Is being overconfident in an interview or letter hurtful to getting a position?
September 10, 2009 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Are overconfident people really annoying to interviewers? Like if you act as if you know your accepted? Does this hurt one's chances of actually being accepted?

I'm applying for a position right now and have started a requested writing. I had bounced around whether to write as if I had alreadly made the position. Things like, " the oppurtunity to work with this company is a great one, and I thank you for it."

I had done this before in positions I was pretty sure I had made, saying things such as,"it is a shame for the people who didn't make it into the program". Although I did make it, the interviewer kept on explaining the program if I did make it, saying that he wished to explain everything first before he confirmed whether or not I had been accepted. I had pushed it with that one because I had figured it was a scam, which is still a debat today. Long story short, it probably is.

I personally would imagine that being confident is good, but acting like you are alreadly accepted would cause irritation and should be avoided, what do you guys think?

In this case, I'm not going to even go there, I think it's hurtful, but I was wondering if it is annoying, probably, and if it hurts one's chances.
posted by Nighthawk3729 to Work & Money (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Having participated in group interviews with folks like that, and having interviewed folks who responded as such, I find that take....tiresome.

It's sort of up there with name dropping in my personal book.

That said, I respond (and like to hear), "One of my past successes included...." or "One thing that excites me about this position is the opportunity to..." and doing your research on the job ahead of time so that you can mention ongoing projects, etc. "Look forward to the opportunity to work with Lockheed (again)", etc.

That's just me though. And I work in Non Profit.
posted by TomMelee at 1:21 PM on September 10, 2009

I have blown an interview, where I was 100% recommended by my future boss and practically already had the job, because I was too arrogant and overconfident (stemming from my "knowledge" that I could do no wrong). So yeah. Go easy on that.
posted by olinerd at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2009

I personally know people who have not gotten jobs because they were so confident that they were a shoo-in and didn't lay the necessary groundwork to have supporting evidence for all the claims they were making about themselves. So, yes. If I were an interviewer, I'd assume overconfidence in an interview situation might be a general indication of overconfidence in a work situation which can cause all manner of problems (depending on the job of course) and indicate a lack of empathy or general understanding of how to work with and relate to other people.
posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2009

Language like that makes me think you're going to believe you're right about everything and possibly not listen to me in the future. So, yeah. Don't do it. It sounds arrogant. But you can still thank them for the opportunity to interview with them and, by all means, be confident about what you've already accomplished. Just don't make assumptions about what your potential employer is going to do. They've probably seen it before, and I doubt it will help you.
posted by katillathehun at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2009

I'm with TomMalee: Having interviewed many people now, the over confident "I've got this in the bag" approach comes off as arrogant. No one wants to work with arrogant. The right approach is, "Here are some of the things that I've done. Here are some objective facts that are evidence of my strengths. I really believe I would be a good fit here for these reasons. Also, I really want to be here."

On a more personal note: I was rejected for a certain opportunity that I applied for years ago. I knew one of the people on the interviewing team personally so I begged him to tell me the truth about why (because I was clearly the best qualified, on paper). After some persuasion, he finally told me, "They thought you came off as arrogant".

I have been very careful not to strike that tone since then.
posted by crapples at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2009

Acting like you know you're going to be hired is very annoying, yes.

Being confident but not brash, well, that's good.

Project confidence that you will do well if hired (and be able to back it up like TomMelee says), not confidence that you so totally have the job.
posted by Neofelis at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between being confident and being oblivious or fake. Sure, tell yourself the odds are good, and behave accordingly. But acting like you already have the job when you do not in fact have the job yet, that suggests that you Just Don't Get It on a pretty basic level — or that you Get It just fine but you're putting on an act and pretending not to Get It. Neither one of those is a positive quality.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:30 PM on September 10, 2009

I've interviewed people at previous employers who were otherwise leading candidates, but their over-confident/under-prepared demeanor destroyed their chance to get the job.
posted by xotis at 1:32 PM on September 10, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, 4 responses in 4 minutes :)!

I would mark started marking from the top as best answers, but I had to unmark them because they all would have been marked, all useful information guys.

I'm glad I went with my gut on this. Like I said, I hadn't been sure, but I am seeing a definate patern that nobody likes that attitude. I can think of another occasion where this hurt me. It was for an leadership program at my school, an orientation leader to be exact. They had mentioned a reason I hadn't gotten accepted is I came across too strong. Problem was, IT WAS A LEADERSHIP PROGRAM! Hah, I learned from that the difference between leading and LEADING. Getting everyone moving is one thing, but getting everyone to cooperate and your just another guy? Priceless. I had known some people in the program, it was a one in two chance, I couldn't believe it when I didn't get in. I will say though I was worried I wouldn't be forceful enough, I wouldn't get it. Boy, did that backfire.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 1:34 PM on September 10, 2009

Never assume you're a shoo-in! You can be completely confident that you are perfect for the job, that they really should hire you, that it would be a big win for them and for you, and you can make that clear, but NEVER assume you're a shoo-in. That stinks of entitlement. It may be a great fit, and a great job for you, but you're not entitled to it.

If you remember that you're *right* for the job but not *guaranteed* to get it, I think you'll be approaching an interview with just the right measure of confidence and humility.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:38 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

No matter how confident you are, always spell check what you write.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:45 PM on September 10, 2009 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: @ Carol Anne, a common mistake indeed :).

I always check things over, one professor of mine beat that into me. ;)
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 1:59 PM on September 10, 2009

One guy here who has just been laid off (would've been fired if the position wasn't RIF'd) made one comment during his interview that stuck with me (and in hindsight should've caused me to advocate much more loudly against his hiring than I did) - when asked how would he deal with a situation where a project has spiraled out of control, and he needs to have a sit down with the customer. His response? "That would never happen with a project I'm managing"

I will never again make the mistake of not pushing hard against such people should I hear something like that in a future interview.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 2:05 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @ Calloused_Foot
Wow, it really turned out that bad?
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 2:09 PM on September 10, 2009

A not-so-secret secret: the main goal of *most* interviews is to determine whether or not the candidate is a good 'fit' with the rest of the team. So your personality is being scrutinized, perhaps more so than your skills. They've already read your resume, right? Arrogant, over-confidant people are not generally a good 'fit' with any team. Be confidant, but self-respectingly humble.

Another thing - and I'm sorry, this is a bit of a rant: it's been noted by the wiser, more experienced workforce that gen-Yers (I don't know if you are one, but if there are any out there who are listening...) can occasionally be cocky and over-confidant on the job. It's annoying. And it's downright repugnant when the skills don't jive with the person's self-perception. I don't know whether it's simply self-delusion or a 'fake-it-till-you-make-it' strategy for life, but it just isn't the way to go !!!
posted by kitcat at 2:12 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

That isn't confidence -- it's being an asshole.

If there is one thing I hated doing in my last position, it was interviewing candidates. If someone came into an interview acting as though they already had the job, there is no way I would recommend that person to be hired.

It's not just obnoxious, it is crazy. Absolutely crazy. The kind of crazy that would lead me to tell my supervisor that there is no way I think you'd be a good fit for the company. You could be perfect in every other way for the position, and I still would prefer doing the extra work myself over hiring you if you did that. Why? Because if you act crazy during an interview, which is when you should put your best foot forward, what kind of nightmare am I in for when you get comfortable?
posted by tastybrains at 2:15 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

He is a very unique combination of abrasiveness, arrogance and incompetence - in the time he was here, I'd have to say he sapped about 10-20% (wild guess) of the team's productivity by screwing up stuff he didn't know how to do, ignoring the advice of people who did know how to do the job, and lying to customers for no reason.

if you just had to work with him once a month or once a week (and his work doesn't impact yours), you'd probably just think he's a little weird or annoying - he's not the full blown over the top kind of asshole. If you have to see him everyday, you want to kill him. At the very end I couldn't even be civil to him any more - I felt like his mere presence was degrading my work.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 2:18 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I always check things over, one professor of mine beat that into me. ;)

...Like if you act as if you know your accepted?

That would be "you're" contraction for "you are", not "your" possessive.

With me, your interview would go exceedingly poorly if you were presumptuous enough to assume success. The implication is that you don't need me and I am wasting my time because you are a lock. If you are the nephew of the boss, maybe, but even then, I would try to act a little more humble if I were you. If not, I would grill you until you wimpered out of there on your knees begging me to stop. I would ask questions I knew you could not answer. I would ask questions I knew you could answer but would take a lot of time and effort. Or, I would dismiss you almost immediately.

There is a big difference between being confident and being presumptuous. I like confidence.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:19 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Come on, JohnnyGunn, are you trying to debat him on his proofreading skills?

Truly, I have found that the most important thing to look for in an interviewee is whether they seem like a good fit for the team and whether they seem common-sense bright, as well as having the bare minimum skills (which I'm going to assume you have in order to have landed an interview). Putting on a silly act neither makes you a good fit for almost any team, nor does it help the whole seeming bright thing.

It's a cliche, but be yourself. Be relaxed and friendly, and be genuinely appreciative of the interviewers' time. If they aren't HR, they have way better things to do with their time than watch you put on a show. Impress them with your skills and your personability, not your arrogance.
posted by tastybrains at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

saying things such as,"it is a shame for the people who didn't make it into the program".

Saying this kind of thing in an interview is a very bad idea. A major function of an in-person interview is to check whether you'd be someone people would want to talk to and work with on a regular basis, i.e. to understand something about your personality and fit, not just your qualifications. Is this the kind of personality (arrogant, over-confident) you want to project? Until the moment an offer is made, the people hiring you/accepting you into some program are _making a decision_ about you; even if you think they have already made up their mind, it is socially inappropriate to publicly presume that they have. Comments like this in effect involve you making public for them supposed beliefs of theirs that they have not made public (if they even exist).
posted by advil at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

My tendency would be to NOT hire anyone who presented this way, even if they were the best candidate on paper.

For one, I didn't grow up in a "privileged" household (read: I was poor) and I associate that type of behavior with rich snobby kids, so I'm still carrying that around... and secondly, how much of a pain in the ass is someone who's already a pain in the ass at the interview going to be in 6 months??? I don't know and I don't want to know.

I would just say screw it and find someone else...
posted by Spaizy at 2:26 PM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

As you can see, overconfidence annoys approximately everyone. Especially when accompanied by mis-spellings plus claims of checking everything over, it comes across as balderdash.
posted by Quietgal at 2:29 PM on September 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: @ kitcat

Kind of like how everyone has the same common knowledge ;)? Thanks for the comment. And no, I don't know what gen-Yers is, google, here I come!

@ tastybrains

WOW! That was a strong intro!

@ JohnnyGunn

True that, you got me ;)!

I'm trying to get some work done and get out of here, thought I got everything.
.... Wait! hah, just found this one - "you are alreadly accepted" ;)! I got the concept :P.

@ advil

Like I said, it was a scam and I was getting into it anyway. For anyone curious, it's Vector marketing and Cutco. I had done a bit of researching and had alot to think about. I can't imagine that a company could be around about 50 years and be a scam. However, there is way too much information on it being a scam for something to not be up. Lets just say there is alot of manipulation in the company. I just had fun with that guy ;)!

@ Quietgal

posted by Nighthawk3729 at 2:40 PM on September 10, 2009

Cutco knives are actually very high quality and come with a lifetime guarantee and a very good resale value. But yeah, their sales strategy is basically a big scam where they make the salespeople buy a huge demonstration set and shill to their friends and family.
posted by Locobot at 3:10 PM on September 10, 2009

I'm a sometime pro-interviewer.

Personally, I like thoughtful and well-spoken more than "confident", which indeed can come across as arrogant. People who leap to answer questions quickly using power words that they think will impress get a mental -1, while those who use a few pauses and "hmmm" moments, along with care like "Well, one possible solution might be to...." phrasing impress me +1.

As for confidence, I prefer "I'm confident I could learn that quickly" to "Sure, sure, I can do that no problem.", especially when it's something job-specific that there is no way in hell the applicant has experience with. Don't bluff.

Remember, you're probably also being measured for how likely you'll be easy for coworkers to get along with, as well as for your raw ability. Screening out probably "prima donnas" and showoffs is a significant part of hiring for many positions, especially team-based ones.

Saying things such as,"it is a shame for the people who didn't make it into the program".

That's just weird. Don't do that.
posted by rokusan at 3:38 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

At the risk of beating a dead horse, your writing conveys your personality well. However, you use a lot of conventions that make you sound very young and unaware of common English usage.

I see this often in my college students' writing. Not to start a derail, but I believe their overconfidence in their writing and lack of awareness of grammar (e.g. your/you're, in which/where) come from today's generation reading fewer "chapter books" than past generations read.

I assume you have access to your college's writing center and its career center. Even alumni often have access to these under-appreciated and under-used campus resources. If I were you, I would visit both in order to do live practice interviews to perfect your tone in writing and oral communication.

You sound motivated and gracious and those are two qualities that will work in your favor. I'd worry, though, that your writing will prevent your cover letter from surviving the first round of review by a hiring manager.

Put improving your written and oral communication skills at the top of your "to-do" list and you will see great results.
posted by vincele at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, a sharp followup question is one of the best possible answers to an interview question, especially when you consider many (most) questions are just thinking experiments anyway. A good response question plus a dose of honesty is very, very good.

Deliberately vague questions:
1 "Which is your favorite Jones building?"
2 "How would you handle one of your managers if you discovered him skimming profits?"
3 "How might you configure a web server to handle three million requests per minute?"

Great responses (or the kind of responses I'd love, anyway):
1 "If you mean Inigo, definitely Queen's House Greenwich. I don't know Horace very well."
2 "Well, how much time and money would it cost to replace the manager?"
3 "Hm. Do you really mean one single web server?"
posted by rokusan at 3:53 PM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also, yes, your writing could use a bit of work. To be fair, I'm very guilty of lazy first-draft-and-post mistakes on MetaFilter, though obviously when writing real material I'm a lot more careful. Maybe you're just being internet sloppy.

But from your question and followups, maybe not. Just to be safe, I'd try to avoid long-answer applications or cover letters when possible, unless you have a proofreader you respect. A good proofreader/editor can make any writer a lot better, even if they're good to start with.

For example, "hurtful" and "harmful" aren't really synonymous in the real world, and you definitely mean "harmful" in your question. A proofreader would circle that with a polite "WTF?"
posted by rokusan at 3:58 PM on September 10, 2009

To me it's a not the same as arrogant. You can be arrogant and be otherwise perfectly correct.

This kind of overconfidence borders on what I'd call "reality mismatch." It shows that the person doesn't quite have a grasp on the way things really are which is a very bad sign.
posted by fleacircus at 5:31 PM on September 10, 2009

How you adapt to each individual interviewers style and build rapport with them is just as important as how you tender your responses. It's not an automaton sitting accross from you in an interview; it's a living breathing, burping individual just like you. Your confidence should be directed at subtlely building rapport as much as espousing your greatness. How you adapt and allign, convey and struture your thoughts in tune with your interviewers style and questions is the mark of a successful candidate.

Your writing here so far is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, (definate, your, debat, alreadly, oppurtunity, patern, would start started marking). If this is an issue for you, have someone proofread all your written correspondence before mailing it. If it came down to two equally deserving candidates and one had spelling and grammatical errors in their communication and one did not, then the job could go the latter. You can be the most confident person in the world but communication skills are what interviewers are often looking at first. Communication is evaluated in at least two forms. Spoken AND written forms. Practice good spelling even on an internet forum where an odd few thousand of your peers drop in. I am guilty of sloppiness in this regard too, so I will take my own advice.
posted by Muirwylde at 5:51 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

structure, for example... :)
posted by Muirwylde at 5:52 PM on September 10, 2009

Does this hurt one's chances of actually being accepted?

It does if I'm interviewing.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:10 PM on September 10, 2009

One of the wisest pieces of management information I've ever received is that interviews are really about one thing: assessing the degree of self-awareness of the interviewee. Yes, you're looking for skills, experience, logic, attentiveness, a good personality fit; but the thing that makes or breaks people in interviews is whether or not they are able to perceive and modulate their own impact on others.

Arrogant people don't do this well. They're so busy projecting and sending that they take very little time to adopt the empathic stance and ask themselves how they're coming across. They make those arrogant statements without realizing how arrogant they sound. They project more confidence than is warranted by their experience, and that begins to look like nothing other than callowness or hubris - but they don't realize it, because they aren't tuned in to their own transmissions. They aren't making a realistic assessment of themselves as they're being received by others.

And as others in the thread have noted, that's really the most important thing at work. Work is a social environment, and interpersonal skills - including a realistic sense of one's powers, adaptability, and an awareness of how you're being received and how to read others. A great deal of arrogance almost always equals a low proportion of self-awareness. The sole exception to that rule comes at the truly senior level, when people have made all the bones there are to make, have earned their confidence, and all that's left is really fit with the hiring institution at that moment.
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on September 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

One of the wisest pieces of management information I've ever received is that interviews are really about one thing: assessing the degree of self-awareness of the interviewee.

This. I've done a few job interviews, and this is always what I'm looking for. This is also why people ask you questions like: "what are your qualities/flaws?" Everybody thinks these questions are LOL STOOPID, because they think by saying "I guess I'm too much of a perfectionist, and people complain that I'm a workaholic" they'll get the job.

In fact, the answers to these questions tell you most of what you need to know about someone. And the body language, and the twitches, and the moment people straighten their tie or swallow. Or the way they raise their eyebrows in a nice little triangle above their nose saying effectively: "I'm afraid now".

It's like this: your personality leaks out of everything you do and say, especially under stress, and people (even people with seemingly poor people skills) are very empathic. If your actions and words don't match, they feel a disconnect. And that usually means trouble.
posted by NekulturnY at 3:39 AM on September 11, 2009

Never assume you're a shoo-in! You can be completely confident that you are perfect for the job, that they really should hire you, that it would be a big win for them and for you, and you can make that clear, but NEVER assume you're a shoo-in. That stinks of entitlement. It may be a great fit, and a great job for you, but you're not entitled to it.

pazazygeek makes an excellent point here. I interviewed somebody for a position at our organization a while back whose sense of entitlement was through the roof. FWIW, this person was a loose acquaintance of myself and the other interviewer and as it turns out, had never been particularly friendly to either of us until they were sitting in front of us wanting a job. This person also told me point blank that what they were really gunning for was MY job. Also, the application was full of typos - the attitude was "I have this in the bag so I'm not even gonna make the effort." Ugh. A spectacular fail all around.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:07 AM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks again to everyone who wrote in, and no thank you to the people who didn't take the time to read my whole post.

The General feeling seems to be, "dear god, don't be an ass"

Just to reiterate, the two instances I have tried doing this was 1] for a scam, and 2] I really didn't feel confident in and figured I needed to really project a go getter attitude.

All the information is really helpful, thanks!
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2009

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