The Startling Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance

confidenceWe’ve all heard of Google’s eccentric hiring process, from the infamous brain teasers (“How many golf balls can you fit on an airplane?”) to the eccentric intern activities portrayed in the movie “The Internship.”

In the words of Owen Wilson’s character, “We’re looking at some sort of mental ‘Hunger Games’ against a bunch of genius kids for just a handful of jobs.”

Hundreds of applicants do find themselves vying for a single position, and those who make it through the screening process must be as good in person as they are on paper.

For many employers, one of the biggest factors in determining their candidate selection is confidence. If you’re not confident in who you are and what you have to offer, a potential employer won’t be confident that you’re the right person for the job.

How to Convey Genuine Confidence

With so much at stake, conveying confidence during a job interview can seem like a tall order, but it’s far from impossible.

  • Be prepared. Take the time to research both the employer and the responsibilities the job entails. It seems obvious, but this is one of the easiest ways to build your confidence for a job interview that many candidates overlook.

Start by reviewing the company’s website and job posting, look for press releases and trade articles on the business, and reach out to current employees to learn more about the company and the role. Once you’ve gathered your information, prepare responses to some of the more common job interview questions.

  • Check your body language. More than 70 percent of communication is nonverbal, so make sure your body language also conveys confidence. Maintaining eye contact is the most important of these nonverbal cues, but don’t underestimate the importance of your appearance, your posture, your facial expressions, your gestures, and your “power handshake.”
  • Listen. Listening to a question is just as important as responding to it, so pay attention to what the interviewer is saying. A lot of times, candidates jump in too quickly with an answer and end up rambling. Listen to each question fully, and then take your time preparing an answer. If you’re uncertain how to respond, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • Ask questions. Interviews are essentially conversations, so prepare some questions for your interviewer ahead of time. This shows you are interested in the job and company, which can help the potential employer take more interest in you. Ask about the responsibilities of the job, the people you’ll be working with, and what a typical day in the office might look like.
  • Be honest. It may sound like a cliché, but honesty is always the best policy. If your responses sound dishonest or contrived, the interviewer will likely sense it, and you’ll seem disingenuous. If you don’t know the answer to a question, now’s not the time to fake it. Admit that you’re uncertain or explain how you would find the answer.

Confidence Versus Arrogance

When we aren’t prepared and when we feel the need to exaggerate, confidence can easily turn to arrogance. To win the job search competition, you must strike a balance to avoid looking like a know-it-all!

For example, saying you have no weaknesses can make you look terribly arrogant — even if the statement was meant as a joke. The same can be said for having all the answers, bragging, interrupting, name-dropping, or blaming others for your failures. Remember, truly confident people embrace their imperfections just as much as their strengths.

Not that long ago, we made an offer to a very self-confident candidate with an enviable CV. She went to Harvard, notched an extremely high GPA, and had a good deal of experience under her belt. Any company would be happy to have her on staff. But when discussing her skills and achievements, she was always very humble. She talked about what she learned from others and how her successes were really a credit to her teachers, mentors, and parents. Her humility tempered her confidence and made her an even more ideal candidate than before.

With any job interview, be open and honest as much as possible about who you are and what you are looking to do. Any potential employer will appreciate your transparency, and your confidence will shine.

Throughout your job search and career, thoroughly understand the difference between confidence and arrogance. Work hard to be perceived as sincere and humble… and get the job!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at AlphaSights, USA!


Stirling CoxAbout the Author: Stirling Cox is the managing director of AlphaSights USA, a company that connects today’s business leaders with the insight and expertise they need to prosper. The company assists a global client base, including private equity firms, asset managers, strategy consultancies, and corporate executives, in making more informed decisions.



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