Successful candidates believe in themselves – 7 ways to cultivate inner confidence

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Sounds an obvious statement doesn’t it – successful candidates believe in themselves? But whether you admit to it or not the chances are you suffer from varying degrees of self-doubt. And if you are anything like most people, and funnily most people are, self-doubt increases the more stress you are put under.

Even famous and successful people suffer from it.

Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post calls it her “obnoxious roommate”. [1] Prolific writer Steven Pressfield wrote the quite brilliant, Do The Work, based on his own battles overcoming self-doubt. And Mike Myers admits to expecting to be arrested by the no-talent police at any time.

Interviews can be extremely stressful, especially if there’s a lot riding on it like your livelihood and the ability to pay the bills. So what can you do? Well the good news is it is possible to create genuine self-belief and in a reasonably short time. It will take a little work though. The other good news is that the list below isn’t the only set of things you can do. If they don’t work for you then spend a little time on Google and you’ll find a wealth of information that may resonate with you.

This is what has worked for me and others:

#1 The 5 Ps – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Few things will build your confidence as much as preparing well for an interview. Do your research on the position and the company. Think about all the questions they may ask you and prepare outline answers. Go back over your CV/career and be clear about your successes and failures and any gaps in employment. Anticipate the worst questions and prepare for these too.

Ask a good friend/colleague or mentor to do a mock interview and give you feedback. Think about videoing or at least recording your answers and listen back several times. If your budget can stretch to it then think about engaging an interview coach. A £100 invested now could you repay you a thousand fold.

#2 Get writing – list your accomplishments

As we go through life it’s too easy to forget or even belittle our achievements and what we are good at, both in and out of work. Most of us aren’t insufferable show-offs but many of us do underestimate our strengths.

Take some time to go back and think in detail about everything you’ve achieved. Do this job by job starting with the latest and work back. It doesn’t matter how large or small. It might have been managing a major launch or simply handling a difficult conversation well. The point is to compile as much evidence as possible. Keep asking yourself questions such as: what did I do?/what difference did this make to…?/what would have happened had I not done ….?/

So what’s on your list?

#3 Ask others – no man is an island

If you are struggling with #3 then ask others. My best friend has reminded me on many an occasion that no man is an island. It is OK to ask for help. This was illustrated to me when a girlfriend was once kind enough to write me a long list of things she appreciated about me. Most were things I didn’t see as significant or strengths, but through her eyes I came to appreciate them and value them in myself. To this day if I’m having a bad day I’ll have a look at that list and gives me a pick me up.

Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for their thoughts. Feel silly doing it? Why not start with a list for them and pay it forward before asking them to reciprocate.

#4 Read positive material every day

We all know the importance of feeding ourselves good healthy food and exercising even if we don’t do it as much as we might like. But how many of us take the same approach with our minds. Your mind is like a garden, if you don’t tend it then it will be overcome with weeds. Take time every day to read, watch and or listen to positive material.

What that means to each person may be different. Personally, I like many of the memes you find on Facebook and I have a library of these I refer to. Find what works for you and do it – that’s what successful people do. Why should you be any different?

#5 Look after yourself – diet, exercise, sleep

This follows neatly on from #5. The link between our body’s physical state and our mental state has been proven beyond doubt. You don’t have to make drastic changes, but simply trying to make a few better food choices daily will make you feel better.

As will exercise. You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym if that’s not your scene. Simply getting out for a 30 min walk daily will also boost your metabolism and your mood – both will have a positive effect on your confidence.

The importance of getting enough sleep cannot be overstated. Even having a little as one extra hour a night from 6.5 to 7.5 hours boost mental agility. If you don’t get enough REM sleep which occurs in the second half of the night then your brain doesn’t have time to reduce all the stress hormones from the previous day meaning you may wake more stressed an anxious than is beneficial. [3] [4]

#6 Daydream – visualisation is a powerful tool

Let’s be honest, daydreaming is something many of us probably haven’t spent much time doing since we were kids. But allowing yourself time to daydream or visualise an outcome that you want is an extremely powerful tool. Arnold Schwarzenegger credits it as a fundamental part of his success across body building, films and politics. We know that elite athletes spend time doing it too, so if it’s good enough for them why isn’t it good enough for you?

In his best-selling book Mind Power, John Kehoe [5] suggests the following simple three-step process:

  1. Decide what you want to do: ace the interview, feel confident, deliver a memorable presentation etc.
  2. Relax: Spend several minutes unwinding so that you are comfortable.
  3. Spend five to ten minutes visualizing the reality that you want.

It’s important that you focus and think of the outcome you do want, not what you don’t want to happen and not what might or could happen. It must also be happening right now – make it real, and detailed. This must also be done daily, ideally in the morning and in the evening but requires no more than a few minutes at a time.

#7 Rinse and repeat – do this stuff daily

Maya Angelou was spot on when she said: “nothing will work unless you do”.

The fact is if you’ve decided to do any or all of the above to gain some confidence, then the best results occur when you do it daily. The compound power of doing these few things grows the longer you do it.

If you’ve only got two days before a big interview then I suggest you focus on #1 and #7. If you’ve got a week or longer then consider doing as many as you can. The more you do and the longer you do them the greater your self-confidence will become.

Good luck.


[1] Arianna Huffington – the obnoxious roommate

[2] Do The Work – Steve Pressfield

[3] How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you?

[4] The Science of Sleep: how to get more sleep and have more energy

[5] Mind Power – John Kehoe

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