Competencies: Self-confidence or Arrogance?
volume 2 number 5
In business, the line between arrogance and self-confidence has always been thin but well-defined. Until recently, in fact, it was fairly easy to separate real ability from conceit. But these days, when successes (Bill Gates), salaries (Michael Eisner), and egos (cast of thousands), are all outsized, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish healthy self-respect from blatant self-promotion.
Part of the blame lies with the current job market, which is long on engineering and technical positions and short on talented people to fill them. This leads to "bidding wars" for new graduates, many of whom are courted as if they were seasoned professionals. The wining and dining, along with exorbitant starting salaries, can quickly inflate a twenty year old ego.
With no end to the current trend in sight, interviewers need to be especially astute when it comes to cocky young candidates. A thorough understanding of behavioral competencies and sophisticated interviewing techniques can go a long way toward determining which candidates are hot prospects and which are just hot air.
Instead of focusing on the resume, interviewers should set their own agendas, inquiring, for instance, about extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, and special projects that demonstrate teamwork and self-motivation. And no interviewer should run through the standard list of awards and honors without finding out exactly how and why these were won.
Finally, it's especially challenging for interviewers to ascertain real versus hypothetical performances and contributions. One particularly useful technique is to ask a third-party Self-appraisal Question allowing the candidate to reveal how a demanding professor or former manager would evaluate their skills and abilities. Since there's always the possibility of contacting these references, candidates are less likely to exaggerate.
On the other hand, smart, talented, self-assured newcomers - exactly the kind of candidates managers dream about - needn't be turned away because their confidence is over the top. If the interviewer is savvy enough, arrogance can be toned down through the hiring process itself.