Many people lack confidence in job interviews, so it’s not something you should be embarrassed about. However, it is something you should try to fix because low confidence can negatively impact your performance – and leave you feeling incredibly frustrated.
If your self-esteem is low, this often leads to one of two things: extreme shyness or overconfidence (arrogance). As you’re probably aware, neither of these qualities are particularly attractive to employers. So, let’s look at how to pitch your confidence at just the right level.
Why Is It Important to be Confident in an interview?
It is the belief that you’ll function well in a particular situation. So, if you walk into an interview with confidence, you’re showing the employer that you can ‘cope’ with the demands of the interview.
Interviews are designed to assess whether or not you have the skills to do the job. Depending on the job role, the hiring manager might be testing your ability to:
- Build rapport with strangers
- Show up on time
- Dress in a professional manner
- Think critically
- Perform a job-specific test / roleplay / presentation
So, if you handle the format of the interview confidently, you’re telling the employer ‘I could cope well in this job role.’ It all sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? Most of us know why confidence is important, but when we’re tangled up in pre-interview nerves, we don’t always see things clearly.
One way to increase your confidence is to repeatedly put yourself in challenging situations (i.e., interviews), to prove to yourself that you are sufficiently capable.
But what if you don’t have a lot of time to practice? Or, what if you frequently underperform in interviews, so you never find evidence to suggest that you are capable? In this case, working on your self-esteem in tandem with your confidence can be very useful.
Building Self Esteem and Confidence Before an Interview
By now, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between self-esteem and confidence. In very basic terms – confidence is the belief you can perform well in a specific situation, whereas self-esteem is an evaluation of your overall self-worth.
You build most of your confidence by achieving goals, gaining certificates, and receiving positive feedback from others. Accolades and external feedback might have a small impact on your self-esteem, but self-esteem is mostly shaped by the way you talk to, treat, and value yourself. Some have described self-esteem as a ‘reservoir’ of good feeling you can fall back on regardless of what is happening in your life.
Why is this distinction important? Well, let’s assume you’re very inexperienced with interviews, or you’ve had 2 or 3 bad interviews in the past few months, and your confidence is low. Confidence training might seem very overwhelming at this stage.
If you want to feel more confident in interviews, improving your self-esteem will help you lay the foundations for this. You have more control over your self-esteem than your confidence. As such, many people find it useful to start with some self-esteem training and then supplement this with some confidence training at a later stage.
How to Build Self-Esteem Before an Interview
If you are paralyzed by nerves before an interview, this suggests you might benefit from some self-esteem training. While it is normal to feel a bit nervous, feeling very anxious is a sign of low self-esteem. So, if you want to enhance your self-esteem, try the following techniques.
1) Have a Plan B
People with high self-esteem value themselves even when things don’t go to plan. If you have high self-esteem, you probably won’t put a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself to succeed in an interview, because you know your value remains even if you aren’t hired.
So, if you’re feeling the pressure before an interview, take a few minutes to write down what you will do if you are not hired. In other words, what’s your plan B?
Perhaps you will keep applying for similar jobs, or perhaps you will search in other industries. If you have financial worries, maybe you’ll ask for support from friends or family while you continue to look for a job. Or, perhaps you’ll take a less-than-ideal job to tide you over until a better job comes along. Chances are, you’ll see how resourceful you are – and as a result – you’ll place less pressure on yourself to succeed.
Small amounts of pressure can spur us on to succeed, but if we place too much pressure on ourselves to achieve something, we may crack (perform badly) or feel ‘lost’ if we don’t succeed. You can ease this pressure by regularly asking yourself ‘what’s my plan b?’ This question forces you to measure your self-worth in more holistic terms.
2) Practice Gratitude
If you feel grateful in your life, it’s actually quite hard to have low self-esteem. In fact, according to Wiley, people who participated in a ‘gratitude programme’ reported higher levels of self-esteem after just four weeks.
So, to increase your self-esteem before an interview, try keeping a daily gratitude journal. Inside your journal, write down three things you are grateful for each day – but don’t just list expensive assets and accolades. Being thankful for your relationships, beliefs, and hobbies is likely to have the most significant impact on your self-esteem.
3) Take Care of Yourself
This one might sound obvious, but it’s probably the most important tip. People with low self-esteem often neglect their health. This may be because they feel unworthy of good self-care, or because they are using food, alcohol or drugs as an emotional crutch.
Even if your self-esteem is pretty normal, you could improve your wellbeing by investing more time in self-care. Depending on your lifestyle, this might mean exercising more, eating healthier, avoiding stimulants, or getting to bed earlier.
So, try to introduce one ‘self-care’ habit into your routine from today onwards. If you do, you’ll be showing yourself that you deserve proper self-care.
4) Practice Being Decisive
If you always find it difficult to make decisions, this suggests your self-esteem could do with a boost. Being indecisive indicates low self-esteem because it suggests you don’t trust yourself to deal with the consequences of a ‘bad’ decision. Also, it suggests that you’re not ‘in tune’ with your own needs.
From this moment forward, practice making decisions more effectively in your own life. If you find yourself wavering over which emails to prioritize, where to go for lunch, or what clothes to wear in the morning, go with your gut.
It doesn’t matter if you make the ‘wrong’ decision. This should be expected from time-to-time. Once you show yourself you can cope with the consequences of your decisions, you’ll build a healthier self-image and become more decisive.
5) Accept the Compliment
If you find it hard to believe compliments, this indicates poor self-esteem. Accepting compliments from others is important. Not because other people’s opinions should shape how you feel about yourself. But rather, if you don’t believe others’ compliments, you’re indirectly telling yourself you are not worthy of that compliment.
So, in the days running up to an interview, be sure to thank anyone who compliments you. Most importantly, accept your interview invitation as a compliment. If a company has spent time and resources inviting you to come and meet them, they certainly see some potential in you. If you accept this compliment unreservedly, you’ll feel more comfortable on the day of the interview.
How to Project Confidence in an Interview
Once you have tackled your self-esteem, it is time to start working on your confidence. It’s often easier to improve your confidence if you’ve already done the groundwork (i.e., self-esteem training). So, how can you build confidence? Confidence is a skill that can be learned – through practice and other psychological techniques.
Confidence is mostly shaped by our accomplishments, accolades, and through feedback from others – so keep these factors in mind when working on your confidence. Here are three beneficial techniques you can use before an interview to help boost your confidence.
6) Match your Skills to the Job Advert
If you know you can perform a particular task very well, you’re going to feel more confident about doing that task. Before any interview, you need to establish what key skills the employer is looking for, and then convince yourself you have these skills in abundance.
Start by listing out the key skills from the job specification, i.e. “can supervise a team effectively” or “can meet competing deadlines.” Once you’ve got them all written out, think of three clear examples of when you’ve demonstrated each skill. This could be in your professional and personal life.
Coming up with real-life examples can be time-consuming because you’ll need to jog your memory. But the more time you can invest in this exercise, the more confident you’ll feel walking into that interview. Also, it will be easier to respond to tricky, unexpected interview questions if you have all your professional experience at the forefront of your mind.
7) Try the Heart Math Technique
The ‘heart math’ technique is a visualization exercise that uses the power of the heart and the mind to increase confidence. It is currently used by all divisions of the US army to build confidence and resilience. To get the most out of this exercise, you should try using it in conjunction with the previous technique. For example:
- Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and feel your heart pumping underneath your hand. Spend 30 seconds – 1 minute focusing on your heartbeat.
- When you’re feeling relaxed, visualize a time when you felt confident (in this case, you could visualize a time when you demonstrated one of the skills your interviewer will be looking for – such as confidently leading a team, or meeting a tight deadline).
- Return to that time in your mind’s eye. Feel what you felt at that time and try to imagine the scene as vividly as possible. What did you hear? What did you see?
- When you’ve imagined the scene, consider where you feel strongest or calmest in your body (it could be your head, heart, feet, arms, etc.) and give that part of the body color.
- Now, imagine the color is traveling up and down your entire body – until your whole body is bathed in your chosen color.
- Open your eyes slowly and enjoy the new-found sense of strength and confidence.
Some people have benefited from the heart math technique, though others don’t understand what all the fuss is about. If you want to try it, you might find it helpful to follow a guided heart math programme on Youtube or a smartphone app. Also, don’t expect to see immediate results – several sessions are usually required.
If nothing else, ‘heart math’ forces you to think of a time when you’ve felt strong and confident in your life. If you’ve faced several rejections in the last few months, revisiting a time when you’ve felt more confident can be helpful.
‘Practice makes perfect’ is an old cliché, but it is true. The more interviews you attend, the more confident you should become. However, if you need to find a job quickly, this is probably the last thing you want to hear.
However, ‘practice’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean attending tons of interviews. Instead, prepare answers to 10 interview questions and rehearse these every day before your next interview. Practice the responses in front of the mirror, with friends, or by videotaping yourself and watching the film back.
Most importantly, try to start rehearsing as early as possible. It is far better to practice for 5-10 minutes every day than 2-3 hours the night before your interview. This is because sleep helps cement your memories, but also because procrastination (putting things off) is linked to low self-esteem.
How to Not Sound Arrogant in an Interview
When it comes to confidence, you might have heard the phrase ‘fake it until you make it.’ This is generally good advice, but make sure you don’t overdo the confidence. Indeed, if you have low self-esteem and you try to fake confidence, this can occasionally come across as arrogance.
Confidence Is not about going in all-guns-blazing, smiling incessantly, and telling everyone how great you are. Those things can come across as a bit creepy or arrogant to potential employers. So, to avoid being too confident in interviews, keep the following tips in mind.
9) Try Putting Others at Ease
Hiring managers aren’t just interested in how good you are, but how well you can build relationships with others. Putting other people at ease is a sign of confidence and high self-esteem because it shows you are not wholly focused on yourself. So, how can you put others at ease?
- Eye Contact – To build rapport, you should maintain a good amount of eye contact – but avoid staring. A good tip is to look into the interviewer’s eyes long enough to register what color they are and then briefly look away.
- Disclose Something About Yourself – If you tell the interviewing panel something about yourself, it humanizes you. This can help to break down barriers in an otherwise very formal situation. You could mention a family member in passing conversation, talk about your commute, or briefly talk about one of your interests outside of work. Keep it light and don’t share anything too personal.
- Mirror their Body Language – If we want other people to view us favorably, we naturally tend to mirror their body language. However, when we are very nervous, our bodies tense up, so we’re less able to modify our body language. Try to relax your body before (and during) an interview and you might find it is easier to build rapport with others.
- Be Careful with Self-deprecation – Some people make jokes about themselves – or point out their flaws – to make other people feel more comfortable. This can be effective in certain situations. For example, if you are teaching someone a new task and they are terrified of giving it a go in case they get it wrong – pointing out your flaws can help to relieve some of the pressure felt by that person. However, if you’re trying to build rapport in a job interview, you should avoid self-deprecation. Even if you’re doing it in a jovial way, you might leave interviewers feeling a bit awkward because you’re not sticking to the normal social ‘contract’ of an interview.
10) The Equality Mentality
If you want to avoid arrogance, make sure you are treating everyone as your equal. Arrogance occurs when we feel the need to convince others of our status. If we truly believe that no one is fundamentally better or worse than us, we’re less likely to appear arrogant.
People with an ‘equality mentality’ will treat everyone the same regardless of their job title. So, during your interview, don’t just try to impress the ‘decision maker.’ Ensure you are being polite to the receptionist, secretary, cleaner, parking warden or anyone you come into contact with. This will ultimately reflect better on you.
Funnily enough, according to an article in The Independent, an angry job seeker swore at another passenger while rushing to his interview – only to find out that the other passenger was the hiring manager in his interview. So, even if you don’t believe in the ‘equality mentality,’ it still pays to be on your best behavior with everyone you meet.
11) Talk About Managers and Mentors
If you try to attribute all of your success to yourself, this can seem arrogant. Most businesses want to hire people who can work well in teams and respond positively to feedback. So, when talking about your past achievements, be sure to mention your mentors and managers.
That’s not to say that you should downplay your achievements. You should still use the personal pronoun “I” to refer to your achievements but be clear about how you used mentoring as one tool to help you succeed.
So, you should avoid statements like “we exceeded our sales targets” or “I single-handedly exceeded my sales targets.” Instead, you might say “I exceeded my sales targets by doing X Y & Z, and by attending regular training sessions with my mentor, and acting on feedback provided by my manager.”
If you attribute your success to many different factors, you’re less likely to come across as arrogant. It also shows you can reflect on your professional experiences effectively.
Feeling More Comfortable in Interviews
If you want to feel more comfortable in interviews, there are many techniques you can try. As suggested, it’s often helpful to work on your self-esteem first, and then supplement this with some confidence skills training.
Self-esteem and confidence are similar, but they are not the same. Confidence is the belief you can perform effectively in a particular scenario, whereas self-esteem is more like an insurance policy you can fall back on regardless of what is happening in your life.
It is possible to be confident (i.e., to function in high-pressure situations) but to have low self-esteem. This is not an ideal combination because it can lead to arrogance, burnout, or you may develop an emotional ‘crutch’ to help you cope. That’s why working on your self-esteem is considered effective ‘groundwork’ for becoming more confident.
Research has shown that people with high levels of self-esteem and confidence tend to perform better in their jobs. Not only that, but they also tend to be more satisfied with their career. So, improving your self-esteem and confidence will not only enhance your interviewing skills, but it will also make you more successful in the workplace.
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