Confidence As You Job Search: Fake It Till You Make It

Confidence is not a constant state of mind, natural attribute, or accessible to only some. It takes work, practice, and attention.

Among the many steps needed to navigate today’s job search system, one thing I don’t hear enough about is the importance of projecting confidence in your ability to do the work.  Most job seekers are earnest, honest people who sell themselves short by not recognizing their abilities, not knowing how to convey them, and/or feeling uncomfortable promoting their talents over others. Today’s job market is a competition, folks! You must compete, if you want the job.

More and more recruiters are telling me they’re not getting enough applications from the right candidates for their positions. I know they’ve had good candidates apply. They just don’t realize it because candidates aren’t confidently showing how they are perfect for the position.

Successful job candidates need to wage a well thought out campaign with multiple tools beyond just the resume, cover letter, and application. You must network, have interviewing strategies, a professional web presence, and confidence.  Lots of it.

I hear all the time, “Oh, Patty!  You’re so confident.” I aspire to be that. I project that. But, I can feel just as unsure as the next person in a new situation or meeting new people. The difference is that I know I must project confidence, regardless of whether I feel it, and I know what I must do to build my confidence until it becomes real.

The first thing I have done as a job seeker is assess my skills and experience, matching them to the job or opportunity I am pursuing. Employers don’t care that I could learn how to do what they need. They want to hear that I already know how to do those things.

I look at similar situations where I used the skills and experience they are seeking. I write them down and review them to help me remember when I am customizing my resume and cover letter, filling out an application, preparing for, and for participating in an interview. I also remember examples of how I’ve taught myself new things and stayed up-to-date in my field, so I can ensure recruiters that I’ll be able to figure out new things and get up to speed quickly.

Then, I think of what makes me stand out from my colleagues and would make me stand out from my competition. Recruiters see so many cover letters, applications, and resumes that look the same, and barely say anything about what kind of person or worker the candidate is. I make sure my written materials are fresh, up-to-date, customized for that position, and not only address what they say they need, but anticipate what I think they’ve not said they need.

I take time to research the employer, reading their leader profiles and the “About” page on their website, Googling them, and talking to anyone I can who has worked there or knows about them, to learn about the company and their leaders’ values. I remind myself of the behaviors needed to project confidence in person; neat, business clothing, good posture, looking someone in the eye (or seeming to), a sincere smile, being ready to shake hands or not, depending on what the hiring panel representatives signal, knowing how to do a little small talk; about the weather, traffic, appreciating an attractive office, and saying how nice it is to meet each person.

My knees may quake and my heart will beat faster. But because I’ve prepared and practiced, I will project confidence. I show them that I sell myself in the same way I will sell their company, product, or service. If they like what they see and hear, and I feel the same from them, real confidence will arrive. If they show they don’t like what they see and hear, or I don’t like what I see and hear, I will expect the job or business may not be a good fit.  But, I will continue pressing my candidacy in a practice of confident professionalism, just in case I misread the situation.

Of course, I will examine in detail every nuance of the conversation after my interview, and think about what I might have done better. But, I will also stop self-criticism quickly, because I know that is the biggest confidence killer. I will keep my hopes up and, at the same time, continue to look for more possibilities, some of which may be even better opportunities. This way I will not be devastated and go into more self-criticism, if I do not get the job.

Confidence is not a constant state of mind, natural attribute, or accessible to only some. It takes work, practice, and attention. It is one of the most important tools in your job search toolbox. Cultivate it!

Posted on site 9/13/16