How much do you know about yourself? Do you truly understand your innate talents and abilities that you can leverage not only help you stand out in an interview, but also that will enable you to be successful in the role you are seeking?

For the past decade, I have had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of individuals for various positions using a myriad of interviewing tools and techniques, designed to help uncover a candidates strengths, as well as to alert to areas of weakness.  The data is then used to determine if the candidate may be a good fit, as well as assisting in creating a comprehensive development plan if the individual is hired. I am constantly struck by how little candidates understand their strengths and talents and how to speak to these. For example, being able to say to the interviewer or hiring manager, “One of my top talents is __________and this enables me to _________, which would be an asset to your company.” Why is it important to understand your talents?  If you understand them, you can speak to them in an impactful way and this will show prospective companies added value outside of your ‘skill set’ that is based on previous experiences. Your innate talents transcend your experiences. They are your constant companion and will assist you in all you do.

I find that some interviewees, at times, feel uncomfortable with “bragging” or “boasting” about their strengths. I urge you to think of your talent as a commodity.  Your interview is your time to sell yourself. What talents do you possess that can be leveraged by the company, in order to assist them in being more successful? I promise you, there is a way to balance confidence and humility and for some, this make take an immense amount of practice. It does absolutely take a thoughtful approach and preparedness. Practice with friends, family and colleagues.  Be an expert in your talents. What can you do right now to help you understand some of your talents? Grab a pen and paper or your laptop and write down or type somethings you do well. For instance; Do you enjoy connecting with individuals on a personal level? Are you driven to be the best?  Do you find it important to align with the core values and mission of your employer and carry that message to the masses?  Do you possess a strong work ethic and feel compelled to be honest at all times? Do you feel compelled to organize systems to help you be more efficient in your job? Another great way to figure out your strengths is by asking friends, family and co-workers to help you by asking them some basic questions about what they see as your strengths. What are some ways you inspire them?  What have they noticed you do well? A pattern will likely emerge. You will begin to see common threads in what people say about you. Write these down. In addition, there are numerous tools online, as well as books that can help you better understand your strengths and how to develop them.  One of my favorite authors and speakers on the subject of talent is Marcus Buckingham.  In the book ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ authored by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, Buckingham speaks to a quote by Benjamin Franklin.  He shares that Benjamin Franklin called wasted strengths “sundials in the shade.”   This book provided great clarity for me, when I was in search of my own strengths, and it changed not only how I utilize my own talent, but how I leverage and cultivate the talents of others.

I am constantly asked for advice on interviewing and the advice I always give is to be well educated on your strengths, as well as the culture and mission of the brand you are interviewing with. Try to marry those in a way that will show a Hiring Manager your value. If you can’t get the two to reconcile, consider that it may not be the place for you. Don’t shortchange them and don’t rob yourself of growing to your full potential. And most certainly, don’t be a “sundial in the shade.”

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