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Improving your confidence

It is important that you are able to express yourself in a confident manner in interviews and assessment centres. This guide examines some of the ways in which you can improve your confidence and present yourself with a confident demeanour.

The professionals and graduates in the Standing out videos all said self-confidence was an essential ingredient to success in the workplace and a prerequisite for someone seeking graduate level employment. First impressions are vitally important.

How you walk into an interview room, how you sit and whether or not you make eye contact with the interviewer are all indications as to whether or not you are confident. Having confidence in one’s own abilities is a key to success and being confident could help you to stand out from other candidates. One UEL graduate suggested that you see yourself as a brand.

How does one acquire this elusive attribute?

With bravery and determination, it is not beyond the reach of all graduates to become confident individuals. It is important to note that just because someone behaves in a confident manner, it does not mean that they are feeling confident inside. With willpower and practice anyone can have a confident demeanour. It is possible to become more confident by entering into new experiences that are outside of your comfort zone. A word of warning - no one likes an arrogant person who is too full of themselves!

There are many Self-help guides available and those who would like to read more on this subject would be advised to research what is available. Being confident starts with having a good self-image and being able to play the role. What this guide seeks to do is to give you some pointers to get you to think about confidence and to suggest strategies.

Suggested activities that could improve your confidence

Richard Templar in his book ‘The Rules of Life’ (2006) suggests that, if one wants to be stimulated, challenged and to feel good about oneself, one should be prepared to become a little braver every day.

Develop belief in your capabilities

  • Reflect on all of your successes.
  • How have you made a difference in your world?
  • How will you continue to make a difference?

Develop strategies for coping with nerves

Before leaving home for an interview, some suggest following a personal ritual. For example, doing exercises and focusing on positive affirmations to remind yourself of your qualities as an individual. Before a match, some successful sportspeople swear by this technique.

Take Richard Templar’s advice – become a little braver every day

  • Visit somewhere on your own to enjoy a new experience an art gallery, lecture, exhibition or cinema.
  • Think of relevant questions to ask at the end of a lecture rather than leaving it to that person who always takes the floor.
  • Attend networking events and make sure that you speak to at least three people - ask for their card if you feel it appropriate to do so.

Watch other successful professionals. How do they behave?

  • Visit the public gallery at the Crown Court to see the barristers in action.
  • What are the ways a professional should behave? Prepare yourself a checklist.
  • Try mirroring behaviours.


Find practical experiences that enable you to develop confidence - push yourself forward

Offer to take minutes or meeting notes. Be the spokesperson for your group.

Catch up on your cultural experiences

Take advantage of London’s cultural attractions - see the Building your experience guide for lots of suggestions.

Expand your world view

Listen to in-depth news programmes such as Newsnight, The Politics Show and Today on Radio 4. Have an opinion on each item.

Watch films that are not in your mother tongue, films that are made by foreign film-makers as well as the latest blockbuster.

Show an interest in others

  • People like good listeners and are flattered by attention
  • Show a genuine interest in people by asking questions. Avoid prying personal questions though. Ask open questions.


Sounds very simple - it is!

Find ways to interact in person with people from different backgrounds

  • If a member of the university staff asks for student representation, take up the offer.
  • Join focus groups.
  • Become a student mentor.
  • Join societies and other UEL extra-curricular activities.
  • Take up volunteering opportunities.
  • Join mentoring schemes.
  • Enter UEL and national student competitions.
  • Attend networking events.

Know your sector

Confidence grows when you feel that you know something well. Research the sector within which you hope to work.

Don’t turn an interview down

  • It is possible to learn a great deal from an interview - procedures and ways of operating in new environments.
  • Even if you don’t get the job, knowing that you have not let yourself down and that you were able to hold your own is a good feeling.
  • Always ask for feedback if you are unsuccessful.

Be proactive

Start university events that will keep you in touch with people from different backgrounds, countries and continents.

Look at oneself as a brand and have a positive self image

  • What positive traits do you possess?
  • How do you dress to impress?
  • What is your unique selling point (USP)?

Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses

Promote what you are good at. Work out a strategy to address your weaknesses. Don’t be shy to tell people what you are good at.

Learn how to make the first move

At an event where you know no one, make an effort to talk to people that you don’t know. Make sure that you have some suitable conversation openers!

Be able to articulate your employability skills

Practice your responses to likely questions – record yourself and evaluate your answers.

Become assertive

In her book, 'Learn to be Assertive' (2010), Sue Bishop defines assertive behaviour as being able to express yourself with confidence, without having to resort to passive, aggressive or manipulative behaviours.

Assertiveness is about effective communication; not just selecting the right words but paying attention to your tone of voice, intonation, volume and body language. Assertion training begins with positive affirmations – important exercises if you are not feeling confident.

Body language

Actors are trained to own their space. Think about this. When you walk into a room do not be hesitant. To create a confident image stand straight and be aware of your posture.

Realise that you have a lot to offer

Help someone else. Find out about becoming a mentor.

Don’t be afraid!

Believe in your own capabilities.


Templar, R. (2006) The Rules of Life. New Jersey: Prentice Hall

Hall, L. (1997) 60 Tips for Self-esteem. Sailsbury: Element Books

Molden, D. and Hutchinson, P. (2008) Brilliant NLP London: Pearson Education Ltd

Bishop, S. (2010) Develop Your Assertiveness. London: Kogan Page.





The ability to make an impact is also essential. We look for people who are lucid, persuasive, confident and articulate.

Civil Service recruitment publicity on confidence