Confidence versus arrogance: Strike the right balance in your interview.

If you've been invited to a job interview, you've already impressed the recruiter or hiring manager with the skills, experience and qualifications on your CV. Now, you have a chance to show that your personality is the right fit for the company too.

A recent survey by TopCV and CV-Library revealed that 77 per cent of UK employers and hiring managers consider a candidate's personality to be a key aspect of their suitability for a role – just behind skills and experience and ahead of education and appearance. But what are best interview personality traits ‒ and worst interview personality traits?

Confidence was identified as the second most desirable trait during the job search, but arrogance was the biggest turnoff. With such a fine line between the two, you have to be thoughtful of how you present yourself. The job interview is your only chance to make a positive first impression, so how can you make sure that you strike the right balance?

Show, rather than tell

Job seekers should research and understand the requirements of the role ahead of the interview. That way, you can prepare yourself with facts and figures to back up your claims. For example, you may identify that cost reduction is a key element of the role and will probably crop up during the interview, so look for concrete examples of this in your career history.

Compare telling an interviewer, 'I'm really focussed on cutting costs, so I'll be able to reduce your overheads' (arrogant) with 'In my current role, I've cut costs by 47 per cent by reducing waste and introducing new processes. I'd look to find similar efficiencies in your operation if offered this role' (confident). Quantifiable facts, rather than opinions, are not only more persuasive, but they also help you come across much better than an unjustified claim would.

Remember your manners

It's basic, but when those interview nerves kick in we can all have a wobble. You may know that you're a perfect fit for the role. You may think you know more about the job than the interviewer – and you very well could in some ways. But being patronising or acting like a know-all won't do you any favours. Rather than showing your suitability for the role and your amazing knowledge, you're showing a lack of respect and a huge amount of arrogance.

Don't interrupt or talk down. Show how your skills and knowledge could be applied to this new company. After all, even if you have the specialist knowledge for a particular role, you still don't know the minutiae of their operations, their culture or their difficulties. It's important to balance showcasing your suitability with a willingness to learn during the entire interview process.

Be tactful

If you're expected to suggest potential improvements or changes to the business, do it without directly criticising the company or its employees. Use previous success as a justification for your recommendations and make sure that you balance it with positive comments too. For example, 'I've noticed that X product already has good sales, but I think I could increase sales further by accessing a specific new market segment. I did this in my previous role and sales are significantly higher than in the same period last year.'

Ask questions

You'll almost certainly be offered a chance to ask questions at the end of the interview, and you should prepare accordingly. It shows you're interested in the role and also gives you a chance to learn if the position is right for you – an interview isn't a one-way street!

By not asking questions, not only do you seem disinterested, but you also project an arrogant, know-it-all impression, as if saying 'There's nothing you can tell me that I don't already know.' You may feel like you can do the job itself standing on your head, but why not ask about the team culture, the challenges you're likely to come up against, whether they have any concerns about your application … the options are endless. Just ask something!

Be truthful

Honesty is the best policy. From compiling your CV to being offered the job, don't over-egg your abilities. At worst, you could end up getting fired. Falsehoods on your CV could catch you out if you're asked to elaborate in greater depth by a recruiter, and you'll be left flailing and feeling foolish in the interview.

By all means, show off your knowledge and experience to its best advantage, but taking credit for someone else's work (or even making something up completely) is unacceptable and unprofessional. If something was achieved as a result of a team effort, say so before detailing your personal input. You'll still get the credit for it, as well as credit for acknowledging other contributors. If you don't have experience in the area at all, then, rather than just telling a porky, be honest. Bring the focus back to your other relevant experience and state your willingness to learn.

Admit your weaknesses

No one is perfect. The confident interviewee admits this, the arrogant one pretends they're the exception. If you're asked about weaknesses, choose something that isn't critical to your ability to do the job well, explain how you're working to improve and move on. If you need to admit to making a mistake, as we all do, make sure you also explain how you've learnt from it and the steps you've taken to ensure it can't happen again.

Final thoughts

With our research showing that personality is important to over three-quarters of employers, it's vital that you prepare well to ensure a successful interview. Take a deep breath, stay calm, maintain direct eye contact and good posture, and practice answering interview questions ahead of time. Your confidence will give a potential employer or hiring manager faith that you can do the job, but arrogance will leave a bad taste in their mouth. Strive to strike the delicate balance throughout your interview and you'll be on your way to a job offer.

Show confidence through your CV as well. Find out where you stand with a free critique from TopCV.

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