The shy person’s guide to selling yourself at interviews

When it comes to job interviews, some of us just aren’t naturals. If you’re the shy and retiring type, it can feel awkward and out-of-character to start bragging about your achievements.

Perhaps that’s why job interviews are notoriously bad at predicting how people will perform in the company: they’re barely better than tossing a coin. Psychology professor Richard Nisbett says: “Extroverts in general do better in interviews than introverts, but for many if not most jobs, extroversion is not what we’re looking for.”

But until companies find another way of choosing candidates, we’re stuck with the interview. In the meantime, you can try these tips to get over your reticence and show the recruiting panel what you’re really made of.

Prepare a summary of your key experience

Many interviewers will give you an easy question to help you settle into the interview situation. Usually it will be an invitation to explain why you’re a good fit for the job.

But if you’re nervous about the interview situation, it can be easy to freeze. Knowing that you’re likely to get a question like this and preparing your answer in advance can help to calm your nerves, ready for the other questions.

“Figure out how you will show that your previous experience has prepared you for the opportunity in front of you,” says CNBC’s Marguerite Ward.

Inject enthusiasm by speaking about your passions

If you’re not a natural boaster, it can feel hard to project the right enthusiasm when the subject is yourself. But without that passion, what you say might leave the interviewers a little cold.

The solution here is to turn the spotlight off who you are, and to turn it onto the things that you do and that you care about. Even the most modest person can light up when they’re talking about a passionate interest or a task that has gripped them.

“For some reason, it is OK to be enthusiastic about your interests and passions, but not so much about your talents,” says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at University College London.

Focus on potential

Another way to avoid the clumsiness of boasting is to put the emphasis on the future. It can be more effective: studies suggest that when evaluating others, we’re more interested in potential.

Give concrete examples of your ability to learn, work with others and your motivation, and you can convince the interview panel that you’ve got a bright future with them.

Let others pile on the praise

It’s easier to repeat praise from others than to pat yourself on the back. So, using feedback from referees or job appraisals can help to give an objective outsider’s view of your talents.

“We are incredibly influenced by testimonials and, like it or not, we cannot help it,” says legal recruiter Harrison Barnes. “Most of us give other’s opinions about things almost as much weight as our own – if not more.”

Practice until it comes naturally

Like public speaking, selling yourself in interviews is never going to be second nature, but it can get easier with practice. “My experience shows that few candidates actually put enough (if any) time into effective practice,” warns interview coach Pamela Skillings.

As you rehearse your talking points for the interview aloud, you’ll get a sense of what works and what seems to fall flat. So, as you get more comfortable delivering your pitch, you’ll also be able to refine it.