Jobs and the Future of Work

The 1 thing interviewers look for in every job candidate

Jacquelyn Smith
Careers Editor, Business Insider
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We recently solicited readers to submit their most pressing career-related questions.

With the help of Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” we’ve answered the following: “What’s the skill or trait employers value most in a job candidate?”

Of course it may depend on the industry you’re in, the job you’re applying for, or the individual hiring manager you’re interviewing with — but, Taylor, says there is one thing interviewers everywhere tend to care about most. And here’s a hint: It’s not a skill.

Nowadays, she says, personality can (and often does) trump skills.

“When you read a job posting, you’ll see many adjectives that will seemingly clue you into the ‘right’ personality to project,” she says. “But none will carry as much weight as this intangible characteristic that every successful job seeker leaves with a hiring manager.”

She says most interviewers covet traits like competence, confidence, and creativity. But the “overriding super trait that it supersedes all others in countless studies,” she explains, “is trustworthiness.”

“It’s an amalgamation of many other desirable attributes,” she says.

She says if a hiring manager felt you lacked one or two critical skills — but found you to be 100% trustworthy, they’d likely consider moving forward. “However, if you possessed 100% of the requisite business skills, but seemed just a tad bit untrustworthy, they probably wouldn’t make you an offer,” she adds.

“In business, as in life, trustworthiness the foundation of any sustainable, healthy relationship — and it’s of utmost importance to employers.”

Luckily, there are ways to convey this trait in the interview. (However, keep in mind that if you want to get that interview in the first place, you need to be completely honest from the moment you submit your résumé.)

“Instead of just saying ‘Trust me’ over and over again, there are certain actions you can take in the job interview to communicate trustworthiness. Just be sure that these efforts come naturally to you, or they could backfire,” Taylor says.

Here are seven ways to let the hiring manager know that you’re the real deal:

Listen with zeal. One of the best ways to convey that you are trustworthy is to give 110% when you listen. “Besides that fact that it will help ensure optimal interview performance, it demonstrates many ‘trust’ intangibles, such as empathy, cooperation, good communications skills, and a team orientation,” Taylor explains. “Avoid thinking of your next question and follow the conversational flow of your hiring manager.”

Show you’re human. Savvy interviewers are not hiring just a résumé, they’re hiring “an attitude,” she says. “Managers hire people they like, and the path to trust is not far behind. If you can envision yourself with a friend in the interview, while showing respect, you’re on the right track.”

There will be times when you will have to walk a fine line, being as honest as possible without hurting your chances; for instance, as you explain why you left a job, with utmost diplomacy. “But showing warmth, exhibiting humor in a professional context and being yourself, that will all go a long way,” Taylor says.

Exude quiet confidence. “Being confident in an interview is a plus, but there is danger in overdoing it — being a braggart, versus being straightforward (thus the word ‘quiet’),” says Taylor. A dose of humility and stating facts can instill trust because facts speak for themselves.

Radiate passion. Being passionate about your work and the job at hand says to the hiring manager that you love what you do and want to contribute. “If you are truly excited by the position, then you’ll share a common bond, and that means trust,” she says.  Your body language will reinforce this — so maintain strong eye contact, nod, smile, and lean forward as much as possible.

Show intellectual curiosity. “Always show you care — and care to always learn more,” Taylor suggests. “By asking intelligent questions, you’re demonstrating that you are interested in continually being better.”

Hiring managers seek hard-working, diligent, competent, and responsible people. They know that curiosity often leads to innovation and smart risk taking. All these characteristics build a foundation of trust.

Don’t oversell. The job interview is your chance to sell yourself — no one would disagree with that. “But you can easily cross the line given the level of skepticism that already exists in the world of hiring,” she says. “To foster optimal trust in your skills and abilities, think subtle selling. Know when to stop when asked a question. Be able to self reflect when asked the tough questions versus dodging them,” Taylor concludes.

Just be yourself. Most importantly, don’t put on a persona when you’re in the hot seat.

If you’re just being yourself, you’re being honest (and therefore trustworthy). If you’re not being yourself, you’ll come off as nervous and inauthentic, and trust will be lost. People can easily sense when you’re not being you.

The very best thing you can do to convey trustworthiness is be genuine.

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Jacquelyn Smith is the careers editor at Business Insider.

Image: A Japanese new graduate, who wishes to be called Shinji (R), speaks with a counsellor inside a compartment at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Labor Consultation Center in Tokyo. JAPAN-GENERATION/ REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

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