Have you ever wondered what the best way is to build trust and assess integrity while recruiting someone?

As we emerge from the worst of the COVID period, it’s clear that attracting human capital is proving to be one of the most challenging problems facing various industries. Many businesses are finding it really difficult to attract and recruit the right people to maintain and sustain their future operations.

There is no magic bullet. But that makes it even more important for those tasked with identifying and recruiting the right candidates to think carefully about how they build trust and assess the integrity of short-listed candidates. The tightness of the market is such that you’re unlikely to get many second chances if you get this wrong.

The hiring process may involve multiple interviews, reference checking and, perhaps, some practical sessions where candidates are put through their paces to demonstrate their skills and experience. Trust is an important ingredient across the entire process.

What if there’s no trust?

This is what happens when trust is not obvious as part of your recruitment process.

 You won’t attract the right candidates

Without trust, your interactions with candidates become entirely transactional instead of relationship based. When this happens, you can’t actively recruit and hire the right candidates as they’ll most likely be attracted to other companies where trust is readily apparent.

 You won’t build loyalty

If you disregard the importance of building trust with candidates, you won’t be able to build credibility or loyalty with them. Even if they do ultimately join your business, a relationship not based on trust leads to higher turnover and lower productivity among employees, which can damage your overall business, not to mention waste scarce resources.

 Therefore, it’s important that the hiring company should establish its trustworthiness early on in the process and also the trustworthiness of each candidate. That’s because (a) talent is really hard to find and (b) more importantly, nothing else really matters if you can’t trust someone.

So, how do you get comfortable with a candidate you are interviewing for the first time and how should you make them feel comfortable with you? Building trust with each candidate is essential, irrespective of whether they are a good fit for the role.

Good reasons to build trust early

Quality conversations

Establishing a foundational level of trust early in the process will allow you to have a more candid and comprehensive conversation with candidates. This enables a better assessment of each candidate and a better understanding about how they will fit into your business and your team. It also allows the candidate to form a better judgement about the company.

Stronger reputation

We live in a hyper-connected world where each of us has the means to amplify our experiences with others in either a positive or negative way. When candidates, who do not make it to a final offer, still experience trust and comfort in their process with you, the stories they tell about you and your company will strengthen your reputation in the market. This will later help attract talent in a talent constrained world.

Confidence to move forward

It’s human nature for candidates to pause or slow down the recruitment process if they don’t get a sense of trust and openness from their first meeting with you. Candidates will assess whether they want to work with you and the primary underlying question is whether they can trust you. Are you trustworthy?

They want to know that, if appointed, you will want to help them be successful in the role, advocate for them, give them the benefit of the doubt, and be fair. They should be able to come away from initial meetings with sufficient signals to help answer these questions. If you are too guarded and do not create this foundational level of trust as an interviewer, you risk losing excellent talent before you have a chance to truly assess them.

Demonstrate company values

Candidates will often make assumptions about the culture of your company and its leadership style based on their initial meetings with you. Therefore, it’s even more important for you to create a sense of comfort, trust, and supportiveness in your initial meetings. You are not just representing yourself, but also the vision and values of the company.

The first interview to build trust

We all instinctively know first impressions count and candidate interviews are no different.

It’s also important to know that trust is relational – it’s a two-way street, which means it takes effort from both you and the candidate to create a trusting, open dialogue. It is your responsibility as the interviewer to open that door wide and create conditions that will allow for such a dialogue to take place.

Once you have opened the door, you will see how different people respond to that openness. The intent is to provide space for candidates to be more open and to share insights on their experiences, which will allow you to better understand their suitability for the role.

Establishing trust from the outset with the candidate isn’t the same thing as assessing their integrity though. Rather, it’s about the kind of environment you create during an interview. If you become concerned about a candidate’s level of integrity or their honesty, creating a comfortable dialogue with them is increasingly important. Once they feel comfortable and open, you can ask more candid questions so you can get a better read on their integrity.

Interview pointers

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

      • The first meeting(s) should be all about getting to know the candidate. A good sign is whether they open up. The goal is for the relationship and trust to be established between the two of you. If a candidate is reluctant to open up, they might be too guarded to ever let you know their real personality. It does take time for most people to shed their prepared interview persona and show more of who they are, but you should consider giving up if this doesn’t happen after a few interviews.
      • In the first meeting, ask them questions they would not have prepared for and see how they respond when they are thrown off. Do they become more closed off, or open up easily?
      • Take every opportunity to share your own experiences and thoughts because the purpose is to establish rapport with the candidate while learning about them. Being vulnerable yourself will help create a safe space and indicative that you trust them. Every act of trust requires all parties to be vulnerable.

Another important point to remember. Our personal propensity to trust means that for some of us, trust needs to be earned before it is given. For others, trust is given until it is broken. Maybe you should consider testing their propensity to trust before the interview via a simple survey tool like Trustgenius so you can be prepared for what lies ahead.

For those of us for whom trust needs to be earned, we should ask questions that will elicit an answer to this internal question, “How can I build trust with and in this person?” Whereas, for those of us whom trust is potentially lost, the internal question is, “What does this person need to do to lose my trust?” With these questions, you can then determine the right things to discuss in the interview.

Sample interview questions

Here are some sample questions that can open the door to understanding each candidate:

      • How do you figure out who to trust and who not to trust? Have you ever been burned? What did you learn? (Get examples. People that value trusted relationships should have answers)
      • Tell me about your childhood. What values do you have from your parents/family or mentors (coaches and teachers)? 
      • Which company cultures did you like and which did you not like, and why?
      • Who was your worst boss, and why?
      • Tell me about some of your failures.
      • What life experiences have had the most impact on who you are today?
      • Tell me about a difficult interpersonal situation and how you responded to it.
      • Tell me about when you had an ethical conundrum and how you handled it.
      • How are you most likely misunderstood?

Listen for a pattern in the responses. To be considered an issue, a personality characteristic should show up multiple times in the candidate’s responses. Ask about both work and personal life experiences, and look for the same type of story appearing over and over — usually involving some form of disturbances in their interpersonal relationships.

At the end of this deep-dive, you should have a good sense of how someone values trustworthiness in a relationship. Generally, it’s better to assess through examples than from just asking questions though.

Assessing integrity of candidates

As mentioned earlier, interviewing for trust is different from interviewing for integrity.

While trust is a relational phenomenon, assessing integrity is an individual phenomena. Whether you feel you can trust the candidate or not is based on a series of things happening between you that are very specific to that interaction. However, whether someone has integrity is not a feeling, but an assessable personality trait.  

Integrity is a critical part of being trustworthy – it’s about keeping your word. In other words, if someone will do what they say they are going to do. When teams operate with integrity they become more powerful; provided teams are committed to a shared intent and shared perspectives because they are delivering on their promises.

Words about the future cause the future. 

When getting to know a candidate who could be joining your company, it’s always a good idea to interview to determine if they have demonstrated integrity.

Sample questions

Some good questions to gauge whether the candidate understands and appreciates what it means to give their word include:

    • When did they say no or really push back on something? Did they ever tell their manager, “I can’t take this on because I can’t see a path to getting it done.”? Some might see this as a negative, but it should be seen as someone who takes their word seriously.
    • Ask them when they made a promise that they couldn’t keep. How do they process this? Are they emotionally or otherwise frustrated at the fact that they could not keep their promise, and how did they manage it? 
    • Ask them to follow-up on something discussed in the interview and set some parameters around it. Make sure they understand they are making a promise to follow through. You will get clarity on how they value a promise depending on the outcome. 

All businesses are experiencing a war for talent. That’s why the current recruitment environment makes it even more important for those tasked with identifying and recruiting the right candidates to think carefully about how they build trust and assess the integrity of short-listed candidates.

Trust and integrity are two distinct and critical issues that need to be addressed during the candidate assessment process.

What do you think?

Trust is the basis for all connection with others. In an organisational context, it is an ongoing relationship between an entity and its key stakeholders such as customers, employees, suppliers and investors. When performed with the right intent and a high degree of competence, your organisation’s actions can earn trust with these groups.

Trust is a strong differentiator for any organisation and a dominant driver of future business profit and growth. When you put trust at the forefront of your purpose, strategy, and execution, your stakeholders are more likely to trust you.

We have the expertise and services that will help you make more confident decisions about the future of your stakeholder relationships, so get in touch if you would like to learn more.

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