Confident or Cocky? How are you being perceived during interviews?

For me one of the things I always admire in candidates and something I always try to project myself in interviews, is confidence. Interviews can be intimidating. After a harrowing process you have finally arrived at the onsite interview step. You have had to pass through a recruiter phone screen, a hiring manager phone screen and now you are about to walk into a room and sit opposite four people who are going to ask you questions trying to trip you up.  That can be a lot to take in but that is exactly what you might be up against as a candidate.

When you consider that situation it is not crazy to see why interviewing is one of the most stressful things you can through. You are literally being judged and the stakes are very high. In addition you are most likely in competition with other people who want the same thing, have the same education and the same background. If you think about everything I just mentioned it can be kind of hard to feel at least a little bit of intimidation. And while that is totally understandable it can also be very much to your detriment. If you get intimidated and nervous you are likely to turn in a performance that isn’t your best. You might forget things, talk too fast, talk to quietly or any combination of things that your potential future employer isn’t looking for in a candidate. Pretend you are hiring someone, do you think the thought would ever cross your mind, “well I hope this candidate is timid”. The answer most likely is no.

Nobody is intentionally looking for timid. They want someone who is confident and comes off as self-assured. This is nothing new and I would wager that most job seekers know this but getting your demeanor to be a perfect fit if a lot easier said than done. Many times, the job seeker with over compensate and they will come off as cocky. That can be just as bad or even worse depending on the hiring managers opinion of how these attitudes my alter the chemistry of their existing team. Nobody wants someone to be bragging about their accomplishment and acting as if they are gods gifts to spreadsheets.

Ideally you want to find the perfect mix. You want to be kind, outgoing, confident but not braggadocios. This is one of those easier said than done things but let me give you a few guidelines to make sure you put your best foot forward. By the end of this post you should be able to project the correct attitude and body language for you to be successful during interviews.

The first thing I want to talk is body language. You want to make sure when you walk that you are walking upright and walking with a purpose. Now this doesn’t mean that you are walking so fast that you are creeping them out but match their pace and make sure you align your spine and your back is straight as if you were a Christmas ornament and the hook was attached to the top of your head, straightening you out. When you sit down for the interview sit up straight and look them, in the eye confidently. Don’t slouch, don’t lean back and don’t eagerly lean over their desk.

The next thing you want to do is to watch what you do with your hands. When people get nervous you can often tell in their hands. They begin fidgeting and it is very apparent. The other things people do is they keep their hands at their sides, as if they are sitting on them or they are overly active with them, gesturing for everything. The key here is you don’t want to fidget and you want to gesture an appropriate amount. Not too much, not too little and when you do make gestures with your hands, don’t go crazy.

When I interview I always bring a leather folder with me. I keep extra copies of my resume in their as well as pre-written questions to ask when the time comes. I also keep in their a bunch of likely questions and my prewritten answers (not that I will ever pull this out and read an answer but it is nice for a little last minute prepping). If you bring something to the interview, make sure you don’t use it as a barrier, shielding yourself from the interviewer. It is normal when people get nervous to use objects as physical barriers in a subconscious attempt for us to protect ourselves. Make sure you don’t do this as it is very off-putting.

Smile! This one should be obvious. Eye contact and smile. If you take only two things away from this post, make sure it’s those two things. However don’t just smile during the interview, you also want to be smiling beforehand. There have been many scientific studies that suggest smiling produces a change in brain activity and can actually make you happier. So, in the few minutes leading up to your interview make a conscious level to smile and you will literally feel it positively impacting your mood.

Lastly, one of the keys to having a good interview is to pretend as if you are talking with an old friend. Relax, smile and deliver your points. After all, you are qualified the role, who wouldn’t want to hire you? Smile, be condiment, demonstrate your value without overstepping that line into being cocky and talk to the interviewer as if it was an old friend interested in hearing what you have been up to and what you have accomplished.

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