Interview Confidence to the Edge of Cockiness

AOL Jobs

By Jeff Lipschultz, AOL Jobs

Time and time again, I remind job seekers that your attitude in the interview can make or break your chances of getting the job. Keep in mind though that, "attitude" covers a lot of ground. Job seekers are reminded to keep a positive demeanor on interviews and never to speak ill of past employers. But there is also a value to maintaining an air of confidence during your interviews, one that projects you can do the job well.

Confidence is clearly important; the danger is, if it gets to the point where it borders on cockiness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many aren't at all comfortable with listing their accomplishments, and when they do so, they feel as if they are "bragging."

Managing this grey area of an interview can be tricky. But if simple guidelines are followed, you don't have to worry about taking it too far.

What you believe

First and most importantly, you must be convinced you are the right person for the job. If there are doubts in your mind, you will project those doubts. Possibly in your body language or tone, or even in your responses. Make sure you've done your homework on the company's history and current prospects, because it will help both you and the hiring manger believe that you are a strong candidate.

What you say

When discussing the job, ask questions from the perspective of someone who is already in the role. For example, "If I was working on this project, I would want to use Tool XYZ for calculating the delivery date. Does your team use this tool or a tool like it?" By asking questions like this one, you are basically giving them the impression that you have given this job a good deal of thought and can already picture yourself jumping right into the role. You can even talk about what the first task or project you might work on if hired.

When I caution job seekers about being confident to the edge of cockiness, I tell them my rule of thumb is simple:

You don't tell the hiring manager you are great. You tell him about great things you have done.

Let him or her make the assessment about you. Examples you share should include taking leadership roles or taking initiative. Relating your experience in being proactive about bringing new ideas to employers says a lot about your ability to stand out and make a difference.

Talk about the value you bring. Match your abilities to their needs and tell them how your experience in specific areas will dovetail nicely into what they consider to be their top deliverables. For example, if you have some formal background in quality control, that may be an added bonus to a group developing a product or software that has to meet critically high quality standards.

How you say it

Enthusiasm. I'm not advocating gushing over the opportunity and company, or begging for the job, or appearing desperate in any way. If you're excited about the thought of working for a particular company, show it in your tone, smile, and body language. Some people think they will get a lower salary offer if they come across as desperate. Certainly, you can moderate your delivery to sound excited, but still make it clear you are being selective about whom you work for next.

What not to say

You can definitely appear overconfident (and overstep your bounds) if you tell the interviewer what they should be looking for in a candidate, or that the candidate they are looking for can't be found. At this point, you'd basically be telling the hiring manager how to do their job — which is never a good idea!

How not to say it

Acting like a know-it-all goes beyond appearing like an expert in your field. Again, speak with examples and and be sure to mention certifications, as well as any relevant educational background you might have. Also, feel free to talk about the latest trends in your field or industry, to further demonstrate that you have the specific knowledge and background to do the job.

The idea is to casually mention how you got your expertise and how you've applied it in the working world. Be sure not to make yourself sound superior to the interviewers. Doing so would be counterproductive to your desire to work for their company.

Also don't talk with uncertainty, speak too quietly, take too long to respond to a question, or ask the hiring manager how you did. These behaviors don't promote the proper confidence in the eyes of interviewers. Remember, they are human, regardless of their title, so don't be intimidated.

Bottom line

Like I said, you need not be consumed with the image you are projecting, if you follow these simple guidelines. Most of these concepts fall under one theme: Speak proudly of your accomplishments and knowledge.

One more thing: Most candidates speak in terms of "we did this, we did that" since they've been told "there's no 'I' in team." Interviewers want to know what YOU did, so you need to say "I," not "we." And by the way, there is "me" in team!

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