Job Advice Blog

Warmth and Competence

Warmth and Competence

There are a lot of little stressors that follow us into our job interviews. There is a sense that we have to be able to show that we are a good fit, know a lot about the company, and perhaps even be able to guess the number of windows in New York City. Having to prove yourself in all of these different ways part of why interviews are so stressful! In reality, however, most hiring managers (and most people in general) are really only looking for two things- warmth and competence.

Every time we meet someone we automatically look for these two traits, and an interview is no exception. First we look for warmth (how likable are you?), then we look for competence (are you good at what you do?). Then we categorize everyone (on a subconscious level, of course) according to how warm and competent they are. As you can expect, the warm and competent people tend to be the most successful/popular, while the cold and competent tend to be the least. This is especially true when it comes to interviews, if you come off as cold and incompetent in an interview you can be sure that you will not get hired- while if you are friendly and effective you should go far.

So how do you use this information? How do you come off as warm and competent? There is no set answer to a question that will convey warmth and competence. Your interviewer will likely be unaware that they are judging you on these two categories, so you cannot buzzword your way to warmth and competence- you have to show these qualities through your answers, and often they are shown through your answer to story questions.

When you answer stories that are about your performance and your relationship with other team members you want to highlight both how well you dealt with situations- and how well you helped others deal with the same situation. It is sometimes tempting to highlight how we overcame other team members dragging us down- but to do so undermines the warmth we want to show. It is also easy to swing too far left and talk too much about the competence of our team, and make it seem like we did not really do all that much to help. In order to give a perfect answer we need to avoid both of these pitfalls- to give credit and show comradery, without seeming like we did little to help the situation.

Though it is nearly impossible to quantify how well you show these two qualities, they are the two most important aspects of your performance during an interview. As you prepare for your interview keep them in the back of your mind, and ask yourself if they are being shown. Try thinking about someone that you perceive as warm and competent, and ask yourself if they would phrase their answers the way you do. Emulating a warm and competent person can be the fastest way to embody these qualities. Now get out there and show of your warmth and competency!