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The Thin Line Between Job Interview Confidence And Arrogance

Apr 17, 2008
We all know what the perfect job interview candidate is supposed to be like - well qualified, immaculately presented, and most importantly - confident. Working in the travel recruitment sector, I've heard a fair share of interviewers fed up of dealing with brash, arrogant candidates - enough to know they're seldom welcome. The trouble is that the last one of these is subjective - one person's confident interviewee is another person's "arrogant buffoon", so how do we avoid crossing the line, and staying in the interviewer's good books?

The first thing to remember is that in this context, selling yourself is essential. It may be impolite elsewhere, but you need to prove to the interview panel that you are the right person for the job - and as your biggest fan, you're the only person who can promote you effectively! Even if you're a shrinking violet normally, you need to be bold and emphasise your good points with a strong display of confidence at interview.

Prepared = confidence

If you attempt to wing it with no preparation, the chances are you're not going to appear a confident interview candidate. You'll get flustered easy (unless you're amazingly good at bluffing - in which case you don't need this guide!), and crack. It's very hard to display confidence at interview from this point on, so don't allow it to happen. Research the company, the industry and anything else you can drop into a job interview. If it doesn't come up, you can still mention it subtly, and if it does and you're unprepared, then it'll seem like you have no interest in the job, which is obviously a bad thing.

Small talk is your friend

It's very hard to appear arrogant and aloof if you make a genuine effort to chat, be friendly and make small talk with everyone you encounter during the job interview. From the carpark attendants, to the receptionists to the interview panel themselves (outside the formal environment), don't miss an opportunity to chat freely with staff and present yourself as a friend to everyone. Just think - the interviewers may ask for the opinion of other staff members, and nothing stings more than a rude, aloof and arrogant interview candidate.

Share both the praise and the blame

One thing that separates good, confident interview candidates from the arrogant, bad candidates is that the former know when to take their share of the blame as well as the credit. A bad, arrogant interview candidate will do everything in their power to find excuses and pass the blame about company failings onto others. A good, confident interviewee will channel this into something more positive, such as saying "We all learned a lot from the experience". An employer will respect the honestly, and see that you have taken something from it (providing it's not too major a mishap!). Likewise, taking credit for operations can be played down in such a way that prevents you being tarred by the arrogance brush - "I was very pleased with my performance in managing that project, but I had some truly excellent staff to work with, which really helped". Remember - credit hogging and playing the blame game doesn't make you seem as good as it should, it just projects an image of immaturity.

Use examples and tell stories

One time people struggle to avoid sounding arrogant at interview is when they're trying to match their qualities to ones required for a job. Let's say a job requires a "good team player and a natural leader", you can't just say "I'm a good team player and a natural leader" as that's an obvious boulevard to arrogance city! One way around this is describing your experiences in such a way that it becomes obvious you have the required skills without you having to overtly say them in an arrogant manner. Telling short (and I emphasise short!) stories of your experiences are a perfect way of showing your credentials - in the above example, explaining how you were forced to manage a team of volunteers in your manager's absence would not only demonstrate team play and leadership qualities, but also shows adaptability and a cool head. And all of this without you having to be arrogant and tell them!

The difference between arrogance and confidence at interview can sometimes seem minute, and much of it all in the perceptions of an individual, but if you follow these tips, it should be difficult for even the most critical person to write you off as an arrogant trouble maker!
About the Author
Gail Kenny is the managing director of Puregenie, an online travel recruitment. Jobs on the site are catered exclusively to talented individuals with skills and experience to succeed in the online environment from businesses looking to increase their online presence. Although the site is mainly travel focussed, it also displays vacancies in the hospitality and leisure industries.
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