When coaching my candidates for an upcoming interview with one of my client companies, I always tell them to be confident in the interview—right to the edge of cockiness.
But don't cross that line.
Cockiness is typically not a characteristic a hiring manager is looking for. For example, I once had a candidate tell my client that he was so good that he could teach them a thing or two.
Even if he was right, no one wants to be told they are inferior (especially when they are the ones already in the company doing great things).
So how does one show confidence without sounding cocky? I always tell my candidates:
Don't say you're great. Talk about great things you have done, and describe the great ways in which you got it done.
Anyone can say they are a great communicator. A great multi-tasker. A great mentor.
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It is better to tell stories of things you have done that led to great results. Talk about not only the results, but how you got there:
By describing the situation fully and highlighting the "intangibles" in your abilities, your interviewer can learn more about you. The more they learn, the more likely they can conclude that you are indeed great in these different ways.
What is interesting about confidence is you don't necessarily have to "will yourself" to be confident in the interview. Many are so nervous, they can't feel confident.
The neat thing about telling stories about yourself is, if you truly have pride in what you have achieved, you will APPEAR confident.
Hiring managers want authenticity. They want someone who is real and has gone through similar real-life experiences and challenges as they have.
A way to naturally feel confident is to be prepared for the interview. By already knowing what you want to cover in the interview, you'll feel ready for it.
Don't think of a job interview as a series of questions that you must know the answer to (like a test).
Think of a job interview more like a conversation that will cover several topics (ones that you should have already planned stories around).
Those candidates who enter an interview ill-prepared, thinking they will "ace it by winging it," are often overly-confident. These candidates tend to make a bad impression.
Good preparation shows you care about the interview, but also gives you peace-of-mind that you are ready and have a reason to be confident.
Although it may seem like a negative message in an interview, it is acceptable to say you failed at something in the past.
An interviewer is more likely to believe your stories when you share that you're not perfect.
They'll want to know that you've overcome that past weakness or learned a lifelong-lesson from the experience.
Admitting failure is an obscure display of confidence. It is like saying, "I believe I'm perfect for this job even though I won't be perfect all the time." That's reality.
The hiring manager is just looking for the best possible candidate, not necessarily the absolutely perfect candidate.
Cockiness can also lead to a contest--a contest you can't win because the hiring managers are the decision-makers.
The contest is "who's better."
If you make them feel inferior, they may feel obligated to put you back in your place. Ultimately, they may not even do this in front of you. They may simply decide they don't like you.
If you know ANYTHING about interviewing, you know the goal is to get them to like you -- as in, like you as a person, not just a candidate.
Be confident. After all, most likely you're going to spend a lot of time talking about a few things you know a lot about. One is your expertise whether it be finance, IT, marketing, or whatever. And the other is something you know the most about -- yourself.
Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. He is a unique recruiter with Lean Engineering experience and a Six Sigma Blackbelt. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter (@JLipschultz).