How to look confident in an interview when you’re not

Boost your confidence with these interview prep tips

3 min read

May 2021

Woman in gray suit with arms crossed smiling confidently at camera

Even the most confident people get nervous when going through an intense interview process. I can vividly recall walking into an interview and being asked, “So, do you want the easy questions first or the hard ones?” I don’t recall exactly what was going through my mind at the time, but I responded with, “I’ll take the hard ones.” You see, over time I’ve found ways to demonstrate my confidence without tipping off interviewers to the fact that I was secretly panicking on the inside.

At Progressive, we understand how stressful interviewing can be, and part of our role as recruiters is to help candidates prepare to minimize that stress. We have an opportunity to help bolster a candidate’s confidence through preparation, coaching, and encouragement. We want candidates to put their best foot forward when participating in an interview. Here are a few things I share with candidates to help them prep for interviews.

Knowledge is power

Much like cramming for a test in college, studying for your interview can help you feel composed and calm. Take some time to research the company and review your own accomplishments. Write down how your interview responses tie back to the skills and experience the company is seeking in their ideal candidate. Along with readying yourself for your interviewer’s questions, you’ll remind yourself why you are a fit for this role, which is a great confidence booster.

Dress for success

I’ve found that deciding what to wear to an interview can cause added stress. Candidates will typically ask about our dress code and look for suggestions, and my answer is always the same: go conservative. It’s rarely appropriate to dress down for an interview, regardless of a company’s dress code. I suggest wearing a color that makes you feel good about yourself or wearing your favorite go-to professional clothes.

Be engaged

Being attentive during an interview is important and a good indicator of a person’s level of confidence. I have listened to interview teams talk about candidates who didn’t appear focused and they assume it’s because the person was nervous or lacked confidence. That may or may not have been the case, but you certainly don’t want to risk leaving interviewers with that impression. I recommend trying to maintain a steady conversational pace while also glancing down at your resume or padfolio from time to time. Remember, practice makes perfect.

If you have other strategies that have worked for you in the past, use them. There are more ways to appear confident—even when you don't feel that way–than what I’ve outlined above. I’ve coached many candidates on what to expect, how to prepare, and what they can do to be successful in a situation where anxiety comes with the territory. Remember, you are interviewing that person and organization just as much as they are interviewing you.

Alexandra Russ is a Senior Talent Advisor at Progressive Insurance. She is a highly motivated recruiting professional with more than a decade of experience identifying the best and brightest talent to join our team.

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