Handling arrogant applicants; 5 ways you can separate confidence and arrogance

How grating is it when you meet or interview someone who is overly arrogant? A bit like the breed of The Apprentice applicants, whose cringe-worthy quotes include:

  • “I’ll be honest, I don’t eat, sleep, breathe business but I do eat, sleep and breathe success.” Ok……
  • “I think outside the box. If I was an apple pie, the apples inside me would be oranges”. What?
  • “There are two types of people in the world. Winners and… I don’t know how to say the word, I can’t say it.”
  • “Everything I touch turns to sold.”

Confidence with a hint of arrogance is one of the common traits of extremely high performing sales people. In sales, we can often confuse confidence and arrogance.

Looking at the definitions;


When someone has an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.


When someone can show a certainty about something.

There are subtle differences between being arrogant and confident, however these subtle differences become crystal clear when you are interviewing someone with either of these traits.

Here’s how you spot if someone is too arrogant for your business:


1-     What have they prepared for you?

A common trait in high-performing software sales people is planning and preparation. They manage to understand the customer better than most.

Top sales people will prepare documentation for you, whether it is a “Why Me?” presentation or a 30/60/90 day plan. They will come with ideas on how they can sell your software. Some will even have elevator pitches. Whether you like them or not is a different question, however arrogant sales people very rarely prepare for a meeting and often wing it.

What you could do is before the 1st interview, ask the candidate to prepare a simple one-page document.


arrogant2-     Do they make eye contact?

Confident sales people will be strong communicators and engaged in the conversation. Arrogant sales people will drift in-and-out of the room, look past you or around you. It’s difficult to make eye contact with an arrogant person.

You could see how they are with you in a different setting. Maybe get yourself in a smaller room with less distractions and no windows. Can the applicant handle the meeting in a tougher setting?


3-     What is their attitude like?

Everyone in tech sales has lost and won. Whether you are starting out in sales or heading up global sales teams, everyone has made mistakes.

Confident sales people learn and adapt. This will be shown when they describe a typical sales process and how they win new customers.

Arrogant sales people struggle to admit where things have gone wrong and take it as a personal attack. They come out swinging and assume you’re looking for a scrap, when in fact you are trying to understand how they handle rejection.


arrogant4-     Have they done anything in society?

Arrogance comes with an enormous self-worth, even though it may not be justified. The most successful people in the world are charitable and make time for others. It’s relative to their situation and I’m not suggesting that every top sales person should give away all their money.

However, have they done anything charitable? Do they get involved with the community? Confident sales people tend to have achieved outside of work, whereas arrogant people tend to be self-involved.

Does your business have a CSR scheme? If social responsibility is an important value to your business, avoid the sales people who don’t take on extra-curricular activity.


5-     What proof do they have of success?

The big one in sales. Confidence can be backed up with P60s, references and target achievements. A little bit of arrogance is allowed when you’ve been the #1 performer – providing that they aren’t toxic.

Proof will come in the form of documents, certificates and payslips. Have they got a brag file? Or is it just verbal?

Arrogance without proof is just annoying. Selling complex software solutions requires extra effort to go above and beyond for your clients – and if you are sat with someone who is “all talk”, they need to go away and gather proof of success.


Having spent over a decade in tech sales recruitment, we speak with many software sales people daily. There are always exceptions to rules, but we recommend that the right attitude for your business should always be the main attribute that you interview for.

Drop me a message or give me a call on [email protected] or 07583 965 071