The Art of Selling Yourself in Interviews: Success Secrets for College Students
by Tom Washington

Ultimately, every hiring decision is determined in the interview.  For recent college graduates, the major factors in obtaining an offer will depend on the ability to project enthusiasm, potential, and a winning personality. 

Typically neither your education nor work experience will separate you from the pack.  Something else must make you stand out, and nothing will do that more than demonstrating you are a person full of enthusiasm, with excellent potential for growth, and a personality that allows you to fit in almost all environments.


Employers seek enthusiastic people who really want to get involved with their jobs.  In an interview you should project a genuine enthusiasm that includes enthusiasm for the job and its duties, enthusiasm for your future boss, and enthusiasm for the company.

The best way to appear enthusiastic is to genuinely be enthusiastic.  If you've considered your long- and short-range goals, and this job would help you attain those goals, it should be easy to demonstrate enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is not demonstrated in just one response to one question; it must be demonstrated throughout the interview.  It starts with listening.  Really listening to the interviewer shows respect as well as enthusiasm.  Showing enthusiasm does not require wild gyrations with the hands or raising your voice, but it does require good voice inflection. 

Out of nervousness, or simply not feeling very enthusiastic, many people speak with an expressionless face and a monotone voice.  That is deadly and deadening.  And you should feel free to use your hands when explaining a point. 

Periodically, especially when you're describing an experience you're really proud of, you might lean slightly forward, speak a little faster than before, and punctuate some of your words for effect.  Be sure not to become too relaxed in an interview, even if it feels more like a conversation than an interview.  You'll lose your edge if you do.

Based on conversations with campus recruiters, it is clear that nothing has more impact, and can do more for getting job offers, than demonstrating your enthusiasm.  By selling your enthusiasm you are selling other qualities as well. 

The assumption will be made that you work hard, you learn quickly, you are flexible, you are willing to take on many types of projects and responsibilities, you prefer challenges, and you will stay with the firm longer than the average graduate.  So by selling one quality, you sell half a dozen others as well.


Potential means your future worth to an organization.  Demonstrating enthusiasm without potential will seldom lead to a job offer.  The two must go together.  Potential is best demonstrated by telling the employer about your accomplishments.  Since the best predictor of future success is past success, your potential will best be demonstrated by describing accomplishments throughout the interview. 

Most recent grads are hesitant to talk about their accomplishments because they feel they are insignificant in comparison to those with more work experience.  Granted, the level and impressiveness of your accomplishments will increase with experience, but for the moment you only have the experiences that you have.  And that is good enough.  After all, you're competing with others who have had about the same opportunities you've had.  If your experiences are equal to that of others, but you describe them more vividly, clearly, and with enthusiasm, you're going to get offers which otherwise would have gone to someone else.

Remember, employers are usually quite perceptive, and they are looking for any evidence that a person truly has potential.  Even if your experience is unrelated to the type of position you are interviewing for, look for opportunities to sell your accomplishments. 

An accomplishment is any experience that you did well, enjoyed, got satisfaction from, were complimented for, or were thanked or appreciated.  Accomplishments can come from hobbies, sports, school, volunteer activities, and of course, from jobs.  Accomplishments need not be knock your socks off types of experiences.  They merely need to meet the definition.  Use your experiences to demonstrate that you are reliable, easy to get along with, flexible, and energetic.

A Winning Personality

Either on a conscious or subconscious level, the employer will be evaluating your personality and asking, "Do I like this person?  Will we work well together?"  When considering two people with equal qualifications, the one with the most pleasing personality will always be hired. 

Some of the most desirable characteristics are friendliness, cheerfulness, tactfulness, sincerity, maturity, open-mindedness, loyalty, patience, optimism, reliability, cooperation, and emotional stability.  During an interview you should not merely present a laundry list of qualities you have, but you should give supporting examples and you should actually demonstrate those traits throughout the interview. 

An executive I once spoke to told me that he has never hired the "most qualified" person.  In all of his hiring, people with less experience, less education, or fewer skills, found ways to sell their enthusiasm, potential, and personality, to beat out the competition.  You can do the same.
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