Too Much of a Good Thing: Is Your Ambition or Confidence Costing You?

In the interview setting, a candidate can actually have too much of a good thing.  What do I mean? Well, there are qualities that most people would classify as a good quality, but if a candidate interviewing for a job has too much of that quality, it can work against them.  I wanted to highlight two qualities that can quickly turn from positive attributes to negative ones in an interview setting:  Ambition and Confidence. 


Ambition is a wonderful and admirable quality, and so I am not saying that ambition is bad.   Also, most hiring managers would see a healthy amount of ambition as a desirable attribute in a new hire.  Yet, I do see some candidates where their ambition has worked against them and has actually cost them the job offer. 

Overly-ambitious candidates can be difficult to manage when their unrealistic expectations for career advancement cannot be met by the company.  When the promotion train doesn’t move quickly enough, the employee begins to feel frustrated, which could lead to an array for challenges for the manager.  To avoid all this, managers tend to avoid hiring apparently over-ambitious candidates.

I would advise potentially over-ambitious candidates to avoid a potential trap that happens in interviews.  If the interview takes a turn where future positions and bigger roles within the company are being discussed, my advice is to bring the discussion back to the job that is available and at hand.  Otherwise, the company may see the candidate as not truly interested in the role available today.  Managers generally don’t want to hire people who are only concerned about how the manager’s available role positions the candidate for the next step in their career.  The take-away is to focus on the role that is available today and do not allow your ambition to sweep you away and cost you the job. 

My advice is to bring the discussion back to the job that is available and at hand.


Like ambition, confidence is an attractive quality that in proper amounts is seen as admirable.  Yet too much confidence is perceived as arrogance, which is not admirable at all.  Managers want to hire people who have enough confidence and ego-drive to be resilient and decisive employees, but conceit and self-importance can poison a team environment. 

Humility is the antidote to arrogance.

If you feel like perceived arrogance is a challenge for you when interviewing, remember that humility is the antidote to arrogance. Perhaps try to express that you’re impressed with others’ accomplishments versus trying to impress them with your accomplishments. Exercise active listening versus dominating the conversation.  My favorite quote about humility comes from CS Lewis, who said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  When I meet a candidate who is good AND humble, I know that my clients are going to want to hire them. 

One way to counteract both over-ambition and arrogance is with gratitude.  An overly ambitious person may come across as unappreciative for the opportunities they’ve been afforded and the one at hand.  An arrogant person may not fully acknowledge other people’s contributions to their success.  A humble and grateful person is always well-received in an interview. 

Showcasing a proper balance of these qualities can help you tightrope your way to a job offer.  If you have too little of these qualities you can certainly lose the job offer, but the more common problem is that candidates have too much of a good thing.  I hope this information helps you develop a balanced approach for your next interview.

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