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Tooting Your Own Horn: The Art Of Likable Confidence

August 10, 2016 by Meredith Brandt

“I didn’t come here to try out. I came here to win.”

On America’s Got Talent, when contestants are asked if they think they can win the competition, they have varying responses. Some respond with full confidence while others take a humbler approach. Either answer could potentially backfire, so how do they know how to play it?

The same can be said for interviewing. Do you go into it full of outright self-praise, or do you try to keep your bragging subdued throughout the conversation? There is a delicate line to walk when it comes to landing your next job.

For many, the humblebrag is the method of choice. A “humblebrag” is a statement that is ostensibly modest but in reality is used to draw attention to something that a person is proud of. Humblebrags are often seen (and called out) on social media; they appear frequently in interviews as well. However, accordingto a Harvard Business Review study, humblebragging hurts more than it helps during interviews.

Think of your response to the “What’s your biggest weakness?” interview question. If your answer is something along the lines of “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m too nice,” then you’re one of many who humblebrag their way through their response. And according to the HBRstudy, these answers tend to perform more poorly than those that are sincere and honest. The study says, “Showing we are self-aware and working on improving our performance may be a more effective strategy than humblebragging. After all, authentic people who are willing to show vulnerability are likely to be the type of candidates interviewers most want to hire.”

But arrogance is a turn-off as well. The ideal candidate will be confident without being overly boastful. Often, overconfidence can come across as self-centeredness. And at many companies, it is just as, if not more, important to be an exceptional team player as it is to be a talented individual. Interviews should be used to showcase what you’re good at but also to prove that your personality will fit in with the company’s staff, company’s mission, and company’s culture. Most places don’t promote vanity as a core company value; make sure you fit the company’s standards.

To be likably confident, follow these tips:

  • Don’t say you’re great – prove it! Describe your past experiences that make you shine.
  • Do admit how you want to improve. Nobody’s perfect; admitting this will only make you seem more human and more reputable.
  • Don’t use empty adjectives. If you highlight your abilities with tangible detail, you will make your self-description seem genuine rather than braggy.
  • Do talk about things that you’re proud of. Your authentic passion will shine through.
  • Don’t put others down in an attempt to boost yourself up. You’ll be hurting yourself more than you’re helping.
  • Do ask questions. If you’re engaged and interested, you are showing that you care and that you’re not so confident that you think there isn’t room to learn.

There is always some room for bragging rights, though. Olympian Michael Phelps, for example, had every right to fully celebrate his victory. Was it humble? Absolutely not. But when you back up your bragging with execution, is it really bragging? If you’re a good sport, a good employee, AND the best at what you do, should that really bother people?

At a talent audition or at an interview, there is that perfect confidence balance to strike. How do you make sure your confidence doesn’t come across as cockiness in an interview? Let us know by commenting or replying!

Meredith Brandt

Meredith Brandt

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