Don’t Be Too Humble In A Job Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Humility is good. It’s a positive character trait that most people admire. But like too much arrogance, too much humility can quickly rule you out as a job candidate.

During the interview, the employer needs to find out if you have the skills and experience to do the job. They need to find out if you will be a good fit for their organization, and determine if your values align with theirs’. They also need to understand if your reason (your motivation) for applying makes sense.

The interview is not the time to hold back and under-sell yourself. But nor is it the time to over-sell yourself.

You need to find the right balance between humility and over-confidence. How to talk about yourself without sounding arrogant.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, you have to speak openly about your own accomplishments. Give credit to others when appropriate, but the employer wants to know what you have done. Say “I” more that “we.”

2. Back up your accomplishments with evidence. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear high-level statements like, “I fixed their HR problems.” They want you to back up your statement with details. Tell them what you did and what the outcomes were. 

3. Do not volunteer negatives about your own background. I often hear candidates say, “I don’t have experience in _______.” Highlighting shortcomings in your work history doesn’t help you.

4. Project a quiet confidence about yourself. You will be taken more seriously if you come across as relaxed, happy, and poised. Think like someone who wants the job but doesn’t need the job.

5. Make sure your body language and words align. Lean forward, make eye contact, use hand gestures, and smile. You will appear relaxed, professional, and confident.

6. Nothing displays more confidence than acknowledging your mistakes. It says you’re not perfect. (BTW, no one is.) It takes a strong person to admit their mistakes and appreciate there is room for improvement.

Remember, your goal in an interview is to explain how your blend of skills, experience, and personal attributes can add value to that employer.

If this is done in a genuine and respectful way, you will still be able to maintain your humility—but in a way that helps you not hurts you.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh