Balancing Likeability and Capability in a Job Interview


Do I want to portray myself as likeable or competent? The answer is “both”, but the way in which you display each trait will affect your success in an interview. Employers value both warmth and competence; these are the first two thin slices that people will judge. They also prioritize (without often realizing they are doing so) those who won’t compete with members of their group/team. 

Consider the following when interviewing:

  • Insight 1: You need to appear competent right from the start. Without conveying competence from the start, you run the risk of arriving at the worst possible interview outcome – being viewed as incompetent.

  • Insight 2: Competence alone may be threatening to others and it is only a part of what you need. Try to find commonalities with your interviews; match their energy, openness, and engagement. This will help them perceive you as warm and similar to them (it will also reduce the chances of you being perceived as a skilled competitor). 

  • Insight 3: This all happens very quickly, so be aware.  

If you want to get hired, emphasize accomplishments and skills, but do it from a position of service and connection. Frame this information in a way that describes how it can serve the company, rather than having it come across as boasting (no one likes a know-it-all).

In the infographic below, you’ll notice there are four categories (see red arrows) that people fall into when it comes to their warmth and competence and how they may be viewed by others.

These quadrants represent the perspectives that individuals take when making preliminary judgments of warmth and competence. Importantly, these preliminary judgments will influence the entirety of your interaction, in part, determining your chances of a successful meeting or interview.

Knowing how initial assessments fits into the bigger picture of judgment and decision-making can help you to understand the most effective ways to interact with those around you. In this case, choose both warmth and competence.

Want to learn more about warmth and competence? Read what Wikipedia has to say on the topic, or dive into, The Dynamics of Warmth and Competence Judgments, and their Outcomes in Organizations.

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No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

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