Almost all career counselors advise to act confidently in job interviews, but are self-assured people actually more successful in their application?

There are a whole series of terms that describe a positive self-perception of oneself. Self-confidence in only one facet.

The four elementary components of the positive or negative self-perception in psychology describes the construct of the so-called Core Self-Evaluations (Judge et al., 1998), which can be roughly translated as “central self-assessments”. These are:

Self-esteem: the assessment of one’s self
Self-efficacy: one’s belief in their own capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific outcomes
Locus of control: belief that things are changeable by oneself and not externally controlled, such as by bad luck or “fate”
Emotional stability: disposition, able to stay calm during challenging situations

Are people with positive self-assessments more successful?

From a scientific perspective, the answer is yes.

Judge and Hurst published a long term study on this subject in the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP) in 2008. 12,000 participants from the US completed different questionnaires and provided information on a variety of circumstances, at regular intervals since 1979.

In a period of over 20 years, it became clear that people with more positive self-ratings were more professionally successful compared to individuals with lower self-ratings (as measured by professional status). They earned more money and, on average, were more satisfied with their work. This is probably due to the fact that people with high self-confidence can actually maintain themselves better in business situations.

The chicken and the egg problem

We have here the chicken and the egg problem: are self-confident people successful or are people, if they succeed, just more confident?

Facets of central self-assessments, like emotional stability or locus of control, tend to favour the first option. The long-term study also supports this hypothesis.

Another study showed that central self assessments also affect resistance to stress (Doorn & sleeve Heger, 2015). A positive self-image acts as type of buffer when people face setbacks or heavy workloads.

Are confident candidates also better in job interviews?

This question can be answered with ‘yes’ from a scientific perspective. Different studies have found that self-esteem and self-efficacy can positively impact performance in job interviews (Frey &, Scoboria, 2012).

No – or a very small amount showed that self-perception influenced candidate responses. Here only a small effect (r = .21, p <.01) was evident in interviews, compared to other methods (Nikolaou & Judge, 2007).

Narcissism: When is too much too much?

So a healthy dose of self-confidence does more good than it does harm. But when is there too much of a good thing? People with a very exaggerated self-perception are narcissists. However, narcissism must be seen as a special form of self-perception. In recent years, research on narcissism has experienced a real boom, especially in regards to leadership.

Tip: Use structure to look behind the facade

In summary, from a scientific perspective it is confirmed that healthy self-confidence is associated with some performance indicators and success of candidates in the selection process. We can even go so far as to say that people with high self-confidence can even manage to successfully hide their deficits in other areas.

For recruiters, it is important not to be blinded by a candidate’s self confidence when other important skills are missing. This can be overcome by using structured processes. In the end, confident candidates that have all the relevant competencies tend to be more successful on average.


van Doorn, RRA & sleeve Heger, UR (2015) What makes employees resilient to job demands? The role of core self-evaluation in the relationship between job demands and strain reactions, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24: 1, 76-87, DOI: 10.1080 / 1359432X.2013.858700

Frey, M. P., & Scoboria, A. (2012). Self-esteem predicts quality of responding to Interview Questions When skill in responding is low. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 363-368.

Judge, T. A., & Hurst, C. (2008). How the rich (and happy) get richer (and happier): Relationship of core self-evaluation to trajectories in Attaining work success. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 849-863.