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Is Confidence More Important Than Talent?

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4 min read
hr team discussing the new hire and his skillset

Talent has long been hailed as the best way to climb the employment ladder and succeed. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 72% of hiring managers believe that having relevant expertise is most important during the hiring process. Yet, in a world of fierce competition and abundant opportunities, employers often look for extra qualities that make candidates stand out, including confidence.  

Although talent is undoubtedly a big part of being successful, the power of confidence cannot be overlooked. Confidence is defined as a trust or belief in one’s own abilities and worth and has the potential to propel individuals to new heights, unlock hidden potential, and create opportunities where talent alone might fall short. 

In this article, we think about the impact of confidence on professional success compared to talent and consider the question: is confidence more important than talent in the world of work? 

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Changes to Skilled Labour

The restrictions of the pandemic have disrupted training programmes and educational systems, creating a skills gap in certain industries. On top of that, Brexit has compromised the availability of skilled labour from other countries, as changes in immigration policies and regulations have impacted the flow of workers from the European Union. 

These combined factors have contributed to a decrease in the pool of skilled labour, posing challenges for industries that rely heavily on specialised expertise. Have these changes almost forced the hand of some organisations, requiring them to start recruiting based on other criteria, rather than just skills and expertise? 

Do Interviews Prioritise Confidence Over Talent?

Confidence might trump talent throughout the recruitment process.

It can be hard to fully assess a candidate’s abilities in the space of a 60-minute interview. Whilst questions and scenarios can provide some insight, they may not fully capture the depth and breadth of a candidate’s skills and expertise.  

Candidates with lower confidence can sometimes struggle to get job offers, as their lack of self-assurance can hinder effective communication during interviews. These individuals may find it challenging to secure roles, even if they possess the necessary skills and talent. The pressure and anxiety of the interview environment may affect their ability to convey their abilities, leading interviewers to perceive them as less competent when in reality, they may be the most talented person in the room. 

job applicant at her first job interview with recruiter discussing her talent

Is Recruiting For Skills and Experience Unfair? 

With five generations now forming our workforce, it’s essential to think about the confidence versus talent argument from a multi-generational perspective. 

After all, Gen Z won’t have had the opportunity to build experience like other generations but could have so much to bring. This can create barriers for Gen Z and lead to them competing with older, more experienced candidates. In reality, Gen Z-ers can bring unique qualities, such as innovation, adaptability, and of course confidence, that can significantly benefit organisations.

On the other hand, recruiting based on confidence could disadvantage older generations such as your Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers, as they may possess significant experience but lack the same level of self-assurance or familiarity with newer technologies and trends. 

Can Talent Be Taught? 

Whilst certain skills and knowledge can be acquired through education and training, talent, often seen as an innate ability or aptitude, is generally considered difficult to teach. So, whilst an individual might be energetic, charismatic and great for company culture when it comes to the day-to-day responsibilities of their role, they may struggle if they’ve been recruited based solely on confidence. 

However, some roles can be taught on the job. Specific technical skills and specialised knowledge can be developed through structured L&D programmes and hands-on experience. In these cases, a candidate’s attitude, motivation, and willingness to learn often take precedence over innate talent.

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Does Confidence Hide Poor Performance? 

The relationship between confidence and performance is complex. On one hand, confidence can be a powerful influencer in business. It can instil trust and reassurance in clients and customers, contributing to positive relationships and successful outcomes. Confidence can inspire others and drive teams to achieve their goals.

However, there is a potential downside to relying solely on confidence. Overconfidence can lead to overpromising and underdelivering, creating unrealistic expectations that ultimately harm performance. Confidence without the necessary ability and competence to back it up can result in poor outcomes and damage professional relationships.

Can Confidence Alone Drive Businesses Forward? 

Confidence plays a pivotal role in driving businesses forward. However, confidence alone cannot single-handedly drive businesses forward. Whilst confidence plays a crucial role in leadership and team motivation, it must be coupled with competence and expertise for sustained success.

Confident individuals may excel in certain aspects of their roles, but it is also important to acknowledge the importance of talent, skills, and experience in driving business outcomes. The combination of confidence and competence enables individuals to make informed decisions, adapt to challenges, and deliver exceptional results.

Businesses thrive when they have a diverse workforce that brings a range of talents and perspectives to the table.

hr team with varying talents and skillsets

Being a Leader is About More Than Ability 

As we look towards the future of business and the emergence of the next generation of leaders, it is clear that being a successful leader requires much more than just talent. Traditional leadership roles have often focused on tangible previous experience and accomplishments, yet the evolving landscape of business requires ‘all-rounders’, not just technical know-how. 

A more forward-thinking approach to leadership recruitment involves considering a candidate’s potential, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and growth mindset. These characteristics, combined with a strong work ethic, the ability to inspire and motivate others, and effective communication skills, can make a significant impact on a leader’s ability to navigate change and drive innovation.

The Verdict 

It’s clear that both confidence and talent play crucial roles but in different ways. Confidence can open doors, but talent provides the foundation of knowledge essential to great performance. 

The weight given to confidence and talent varies in different workplace scenarios and across generations, recognising the unique needs of each situation and individual. 

As our world continues to evolve, having confidence is an invaluable strength that can give individuals the superpower to influence the outcome of a situation to their benefit. 

Confidence acts as a catalyst for personal growth and organisational advancement. Speaking to the right people and taking bold actions requires a considerable amount of self-assurance. However, confidence alone is not enough; talent is the key to living up to expectations and delivering on responsibilities.

Ultimately, confidence can get you where you want to go but you’ll need talent to live up to the title. 

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Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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