Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, said, “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” You have to have to believe in yourself to even apply for jobs (you will not know until you try). Further, many jobs are very competitive…beyond your skills, knowledge, or credentials, your self confidence can make you stand out from your competitors who are also qualified for the jobs (for example, in cover letters or interviews). If what you say about yourself or how you say it (your body language) portrays confidence rather than uncertainty, others will be more likely to have confidence in you rather than uncertainty about you or your ability to handle the job. See this article on qualities of confident people (for example, taking a stand, the importance of listening, stepping away from the spotlight or giving others credit when/where it is due, owning up to mistakes, not putting others down, etc…): 9 Qualities of Truly Confident People – Dharmesh Shah on LinkedIn.
Many of the qualities Shah refers to in that article are not just about recognizing and being able to articulate your own awesomeness…in fact, they represent a balance between confidence and humility. In other words, along with R. Kelly, you can believe you can fly, but you might want to leave the sense of entitlement or vanity (e.g., “I’m too sexy for this job”) at home. Although the balance can be challenging, I encourage you to think critically about how you will achieve a humble, yet reasonable level of confidence that ensures your success and happiness throughout most of your career.
As you consider how you will balance humility and confidence in the hiring process, you may want to ask your friends, peers, or mentors what they think; because they know you, perhaps they could give you advice that relates to others’ positive perceptions of you. It may also be useful to think about stereotypes that may influence employer or decision-makers’ perceptions of you. For example, some research has shown that if you are a physically attractive person, you may be more likely to be perceived as less talented or one that has got there because of looks and luck rather than skill. Moreover, attractive people may be less likely to be hired when interviewers or potential employers are the same sex (because of jealousy) or when you apply for certain positions (i.e., attractive females are not as likely to get jobs as prison guards or engineers as men or less attractive females). See 10 Pleasures and Pains of Beauty on PSYBlog for links to the empirical research on attractiveness and the hiring process (for example, Agthe et al., 2011 or Johnson et al., 2010). Attractiveness is just one example, but the point is that when applying for jobs or thinking about how you will portray confidence, you should think about common stereotypes or how others may perceive you without knowing anything about you…and if needed, be prepared to confidently (yet humbly) prove them wrong!