Don’t be THAT candidate

By Josh McAfee

Job Candidate Resume HR Jobs Board Apply Career InterviewI’ve got some bad news. If you’ve interviewed with more than seven companies and not received any offers or even gotten into the last round of interviews, the problem probably isn’t with the companies. 

I get it. Everyone dreads interviewing. There’s hours of prep work that goes into it and you rarely get any worthwhile feedback on how to improve. It’s unfortunately not in the hiring manager’s best interest to do that. Not only are they incredibly busy, but they can’t risk opening the company up to a potential lawsuit. 

The good news is that there is a solution that will likely increase your chances of successfully nailing your next interview and getting more valuable offers. 

Every recruiter has candidates who don’t get the job for reasons that are 100% IN the candidate’s control. It’s a sad and frustrating conversation to have with a candidate that should be getting fantastic offers coming at them left and right, but are unintentionally self sabotaging their opportunities. After working with several thousand applicants and hiring teams, I’ve noticed a common theme that seems to go along with many of the failures. 

A quick disclaimer: If you’re usually the smartest person in the room or are easily offended, you might want to stop reading now. This probably isn’t the article you want to read. 

Confidence vs cockiness vs insecurity 

Employee Retention Performance Development HR Recruiting Recruiter Leadership ManagerConfidence and cockiness seem to be separated by the finest of lines, but cockiness can often be rooted in insecurity. 

Being confident in your abilities, proud of what you’ve accomplished, and excited about your future and opportunities are excellent traits. Confident people are usually thankful for what they’ve accomplished and show gratitude towards their co-workers, mentors, leaders, team, company, vendors and/or clients. They won’t be as hung up on who is getting credit for every little thing, will praise the accomplishments of those around them, encourage others, own their decisions, and be able to articulate and apply what has been learned. They are also great at understanding a company’s needs and sharing how they bring value to the role. 

Some of the best sales leaders I’ve ever met are also the humblest unassuming people I know.  They are so relatable you get lost in conversation with them even though they really don’t say much.

Employee Retention Recruiting Leadership HR Business Tech Start up Growing CompanyConversely, a cocky person wants to talk about what an amazing job they did, how the project would have failed without them, or insist that they are the best one on the team every time. Their unwillingness to be thankful, acknowledge what others have contributed, and relate to those around them ultimately becomes self sabotaging. They often lead with what they want, think, feel, or need vs. where, when, how, and to whom they can add value.

If you don’t want to come off as THAT cocky candidate, take the time to reflect on who has helped you accomplish your goals and what opportunities have been made possible through the efforts of others. Practice giving credit where credit is due. It’s easy to fall into the habit of talking all about yourself. That’s the subject you’ll know the most about. Venture outside your comfort zone by intentionally engaging others in conversation through thoughtful questions and recognition.

Now let’s talk about insecurity. It can show itself in many ways: cockiness, gossiping, anxiety, talking too much, not talking at all, fidgeting, sweating profusely, or completely making stuff up. That’s not an exhaustive list of course. Each manifestation can be embarrassing and sabotage your job search and career advancement. 

Try this technique to keep yourself from coming across as insecure (and/or cocky). 

Team Member Company Growth Employee Performance Development1. Cultivate a trusted circle of very (brutally) honest, smart, ambitious friends 

2. Ask them to mock interview/grill you, to purposely get you out of your comfort zone (better to hone in answers with them vs. in actual interviews)

3. Have them ask tough personal and professional interview questions repeatedly

4. Get their feedback or hints on your responses 

5. Now flip it: YOU ask THEM questions about some fictitious company they work for

  • What’s the company culture?
  • What does it take to be successful on their team?
  • What’s their leadership style?
  • Why have people failed in the organization before?
  • What do they like most/least about the company?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

6. Practice asking them closing questions.

  • Is there anything I would need to learn or grow in to be successful in this role?
  • Do you think I’m a good match for the position and company culture?
  • Can I have the job? (YES, it’s OK to ask this question). 
  • What are the next steps? Does it make sense to set that up now to save you some time?


Take this opportunity to practice being inquisitive and showing interest. The more you practice, the more comfortable it will become and the less likely you’ll be to come across as THAT candidate. A little practice will also help you relax more in an interview and help them to get to know the real, genuine you. 

When you’re ready to show those hiring managers your best you, take a look at our careers page or send us a note!!

Hiring Recruiting Jobs Recruiter Josh McAfee Tech Jobs

Josh McAfee is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Humans Doing. With over 26 years of recruiting and team-building experience, Josh has worked with startups, SMBs, and large companies to determine hiring needs, develop our recruiting strategies and processes, and connect top talent to fuel growth. In 2021, he became a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author with his book Measure Up: Mastering Your Career Search Like a Boss.

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