November 24, 2020

Job Interview – The danger of superiority

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„Always say less than necessary.“ – Robert Greene

A little while ago I wrote an article about how a job rejection can be interpreted and how good candidates can interpret that outcome, not ending up swayed or convinced that they’re not as good as they really are. You can read about it here. In this article I want to dive deeper in the realm of being too good of a candidate, either for a specific company culture or the person who is sitting across that table. A hypothetical scenario in this case would entail Mark who has extensive experience in X field with an ambition to lead a team at a manager position. Mark is very well-spoken, has tremendous extrovert energy and doesn’t mind taking the lead in a conversation. Let’s write an assumed conversation during an interview:

  1. Interviewer: „Mark, where do you see yourself in the near future?“

Mark: „Let me start from the beginning. I worked as a student for couple of years in a gym as a receptionist because I needed to finance not just me but my family as well. It was tough but I was always a firm believer in myself and my ability to succeed in any endeavor I set as my goal. After I decided I wanted this type of work as my career, I went out of my way to do anything I possibly could to get the position. I studied extra hard, met people with connections to said communities and even went knocking on doors to leave my CV. All of that led to this point which was my goal now for couple of years. I’m very confident in my ability that I am ready for a managerial position. I don’t have any practical experience but I’m the type of a person who easily takes charge and the lead in a team without hesitation. My confidence is so sharp that I see myself in your seat in couple of years.

  • Interviewer: „Mark, why should we hire you?“

Mark: „Because you will not be disappointed. The job details are something I know by heart and even though I never formally led a team of people, I’m confident in my latent abilities that I will perform that task beyond your expectations. I’ve struggled and succeeded all my life to try and get into a position I want. Against all odds, it happened and this should be no exception.

Let’s examine these two answers. My assumption here is that Mark is speaking to an interviewer who is his peer in experience but also holds the manager position in question. With that regard, these two answers are a high risk for Mark as a candidate which we will get into below. Let me just be clear that these two answers are very good if a company is looking for someone to take charge with utter self-confidence, especially if the interviewer is a CEO or some other C-level management.


Did I give a good answer?

Danger: false arrogance

Let’s dive into it. So right off the bat, these two answers look intimidating because they sound too confident and sure of the person who is speaking. There’s a multitude of reasons why a person across the table wouldn’t like that tone and style of verbalizing an answer. In the most general opinion, people don’t like strong-willed and leadership-like qualities on the first interview, especially if the person across the table feels threatened by them. It’s in people’s nature to compete and compare themselves against someone they deem worthy. An interview is no exception. If the person across the table is of lower characteristics in those particular instances, they will imagine you with them in a team. Let me tell you, if they feel threatened for any reason, you will not go into the second round of interviews.

Danger: false focus

Another problem with those answers, or rather the first one is that they seem out of place. The answers shouldn’t be too long and digressed or else the interviewer might feel like you can’t keep your focus and stay on point. Your answers shouldn’t be short but they should be concise. Along with focus, this problem also takes into consideration the interview structure the person across the table had in mind. If they wanted to ask a specific set of questions in a specific period of time and you’re messing up that schedule, you can come off as too sales-oriented as well as not having good organizational skills.


How should I appear?

Danger: false character perception

These answers come off as too dominating. We should always remember that the interviewer or any person across the table has to have control over the conversation. The tone and demeanor of these answers would be a sign of manipulating either the interviewer’s perception of your abilities or simply establishing dominance in a conversation. The second thing is fairly easy to accomplish since people are usually not fond of that characteristic so we should always be careful of that. When we give an answer to any question, we should be mindful of the balance between confidence and humility. If either of those hangs too far in the balance, you won’t be invited into the second round.

Avoiding the danger

There isn’t a specific remedy for these problems because we’re dealing with people at the end of the day. The only thing you can do is prepare and arm yourself with useful information. What does that mean exactly? If you’re invited for an interview, find out how the interviewer(s) will be. Find out their professional background and what the current company culture is like. That is easy today because of online forums and company scoring websites like Glassdoor or Indeed. When you find that out, you can act accordingly and prepare the specific demeanor which would ensure the best possible chance of passing that interview.

Takeaway

It’s easy not passing the interview because of lack of necessary experience or skills but the true difficulty is to appear humble and honest to your character while giving the best possible answers to pass that interview. To do that successfully, we have to look and examine the people who are across that table. What exactly is that which they would respond to, how to give a good answer without sounding too arrogant or too humble etc. People always say to be yourself or to not try and be dishonest during an interview but they never say anything about the interviewers themselves. That’s on us and our ability to be the best version of ourselves for that specific position.