Confidence vs. Arrogance in a Job Interview

November 14th, 2013 | Articles, Interviewing | 3 Comments »


Attitude is everything in a job interview. If you respond to questions with uncertainty or demonstrate doubt when discussing your talents, you’re probably not going to wow any employers. Successful job seekers are those who exude confidence. Hiring managers know that this type of self-assurance can spread across entire divisions and whittle down otherwise insurmountable problems into mere speed bumps.

Arrogance, on the other hand, can be toxic to a company. An arrogant employee undercuts the collective confidence and sows the seeds of turmoil that can upend projects when they encounter only moderate challenges. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that hiring managers avoid arrogant candidates like a bad case of typhoid. The tipping point between appearing confident and arrogant can be crossed far too easily, so avoid these types of statements when you’re looking to convey the right attitude.

A Bad Case of Swagger

Before you’ve even said word one, you might be giving off an arrogant vibe. Your posture, your walk, and even your rakish smile can give the impression that you are aware that you’re kind of a big deal. A strut or swaggering walk into the interviewer’s office can send out signals that your ego is just itching for a bully pulpit.

To avoid that, keep your posture open and upright without leading too much with your legs when you walk. A friendly smile instead of an overly-assured smile is also a safer bet. That way, your attitude won’t misconstrued.

Eyes That Speak Volumes

You can also give off an arrogant attitude with the amount of eye contact you make. Too little eye contact conveys an aloof attitude while too much eye contact conveys an unsettling level of aggression. It’s a double edged sword. To appear confident, you need to find a balance between the two, looking directly at the hiring manager without boring a hole in his or her head.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to smile. It can break up an otherwise intense stare.

Going on the Offensive

The way you speak about your previous jobs can convey a great deal of information to a hiring manager. If you spend all your time making disparaging comments about former companies and coworkers or placing the blame for failed projects squarely on the shoulders of others, you’re going to sound arrogant.

Look back to your childhood and follow the Bambi rule during your interviews: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. A hiring manager doesn’t want that outpouring of negativity on his or her psyche. Additionally, it’s okay to take the blame for previous mistakes made in a position. In fact, if you made corrections in your approach to avoid the situation in the future, you can confidently show that you’re capable of learning from your mistakes.

Be Delicate with Recommendations

Coming into the interview with new ideas and recommendations can be a great way to get an employer’s attention. When doing that, you want to avoid pointing fingers or lambasting the company over the areas in which they can improve. You want to approach the recommendation process with kid gloves, never overstepping your bounds when explaining what you can do.

By James Walsh

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3 Responses to “Confidence vs. Arrogance in a Job Interview”

  1. Biron Clark says:

    The point about eye contact is very true. It’s definitely something to be aware of during a job interview, because it definitely matters.

  2. Karen Bradford says:

    Regarding the last point on an applicant making recommendations: I would NOT advise a recent college grad to make any sort of recommendations on a job interview. It would be considered arrogant for a recent grad to give new ideas without any or much work experience him/her self. What is learned in college is not necessarily automatically applied in a job situation which the grad really knows nothing about.

  3. jameswalsh says:

    Thanks Karen for the comment. Giving unsolicited recommendations is definitely an example of recent college grads overstepping their bounds. As always, a good interviewer reads the situation and does what’s appropriate.

    However, it’s still a good idea for college students to prepare these types of responses like everyone else. That way, they can honestly (and respectfully) respond if asked and if they aren’t asked, can have some ideas to pitch if the opportunity presents itself a few months after their start date.