By Liz Kobylk

University Affairs, May 5, 2017 —

If projecting confidence feels like it’s a long way off for you, build your case for inspiring it.

Confidence is a much-ballyhooed concept when it comes to the job search in general and job interviews in particular.

Just for kicks, I did a Google search for “how to look confident in interviews.” As soon as I started typing “confident,” Google’s algorithmic brain predicted that I’d want to know about interviews. It gave me 42,200,000 results aimed at helping me wow interviewers.

While “confidence” isn’t quite as broad a concept as that other favourite quality, “leadership,” it’s not necessarily as focussed as it first seems.

There is research, including Amy Cuddy‘s recent work, that points to confidence as a key feature in job interview success. But what does confidence mean, and do interviewees always need to be brimming with confidence?

In regards to the latter, not necessarily – inspiring confidence is also important, and that can be accomplished through other means than projecting self-assurance. Inspiring confidence can partly be accomplished by having evidence to draw on, rather than just offering assurances that you have whatever strengths the interviewers are looking for. (The STAR model of answering behavioural questions helps with this.)

You can also inspire confidence by focusing on why employers want to have confidence in you. They likely want to have confidence that you’re capable of solving problems, and of asking for help when a problem is beyond your scope. They’ll likely want to have confidence that they can put you in front of stakeholders and know that you’ll represent the organization well. They’ll probably want to be confident that you’re trainable – because you have both the capacity to learn and the openness to accept and act on feedback. Have evidence of these confidence-builders at the ready.

None of the above requires a candidate to be slick. In fact, overconfidence and an unwillingness to take accountability for failure can lead to lower rates of interview success. That’s not to say that projecting confidence is unimportant. But, if projecting confidence feels like it’s a long way off for you, build your case for inspiring it.


Liz Koblyk is a career counsellor at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and an instructor for a career course at McMaster University.