By Amanda Augustine – Fast Company
It’s like walking a tightrope to find the balance between having the personality employers want and not coming off as having the one they hate.
When it comes to nailing an interview, your personality may play a larger role than you think. According to a recent study conducted by TopInterview and Resume-Library, 70% of employers consider a candidate’s personality to be among the top three factors in deciding whether to extend a job offer. It’s substantially more important than education (18%) or appearance (7%).
So, what personality traits will make or break your chances of landing the job? Employers reported that “overconfidence” was the most offensive. However, when asked which personality traits they find the most attractive, they rated “confidence” as the second-most important quality.
The message is clear: If you want to land the job, you must balance sounding confident, without being perceived as overly confident during the interview. It’s certainly important to demonstrate your job qualifications and your value to the company. However, if you take it too far, you may be perceived as arrogant, which will only hurt your credibility and ruin your chances of landing the job.
Here are five ways you can avoid crossing the line from confident to cocky during your next interview.
Nervous energy before an interview can be beneficial. It will keep you on your toes and help ensure you sound authentic when answering the interviewer’s questions. In fact, I often help clients figure out how to boost their energy level before an interview to ensure they make the right impression. However, if you fail to manage those nerves, you may find yourself trying to overcompensate during the interview and inadvertently come across as arrogant.
To mitigate this risk, determine the best way to release some of that nervous energy and work it into your pre-interview routine. Whether it’s a spin class, meditation, or jamming out to your favorite song, find what works for you and do it.
SHOW, DON’T TELL
When you walk into an interview, you’re expected to confidently discuss your skills and your value to the company. After all, if you’re not confident in your abilities, why should a prospective employer be confident in hiring you? However, it’s how you communicate your skills that makes all the difference.
The key is to get specific. Instead of using sweeping statements like, “I’m a skilled marketer. I know everything there is to know about email marketing,” share information that demonstrates your proficiency in a specific area, such as an award you’ve won or a measurable result you’ve achieved. The candidates who can prove their success are the ones genuinely impressing the hiring manager without coming across as smug.
AVOID STRETCHING THE TRUTH
There’s no room for false modesty when you’re looking for work. However, be careful not to overstate your abilities, embellish your previous responsibilities, or take full credit for a team effort. No one likes a braggart, and most interviewers can see through those exaggerations with a few follow-up questions. When discussing a previous accomplishment, give credit where credit is due. Instead of pretending it was the result of a one-person show, acknowledge your other team members and explain the contribution you’ve made in bringing about the win.
WELCOME THE “WEAKNESS” QUESTION
No one is perfect, so don’t try to pretend you are during an interview. If you’re asked about a weakness, don’t avoid the question or provide one of those faux weaknesses such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m too nice.” Instead, share a work-related area that is nonessential to the job, and explain the steps you’ve taken to improve.
The STAR Method (Situation, Task, Actions, Results), which is typically used to answer behavioral interview questions, can be a great way to explain how you’ve overcome a weakness in a succinct, yet thoughtful manner.
To do this, think of a real situation or task you’ve struggled with previously, such as being uncomfortable with public speaking. Choose a shortcoming that’s genuine, but not a key requirement of the role you hope to get.
Identify what actions you’ve taken to improve this skill or overcome your professional shortcoming. For instance, if you’ve struggled with public speaking, explain the class you’ve completed to overcome your fears.
Share the results of your actions. Have you recently volunteered to present at the company-wide meeting? Have you completed a course to gain proficiency in a certain skill? Have your performance assessments in this area improved?
Demonstrating a level of self-awareness and commitment to professional development is much more attractive to employers than pretending you are perfect.
PREPARE TO ASK QUESTIONS
Whenever an interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions for me?” your response should always be an enthusiastic “Yes,” whether you’re on your first or your fourth round of interviews with the company. Employers use this question to gauge your interest in the opportunity, so blowing off this question at the end of the interview will only leave you looking cocky or, worse, uninterested in the position.
While some questions will naturally emerge from your conversations with your interviewer, I find it helpful to prepare a list of questions like this one in advance that you can ask each person with whom you meet. The benefits of this extra preparation are twofold. It shows the hiring manager that you’re taking the interview seriously and you’re genuinely interested in the opportunity. It also helps you learn more about the company and determine whether the job is the right fit for you. It’s a win-win.