Sell yourself with the facts


How can you persuasively sell yourself to hiring managers without sounding self-serving and egocentric? By factually describing your achievements, their importance, and how they improved your employer’s operations. And by not offering baseless descriptions of how valuable you are, predicting how impressed hiring managers will be with you, or otherwise describing yourself in unqualified grandiose terms. Remember: Bombast usually bombs.

In your résumé and job applications and during your interviews, back up descriptions of your results with concrete examples, hard data and objective validation of your results. In short, present yourself in factual, specific terms. By doing so, you show your high value and compel employers to conclude you are a prize.

One way to validate your success to employers — and to bosses before annual reviews — is to cite the positive feedback your work has drawn, including:

*Recent promotions or quality step increases.

*Excellent performance evaluations. For example, when interviewers ask you why they should hire you, pull out a copy of your latest excellent annual evaluation and cite your record of consistently earning excellent annual evaluations and why.

*Written praise, including e-mails, from supervisors, other managers, clients, contractors, colleagues, stakeholders, customers, your staffers, or attendees of training you ran. Keep copies of all written evidence in your “success file.”

*Oral praise from the groups mentioned above. Whenever you receive oral praise, immediately write it down so that you will be able to quote it accurately. Or ask the person praising you to send an e-mail to your supervisor, with a copy to you, repeating the praise.

*Awards you earned or helped your employer earn.

*Annual bonuses and awards, including team awards. If you are asked in an interview or on a job application whether you work well with others, cite your team awards as proof of your team-friendly approaches.

*Your record of serving in “acting” positions.

*Favorable media coverage that you received or that you helped your employers earn, or publications that have quoted you.

*Current or past security clearances.

*Letters of commendation.

*Fellowships, grants or merit-based scholarships you received.

*Your record of being hired from a contract or temporary position into a permanent position.

*Your rapid advancement. For example, if you were accepted into the Senior Executive Service after only several years as a federal employee, or you flew up the General Schedule ladder, say so.

*Your record of drawing large crowds to training or other events.

*Articles, books, newsletters, Web site content or other publications you wrote.

*Your leadership role in work teams, professional organizations, neighborhood groups or other organizations.

*Your overall grade point average or your grades in courses you took that help qualify you for your target job.

Also copy the attention-grabbing technique used in ads for movies: String together excerpts from your best reviews, including annual evaluations and written or oral praise in your résumé and applications. For example, one of my clients landed a job with a résumé that included the following bullet:

“Sample feedback from my supervisor and other managers: ‘What would we do without Joe? [He is] knowledgeable about the latest contracting techniques and he goes the extra mile every time. … Joe always provides expert advice to senior managers, and he gives trainings that get results. … Thanks, Joe, for making all of our jobs easier.’ ’’

Lily Whiteman is a public affairs officer at the National Science Foundation and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.’’ Her Web site is The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is Ask your career questions by email to or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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