Quiet confidence

The following was posted in response to a question submitted for Mailbag Monday.

Q:  I thought I had a great interview with a firm and had the experience the firm was looking for and my grades were strong (although I did not go through the Fall interviewing program).  I did not get much feedback with my rejection (other than a one liner response from the HR person suggesting that I may have been overconfident) so I was wondering if LegalJob had any thoughts since LegalJob knows me and is familiar my credentials.

Answer:   A couple of thoughts.

Reach out for feedback (quickly while memories are fresh).  

Consider contacting everyone you met (including HR folks) and asking for feedback on your candidacy and interviews.  It could not hurt to have this information and it may help you polish your approach for the next interview.

Comment about being overconfident.

LegalJob suspects folks may have mistaken your strong sense of self and ambitiousness for arrogance.   There is a fine line between the two and the way you are perceived depends on the personality types of the interviewers.  However, as a general rule at the big firm, you are probably best served being understated and humble.  There are lots of egos to compete with at the big firm so one with the quiet confidence of David likely fares better than one with the boastful arrogance of Goliath.  

A display of quiet confidence could include:

  • Demonstrating a sense of maturity and calm (so limit body, hands, and face movements);
  • Dressing professionally and understated (no flashy ties, jewelry, accessories);
  • Being measured in your behavior (not too slick, not flirty);
  • Talking deliberately and with authority, without shouting or talking over the person (so softer is generally better);
  • Articulating specifics of your quantitative or other impact on the projects you worked on (without overstating your role);
  • Being deferential at all times (in speech, in your responses, air time, etc.)
    • Plan to listen more than talk and demonstrate active listening by asking relevant follow-up questions
  • Moving the gaze of the eyes slowly and carefully with lots of eye contact;
  • Showing a sense of humor (with the focus on interviewer and perhaps some self deprecation not you doing stand up); and
  • Showing a sincere interest in the interviewer and the firm.

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