Sell your soul, or sell yourself?

By Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers (Ballinrobe)

Q: I have been called for interview by a close competitor of my current employer? Should I use my insider corporate knowledge to score points in the interview? (AG, email)

Siobhan O'Malley, Career Coach, Ballinrobe (tel 094 95 42965)
Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Ballinrobe (tel 094 95 42965)

A:  While you may consider yourself to be ideally placed to spill the beans and give the competitor the inside track, my advice to you is to tread carefully. From the prospective employer’s point of view, they may feel that one day you could be spilling the beans about them.

The purpose of an interview is for the interviewer to find out more about you, to assess your suitability to fill their vacancy. But from your perspective, the purpose is to pitch yourself as best you can. It isn’t just selling yourself, it’s making them want to buy you.

The key – sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken – question in the room is “what do you offer me?”

You should use your interview time wisely to clearly articulate your benefit to the prospective employer. In fact, at all stages of the recruitment process, you should be consistent in emphasising the value, and values, you would bring to the organisation. If your feel your primary value lies in your knowledge of their competitor, i.e. your current company, then perhaps you’re not bringing enough to the table.

While it may appear on the surface like the perfect way to convince the interview panel of your value to them, I fear you may go down in their estimation with this demonstration of disloyalty and short-sightedness.

In anthropological terms, Homo sapiens are a social species, and respond positively to social interaction. We appreciate pleasant people; we are drawn to positive energy, laughter and smiling faces. To put it bluntly, few people like a moaner.

So while you may be tempted to go in to interview and describe how your current boss isn’t up to the task, how he stifles your innovation and things are terrible on his team, a better angle from which to approach this is to speak the positive language of performance. You should use your previous experience as an indication of your ability without crossing the line that makes you look unprofessional and loose.

Express your ideas about yourself in ways that speak directly to the interviewers’ needs, extolling your strengths and your value.

It is also conceivable that a trap may be laid given the close competition between the players in this particular instance. Perhaps a trick question asking why you want to change employment? Rather than go down the cul-de-sac complaining about your current employer, better to respond in complimentary, positive language. For example, “while I have gained a significant amount of experience with my current employer, I have developed a portfolio of skills that I feel will enrich your business”.

Think of it as a first or second date. Is your date really that interested in listening to you dish the dirt on an ex? It might be good for a laugh at the time, but I think the laugh might ultimately prove empty. “It could be me they’re giving out about next”.

Loyalty is a trait valued, nay required, by most employers. In pitching yourself to the prospective employer, be wary that you do not sell your soul in the process.


Siobhan O’Malley is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers and works out of Ballinrobe. You can read more about her, and make a booking HERE for Interview Training and Mock Interviews.

More articles from her blog can be accessed HERE