EMPLOYERS value confidence in prospective employees. But yet it remains an elusive quality in many job hunters.

Few people realise it but if self-doubt creeps in, confidence easily gets eroded. You can start to question every aspect of your life, lose touch with your instincts and doubt your self-worth.

Success at interviews comes to those who not only exhibit confidence but are also able to demonstrate an ability to overcome setbacks, deal with fear, learn from mistakes and maintain a constantly positive frame of mind.

Confidence, despite being a much-desired quality, is difficult to measure.

During job interviews, highly experienced interviewers are able to make a careful assessment of the prospective candidate’s confidence level through skilled questioning techniques and a structured interviewing process.

This helps them to establish the ability of the person to cope with challenging and unexpected situations and the demands of the job he is applying for.

Your confidence level tends to fluctuate according to what is going on in your life at the time of the interview.

Interviewers may pose seemingly innocuous questions about your social or family life.

These are, in fact, double-edged questions that enable the interviewer to assess your resilience or emotional stability if there are some problems in your private life.

How will you answer these questions?

Honest and rational responses that tell the interviewer that you are “in control” will speak volumes about you and your ability to cope when things get rough on the job.

Prepare yourself well

It is relatively easy for an expert to spot people who are less than confident. You may not be aware of it, but you betray yourself — and what you are really thinking or feeling — by the way you speak, the way you phrase your replies and your body language.

The tone, pitch and timbre of your voice can tell your interviewer if you are feeling nervous, interested or irritated.

Watch your body language too: fiddling with a pen, looking at your shoes instead of at the interviewer, slouching in your seat or crossing your arms tightly can all send negative signals to the interviewer.

Remember, you want to project an aura of self-confidence.

To mentally boost your confidence level, focus on your strengths and achievements instead of your failings and weaknesses.

If the interviewer asks about your “weaknesses”, try to couch them in positive language: for example, you might say that you find it difficult to turn down co-workers who turn to you for help even when you are busy, as you have a reputation for being approachable.

Your “weakness” can thus be interpreted as a strength by the interviewer, because you have implied that you are a team player and also the “go to” person whose expertise is recognised by your co-workers.

Answering tough questions

Sometimes when the interview is going very well, the interviewer may suddenly ask: “What are your plans for the immediate future? We may not select you as there are a few candidates who are as strong or better than you.”

Some candidates are stumped when posed with this question during a final interview. They wonder: “Is the interviewer preparing me for rejection?”

The answer is an emphatic “no”, but many candidates think this is a signal that they are to going to be rejected. Consequently, they give a “panic-button” answer and shoot themselves in their foot!

Experienced interviewers are not just focusing on your reply — how you handle the question and phrase your answer — but observing your facial expressions and body language too.

Very few candidates practise handling such a “tough” question, especially since it tends to be asked at the tail end, when interviewers are making their final evaluation before deciding on the candidate to select.

Truly confident candidates would have prepared for this question, boosting their ability to give the right response.

They might calmly say: “As only the best of the best will selected for this job, I understand that I may not be successful this time.

“While I will be disappointed, as I would really like to contribute to this company, I do have other options to consider. Nevertheless, I would ask to be placed on a shortlist should another opportunity arise.”

This answer tells the interviewer you are aware of your worth, you are not desperate for the job although you are interested in doing it, and that you are mature enough not to take the rejection personally. Now that’s confidence!

Tomorrow: Building confidence before job interviews

Article by Kamal Kant, a part-time lecturer in Careers, Employment Relations and Management at NanyangTechnologicalUniversity and SIM Global Education.
He conducts career workshops and career coaching
in his spare time.