When approaching an interview one of your main goals should be to convey a level of trustworthiness.

How to convey trustworthiness in a job interview

When approaching a job interview, many people are hyper-focused on memorising a list of their personal skills and competencies to rattle off at their interviewer. However, according to Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of the best selling Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, these people are missing the point.

In a contributing article for the Harvard Business Review, Halvorson asserts that conveying a general sense of trustworthiness is much more important than proving your industry skills. Why? Well, because trustworthiness is a trait that people instinctively look for in others. In fact, Halvorson even goes as far as to claim trustworthiness can make or break your interview.

"Trustworthiness is a trait that people instinctively look for in others."

But what does trustworthiness look like? Research by Harvard Associate Professor Amy J.C. Cuddy concludes that this trait really comes down to two qualities: warmth and competence.

Warmth, in Halvorson's words, is what signals to an interviewer that you have good intentions. Competence is what showcases your ability to act on those intentions.

Two is better than one

The reason warmth and competence work so well together to exude trustworthiness is because when bundled together, an interviewee is presented with a potentially valuable working partner.

Someone with good intentions and the skill sets to execute them is a person that will likely mesh well with other employees while doing an exceptional job. However, when you remove warmth, you are presented with someone who may not function as a team player. When you remove competence, you have a candidate who, while nice, may not be able to complete their job. The two qualities mesh together to create a candidate that can be trusted to get the job done right. 

Showcasing warmth in your interview can indicate you are a team player.Showcasing warmth in your interview can indicate you are a team player.

According to Halvorson, interviewers often seeks out these qualities with two common questions.

1. Tell me about yourself

When an interviewer gives you a chance to talk about yourself it is a great opportunity to showcase both competence and warmth. Competence shines through when you address your skill sets and strengths.

However, warmth is a bit more subtle. Interviewees should use this question as an opportunity to exude modesty and gratitude. When it comes to your talents, don't play them up too aggressively and maybe add in some areas where you could use improvement. Gratitude is best showcased by mentioning things like mentors that helped get you to your current skill level.

When it comes to your talents, don't play them up too aggressively.

2. Why did you leave your last job?

This question is one where candidates have the opportunity to truly excel. While many interviewees will go the route of saying things such as "I was looking for new challenges" or "I wanted to develop myself into a new role," Halvorson points out there are too many "I" statements in these answers and they may express excessive self interest.

Instead, you must demonstrate loyalty to your old team and show responsibility for the tasks you left behind. Try framing it in a way that expresses how you were sad to go but you needed the growth opportunity. Make sure to point out how you ensured things were in order when you left. This approach showcases both competence and warmth to your interviewer.

For professionals looking to brush up on their interview skills or just re-learn some critical components of professional conduct (including trustworthiness), Implement can help. We offer comprehensive and flexible online training courses that can help you put your best foot forward in your next interview. To learn more, check out our courses page today!