mar 9, 2021 - 4:45pm

Got it. Well, without really talking to you or interviewing you, really impossible to say where you are messing up or not. Are you making it past first round? Getting to final round at all? Do you lose out to prospects who are more or less similar in profile? I guess what I am getting at is this.... to what extent are you losing out due to poor interviewing vs. just competitive job market. You are at that "big jump" stage, so getting those higher order titles are not easy, and many firms prefer to promote from within (have you ever lost to an internal candidate, and maybe the posting was just for optics?)

That all said.... "selling yourself" is really telling your story in compelling way where you make sure to highlight your background, skills, and experiences and conclude the story in such a way that they believe you are a great fit for them and the role for which you are interviewing. The key is not really "selling yourself" as much as it is selling that you are a fit for the firm, the team, and the role. The competencies and resume stuff (like not having a grad degree), should be sorted before they interview you. They can still pick someone who is on paper more qualified, but that will not be the total reason, it will be because they see that person as the best fit and best at the job. 

How to do this? Listen closely to what they say, research as much as you can (the firm, the deals, the people), and even go about "interviewing them" when you have your interviews. Asking a lot of questions is critical to get them to disclose what really matters and is important, then you respond on how you can help solve the issues or are skilled at the needs. In short, you need to know what they need/want so you know what to "sell" (look up consultative selling, that's kinda the process here).

Final point, when ascending above associate level to director/vp.. the focus is usually more on your leadership skills, mastery of industry/market knowledge, poise/maturity, and even degree of network/connections with the industry. Hard skills like modeling and that stuff will be very very minor (they will just assume you can do that by right of your current/prior jobs). So make sure you are presenting at the level of the job you are seeking, and not as an associate (I realize that seems odd, but a director/vp has to show up for the interviews to get the job, so you have to be that person at the interview, not the person doing your current role).

Hope this helps! 

Mar 9, 2021 - 8:39pm

Hey man, you're at the toughest part of the business. Making the turn from 'human calculator' to 'producer' is very difficult, and in this market, unless you're a proven performer with a verifiable pipeline, its likely not worth the risk. I'm not saying your modeling chops or deal management process may not be up to snuff, but no one hires a VP level guy to make models. At that level you usually get hired to either be an originator (debt) or because you have a track record of russling up off-market/friendly deals (equity). In either case, someone is going to have to take a shot on your potential, because thats how it is at that level. Unfortunately, right now everyone wants to hear from guys with verifiable track records and experience. Which is also why the shops that are hiring at that level tend to have a open vacancy for months on end - they're looking for what they should've looked for 6 months ago, not now. Its like the flood of job postings we saw in March and April for experienced Debt restructuring guys with years of experience and a fat pipeline of deals - those guys were all too busy making money to want to jump ship unless you were really going to offer them something big.

So I guess what I'm saying is that while it is possible you're bombing interviews, its also just as likely you're in the wrong part of the market in the wrong part of the cycle. Much like graduating into a recession, sometimes it doesn't matter who you are - can't fight the economy you're in. If you're feeling ballsy, maybe follow-up with some of the people who passed on you for feedback and ask them why they wanted to go another direction / what they think you need to do to be a more competitive candidate. That could be extremely illuminating and might either show you what you need to improve or tell you that you might just need to wait it out for a bit.

Mar 10, 2021 - 10:54pm

You never sell yourself.  You are silently confident, and know your shit. You ask good questions, lightly probing of the interviewer to flip the power dynamics.  At the beginning and at the end you are very personable, cracking 1-2 jokes.

For me interviewers are always the most nerve racking.  Outside, in person I can talk to anyone confidently, make friends at any bar, greata with coworkers.  Inside an interview, something changes.

Mar 12, 2021 - 10:48am

C.R.E. Shervin

You ask good questions, lightly probing of the interviewer to flip the power dynamics.

Someone I used to work with (Principal-type level) was absolutely outstanding at this. They were not interviewing per say, but I was in plenty of meetings with them where they were pitching to clients trying to win business. So, similar in a sense. The principal sat there and asked really great, pointed questions of the prospective client. The principal knew the answer (what would have been the "sell"), but they got the client to say everything out loud.

I was always amazed at how they basically did not "pitch" anything or "sold themselves/the business" as much as planted seeds that the prospect grabbed hold of and continued to verbal vomit their needs showing their hand and playing right into our strengths. Basically, the client did all of the talking and realized "wow I need you guys where do I sign" without the principal selling anything - they basically guided them to the realization that working together was in everyone's best interests. My explanation is not doing it justice but I think "selling yourself in an interview" at VP-levels and above are more about your fundamental understanding of the business and what the company/interviewer needs at that point in time that you can offer. This is a skill I've been trying to replicate ever since but have not been successful yet - knowing the audience, reading the room, and being able to pivot on a dime with pointed questions to redirect the interviewer so that I'm in control, and not them.

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