Some people head into job interviews with lowered heads, sweaty palms, and flinching facial expressions, hoping only that they’ll survive the moment without screwing up. They mumble their way through a series of simple questions and scramble out the door when they’re mercifully dismissed. There’s a lot at stake, after all, and there’s no question that job interviews can be a terrifying experience. For some people.
But not for you. Fortunately, you’re not burdened with this problem. You don’t need to psych yourself up with a pre-interview men’s-room-mirror pep talk because you woke up ready. You were born ready. No job interview can scare you. This is partly because everywhere you go, you bring your own soundtrack (the theme from Rocky, and partly because you’re pretty certain (make that 100 percent certain) that none of the other applicants for this job are as qualified, smart, handsome, charming, and amazing as you are. In short: You aren’t worried. Your confidence radiates, and you’re making no effort to rein it in. Why should you? Confidence is an asset, right? Your interviewer will love it, and if she doesn’t, it’s her loss. If anything, you’re looking for ways to intensify your blinding beams of confidence until they light up the highway in front of you and send your competitors scrambling out of your way like deer.
But before you throw open your interviewer’s office door and clutch her hand in the firmest, most sweat-free handshake she’s ever experienced, stop for a minute. Take a breath. And recognize that there’s a difference—a huge difference—between confidence and unbearable, eye-roll-inducing cockiness. If you aren’t sure where the line is, here’s a simple guide.
Confidence vs. Cockiness: Manage Your First Impression
Confidence: You recognize both your skills and your limitations and you’re comfortable in your own skin, though you’re well aware that your skin is far from perfect.
Cockiness: You don’t have an accurate understanding of your skills or your limitations. Your lack of self-awareness sometimes draws confused reactions from others. When you recognize these confused reactions, you don’t understand or enjoy them.
Ability to Learn
Confidence: You realize that everyone you meet has something to teach you and excels beyond you in some areas. But, you have your own set of skills so you aren’t threatened by the knowledge and accomplishments of others. Rather, you’re intrigued.
Cockiness: You don’t believe that others know more than you so you aren’t interested in learning from them. When others show signs of advanced knowledge or skills, you feel a sudden urge to speak, show off, or draw attention to yourself.
Confidence: You speak clearly and you pause before answering any question that requires thought. Your voice has a strong, steady rhythm and is always unflustered.
Cockiness: You answer questions quickly and without thinking first about how your answer may sound to your listener. Your voice fluctuates in speed and volume and changes with every passing emotion.
Confidence: Your smile and laugh are easy and genuine. You laugh when things are funny and you smile when things charm you. You are easily charmed.
Cockiness: You laugh and smile when you choose to. You use these gestures to communicate, to convince, and to manipulate others.
Above all, confident applicants are relaxed, unafraid, and receptive to what’s going on around them. Cocky applicants are more interested in announcing, declaring, and explaining themselves than tuning in to the words and gestures of others. Imagine yourself in an interviewer’s position. Which candidate would you rather hire?