September 2, 2011
How to walk the fine line between confidence and interview-killing arrogance
The Associated Press
As soon as you walk into an interview, you’re making an impression. Recruiters like to see self-confidence, which helps job candidates sell themselves through nonverbal communication such as body language, strong eye contact, firm handshakes and dressing for success. Candidates who convey poise and presence often have an edge on the competition.
But too much of a good thing can backfire. There is a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. Most of the recruiters and organizational leaders I meet as the managing director of the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland are looking for candidates who are “grounded” rather than those who like to boast or brag about their abilities and experiences.
In short, being too assertive can turn off an interviewer and derail your job search. So what are some of the behaviors that you want to avoid? According to recruiters, arrogant job candidates tend to:
- Answer questions almost too quickly, using “canned” or mechanical responses
- Have a tendency to speak using overbearing and harsh tones and intimidating body language.
- Display limited active-listening skills -- instead of “listening to learn” what an interviewer has to say, they have a tendency to “listen to respond.”
- Ask too few questions in the interview and are more focused on letting the interviewer know why they are the best person for the job.
- Often neglect to acknowledge weaknesses.
- Can come across as self-righteous and stubborn, and have a tendency to belittle or disregard others’ ideas. (For example: “Although she was part of my team, she just had no clue about marketing products and services. As a result, her recommendations added little value to our final team project.”)
Unfortunately, my experience with students and executives whom I have coached is that they cross the line into arrogance without even knowing it. Although they’re smart, they don’t seem to read social cues or see how their behavior affects the people around them. Because they are so focused on themselves, they just don’t notice. In some cases, they don’t seem to care about their impact on others.
If you find that you’re guilty of some the behaviors above, rethink your approach and keep your ego in check:
- Instead of bragging about your personal achievements, find a way to spotlight someone else’s work. Consider talking up team triumphs.
- During interviews or when interacting with a recruiter, be careful not to interrupt and listen carefully to the questions asked before responding.
- Transform your arrogance into self-confidence by showing vulnerability; be willing to share your mistakes, limitations and fears.
- Be humble.
- Have the courage to discuss opposing ideas without being judgmental.
- Ask trusted colleagues for honest feedback. Where do they perceive you along the confidence-arrogance continuum? If they say that you come across as haughty at times, learn which behaviors give this impression.
- Understand how confidence is expressed in the culture in which you’re working. (For example, modesty is valued in many Asian cultures, so you’ll want to tone it down a bit when interacting with Japanese employers and colleagues.)
For some, arrogance and self-confidence are constant companions. Great leaders recognize that while self-assurance is critical for success, strong egos and too much bravado can derail career aspirations.
Whether you’re participating in a job interview or leading a team, remember that the formula for success includes projecting an appropriate degree of self-confidence and humility.
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