The Unfair Advantage of Self-Confidence


For confident people, things come easy – jobs, raises, promotions. According to Chase Hughes, harnessing your internal self-confidence in 5 steps is key to getting ahead.

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This article on self-confidence is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.

Confident people have an unfair advantage over everybody else. They get promoted more easily, they’re more likely to get a raise, more likely to get out of speeding tickets, get bumped up to first-class, and they get more job offers. 

According to Chase Hughes, a former military interrogator turned expert on human behavior science who advises his clients on persuasion, confidence is defined as the anticipation of positive outcomes and a generalized expectation of capability. Yet, it doesn’t take an expert to understand that confidence exerts a significant force on the outcomes of our everyday lives. 

As a career coach with over 25 years of experience in recruitment and coaching, I’ve seen firsthand how confidence – or the lack of it – can make or break the outcome of an interview. 

Why do confident people enjoy an unfair advantage over others? Hughes says it’s because humans evolved to follow confident authority figures; this tendency is baked into us by evolution.

Why Self-Confidence Is Critical To Success

A little history. Humans evolved to survive in groups for protection from predators. Evolving within the context of a community is often cited as the most significant reason for the success of the human species. 

Successfully surviving in the tribe requires getting along with others and conforming to social norms, as well as following a perceived leader. When in the presence of a perceived leader, we are naturally more compliant, sometimes a lot more compliant. This is the result of millions of years of programming. 

We are evolutionarily predisposed to follow or pay attention to authority in ways we don’t consciously perceive.

If you’ve seen the film “Catch Me If You Can,” you’ll know the story of Frank Abagnale, a man with no professional skills or experience who was able to con hundreds of people with confidence alone. This is where the term con man comes from; confidence man. While I’m not suggesting you commit fraud, Abagnale’s story illustrates the tremendous value in understanding how cultivating internal confidence and understanding how, often unconscious, social interactions can help you succeed in almost any circumstance.

The Five Elements of Self-Confidence

Here are the five elements of self-confidence, according to Hughes.

Internal Assumed Permission

You have assumed you have permission to behave a certain way; this belief forms your behavior.  It can be tricky to make this kind of internal assumption during interviews, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with interviewing. One way to make interviews easier and assume internal permission is to remember that your interviewer was interested enough to go through the trouble to meet with you. The fact you have an interview at all indicates you have permission to show up and promote your skills and experience.

Lack of Reservation or Uncertainty

Your behavior is smooth and fluid – it comes forth without hesitation or tentativeness. This takes some practice. If you don’t feel sufficiently smooth with your presentation, rehearse your answers with a partner or coach. At Flatiron School I regularly do mock interviews with graduates for exactly this purpose. Practicing your elevator pitch or answers to common questions allows you to develop ease and flow in your delivery and displays a lack of reservation or uncertainty.

Sense of Authority

Embracing and embodying elements 1 and 2 results in the belief that you are the author of what you are doing or saying. You have authority, which is the internal belief that you are creating what’s going on and you have permission to do it. Your sense of authority kicks in as a result of practicing steps 1 and 2. Notice how these elements build on each other.

Note: Steps 4 and 5 take place externally.

Social Proof

Observing someone who displays 1, 2, and 3, tends to cause others, often unconsciously,  to assume other people follow them or accept their authority too. Think back to the earlier points regarding human evolution. By showing up to your interview embodying 1,2 and 3 above, the social proof follows. A successful 1st round interview means that recruiting/HR believes in your abilities and advances you to the next round; it’s an implied recommendation to the hiring team. Although this is the standard order of an interview process, it is also an indication of social proof.

External Assumed Permission

External assumed permission is the result of practicing the previous four elements. You can be so confident in your behavior you lend confidence to someone else. That is, an extremely confident person permits other people to act a certain way or give a certain amount of respect, deference, trust, or compliance. You are not only confident in yourself, you transfer that confidence to others, and in doing so, wield great influence over everyday outcomes; especially job interviews.

Using The Elements of Self-Confidence To Succeed

If you are a recent graduate, it can be tricky to master all these elements in interviews. After all, you don’t have any experience (yet) to prove you can write code in a professional setting. 

Relax and start at the beginning. 

Remember to claim your Internal Permission (Element 1), you have achieved quite a lot by earning your bootcamp certificate and you have been invited for an interview. 

Own it. 

Practice with a coach or mentor and achieve Element 2, Lack of Reservation. Share your answers with ease and flow, your authoritative delivery is the achievement of element 3, Sense of Authority. 

Successfully performing elements 1, 2, and 3, can influence others such that they act like you are a software engineer; your confidence has permitted them to offer you a job.

So next time you find yourself shaking in your boots before an interview, remember these five elements of self-confidence. Each one builds on the other. It can take a little practice and it is well worth the effort. It starts with assuming internal permission and you can absolutely do this. 

If you were waiting for some permission, you have it now. 

About Dyana King

Dyana King is a career coach with Flatiron School. She previously worked as a technical recruiter and co-founded a technical recruiting agency, Thinknicity. She became a certified professional coach (CPC) in 2012 and specialized in transition and career engagement coaching.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of July 7, 2022. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Dyana King

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