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Women, toot your own horn. Please.

By Joyce Bethoney on

As a recruiter, I interview people every week for our clients. And far too often I hear women qualifying and caveating their success. I was speaking with a candidate recently who prefaced many of her career accomplishments with, “Not to toot my own horn, but…” I stopped her at one point and said, “Please, toot your own horn. And don’t apologize for it.”

In an interview, the way in which you communicate your background and skills is critical. Tone matters. Arrogance and narcissism aren’t the goals, but neither are apologies and self-deprecation. It’s an incredibly tricky balance to speak to your experience and strengths in a confident way without coming across as too hard or too soft.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Provide tangible examples of the breadth of your experience. If you were an account manager responsible for client relationships, strategy and project management, or on a marketing team creating content, dabbling in design and extracting data insights, explain the role that you played. Jobs with the exact same title can look wildly different at different companies. You’ll do yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to detail what you have done.

• Share an overview of your growth and progression. Did you start out getting producers’ coffee, but worked your way up from assisting on shoots to ultimately overseeing multimillion-dollar production budgets? Learning every key role along the way? Be sure your evolution is clear when outlining how one position led to the next.

• Be prepared. Research the role and the company, know how you will present yourself, be aware of the time and keep your responses concise. Practicing aloud before an interview helps.

• Be humble. There is a middle ground between apologizing and bragging. Humility will allow you to present your background in a confident, straightforward way.

I’ve found that it can be a real hurdle for women to empower themselves to own their strengths and “special sauce” in a job search. Many of us were raised to be polite and “get along,” but sometimes going along to get along can cost you an opportunity. There are others who have figured out how to present their success with confidence and clarity, without apology. 

So…beep, beep.