Tradecraft guide on how to tell if a “professional” is an actual expert in their respective field or is merely a highly confident individual that lacks real expertise and experience.


The way true experts express their knowledge and expertise is very similar to the manner in which confidence is expressed, aka theatrical expertise.

When it comes to hiring or working with a professional, how can you be sure that the person you’re talking to is actually an expert in their field? How can you be sure that they aren’t just a confident individual with no real experience or expertise?

When someone states their thoughts with high confidence, we tend to believe them and assume they know what they are talking about.

There’s a big difference between an expert professional and a confident professional. The latter may speak proficiently about their respective field, but that doesn’t mean they are an expert.

An expert is somebody who has dedicated their life to learning about a specific study / trade and has extensive knowledge and experience in that area.

An expert professional can also be visibly confident but a confident professional doesn’t necessarily mean they are also a legitimate expert.

There are some ways on how can you tell if the “professional” you are talking to is actually an expert:

          Conversing Style

Experts know that there are many things we (and themselves) don’t understand about the world and particularly their own professional field. They also appreciate how their statements can sometimes only be speculation, based on available evidence.

The word “maybe” appears frequently when they discuss possible outcomes or implications while an overly confident non-expert will convey their messages with absolutes and impossible certainties, rarely if ever even imply they are incorrect.

The difference between experts and non-experts can be seen in how they approach claims. Experts may know exactly what they cannot confidently claim about certain topics while non-experts will confidently assert nonsense with high conviction.

Overconfident “professionals” have a defensive habit of overly dominating conversations they know less about while experts don’t have a need to talk over others to convey their more valuable input.

          Their Background

The person’s background, motivation and skills should be considered when deciding whether or not they are an appropriate candidate for the job. People may have true expertise in areas you wouldn’t expect them to know anything about. But seeing no relation between those proclaimed qualifications and the subject / field is an indication that the person might just be overconfident instead of having real expertise.

Experts are people who have the knowledge, experience and skills to solve problems. They can be identified by objective measures such as facts about their life history or performance assessments which show they differ from novices in memory abilities when given complex tasks.

Experts may also differ physically due to different levels of stress response systems within their bodies in relation to the physical demands of their profession.

For example, a Special Forces operator who’s seen much combat will have a obviously different muscular build and even facial characteristics than a private that served just the minimum 4 years with the Marine Corps and was never deployed to combat.


Making sweeping statements about any subject is easy. Experts know more specific details and will be able to provide them and explain it in depth, but people without true knowledge have to stay on a superficial level. The theatrics of confidence is required to hide that lack of expertise.

A non-expert’s messages tend to be repetitive, unable to elaborate. They could also be speaking so rapidly that you can’t understand what they’re saying.

We see this with politicians on TV all the time, confidently repeating the same point over and over again, speaking over their interviewer or other guest and eventually speaking unnaturally fast to get passed the moment.


An actual expert can use jargon (specific field terminology) flexibly and easily, catering to the specific needs of their audience. Not using big words when unnecessary and being able to “dumb it down” so it’s understood to the person(s) they are speaking to.

When true experts talk, they aren’t afraid to bend the language in order for their audience’s needs. They’re able to communicate with clarity and flexibility – something that most people don’t master until they actually become a master in their field.

When fake experts don’t know what they are talking about, it sounds like they are just pulling information from the internet or a textbook, without actual insight or understanding. Although on the surface it may sound intelligent and convincing, it lacks depth, personal messaging and is hard to understand.