When I look up antonyms for the word “confident” I don’t see too many positive adjectives. Doubtful, afraid, cowardly, pessimistic, unsure, weak are all less than flattering descriptions of someone who possesses no confidence. Naturally when hiring a C-Level executive you don’t want them to be “pessimistic” about the future. When recruiting your next sales superstar you’re not looking for someone who is “cowardly” and can’t knock on doors right? Who do you want designing your next flux capacitor, the positive engineer or the one “unsure” of themselves?
Desiring self-assuredness in your job candidates is a no-brainer but when is too much confidence detrimental? Consider the following alternative adjectives when assessing confidence in your job candidates: Pompous, Arrogant, Pushy, and Conceited. Not too great are they? But wait, confidence can also mean hopeful, fearless, courageous, self-assured and bold right?
Those are all positive but have you considered what happens when you take one part confidence (C) add one part boldness (B) and remove a little conscientiousness (CT)? You get a formula that looks a lot like this. (C + B) – CT = Jerk!
See that picture at the right? That’s who you get! No, not Leonardo DiCaprio, you get a Wolf of Wall Street type. A synonym for “confident” is “bold” but have you really thought about the synonyms for “bold”. How about reckless, foolhardy, brash and audacious? Put those together with a pinch of pushiness and conceitedness and you have a potentially dangerous cocktail. Sure a person like that might achieve great things for your company but they may also tick off a lot of people on the way, especially if they don’t have an angel on their shoulder guiding their conscience.
Do you remember another actual criminal that DiCaprio once played? Frank Abagnale was a con-man and impersonator who early in his twenties impersonated an airline pilot, pediatrician and lawyer. How does a young man with little world experience have the cojones to impersonate a lawyer, pilot and doctor? The answer is sheer, insane confidence, boldness and a lack of conscientiousness sometimes seen in young adults.
Yes, Abagnale is an extreme example. Or is he? Plenty of movies have yet to be made. The world is chock full of Frank Abagnales, Bernie Madoffs and “Anonymous” hackers stealing our identities or money with their brazen confidence and lack of empathy. Do you want them representing your company brand? Will you be able to recognize them when they sit across from you? As an interviewer how “overconfident” are you?