Confident Or Cocky - Which Are You?

In your bid for a graduate job, as with most things in life, confidence is key. How can your prospective employer trust that you’ll do a great job if you don’t seem entirely sure of it yourself?

This being said, there’s a very fine line and a VERY important distinction between confidence and cockiness. The former demonstrates a faith in your abilities backed up by strong evidence whereas the latter is often a case of inflated ego and one-up-man-ship - “I’m BETTER than everyone else, just take my word for it.”

Here are a few tips to bear in mind at both stages of the application process:

1. Writing your CV & Cover letter

Remember, your CV and Cover Letter will shape the employer’s first impression of you and ultimately determine whether you get the interview or not. For this reason, you can’t really shy away from singing your own praises – employers expect it. However, if you say you have OUTSTANDING organisational skills, you must give evidence to bolster your claim. Use specific examples and quantify your answer if you can through figures.

Another important thing to avoid in your CV and covering letter is clichés! For advice on common CV cliché culprits and how to avoid them, read THIS.

2. At the Interview

Congratulations! You made it through to the second round - but be careful not to get too blasé about the whole thing just yet. Yes, they must have seen something they liked in your written application and that should really boost your confidence, but it’s far from a done deal. The interview is your opportunity to present yourself as professional, dependable and, perhaps most importantly, likeable!

Some arrogant traits to avoid are:

Appearing too relaxed 

Too much anxiety is debilitating but a healthy dose of nervous energy can be a really good thing to have at an interview. It makes you more conscious of your behaviour and shows the interviewer how keen you are to impress. People who feel like they have the job already in the bag might afford themselves a few liberties i.e. turning up a few minutes late, sauntering leisurely into the interview room, sitting back comfortably in the chair and gesturing in a way that appears dominating and aggressive rather than confident, warm and open.

Make sure you sit up straight, maintain eye contact with your interviewer and listen diligently when they are talking. In essence, mind your manners!

Ignoring the contribution of others

Of course, the time you have at an interview is precious and we don’t expect you to spend it all bigging up your ex-colleague on his brilliant time management skills. However, failing to even register the contribution of others to the success of a past project makes you look a little self-absorbed. By all means stress how your actions helped to achieve the desired outcome but don’t be afraid to use ‘We’ now and again. The employer will want to see that you enjoy working collaboratively with others and get on well in a team.

The worst thing you can do is to belittle or blast others to elevate your perceived importance in securing success. E.g. "My colleagues were useless but I took matters into my own hands and saved the day." Comments like this will NOT garner the positive response you want.

Having an answer for everything 

Don’t be defensive about past failures. Arrogant people often try to blame things on others or circumstances outside of their control, whereas, confident people are secure enough to admit their previous mistakes and will talk about what they have learnt from them in order to improve going forward.

Similarly, if you are lacking certain skills or experiences that your interviewer is looking for, be honest! Saying something like “I don’t have direct experience in that but it’s something I’m really keen to learn about” is much better than blagging an answer just to save face. Believe us, an industry expert will spot your inexperience a mile off.

If you recognise yourself in any of the cocky illustrations above, it might be time for you to rethink your job hunting strategy! 

Related content

Why You Should Treat Your Interview Like A First Date
Classic Interview Questions Part 1
Interview Body Language Blunders 


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