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How to Show Modesty and Gratitude in an Interview

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In our last post, we discussed how important it is to demonstrate not just competence in a job interview, but also warmth. According to Heidi Grant Halvorson over at Harvard Business Review, a candidate who doesn’t have warmth is less likely to earn the trust of the interviewer than a candidate who does have it.

Therefore, as you’re developing your answers to interview questions, you should also focus on the qualities your answers demonstrate. What impression do they give the interviewer of you as a person?

Two ways to show warmth in an interview, Halvorson writes, is through expressions of modesty and gratitude, especially in response to the following interview question:

“Tell me about yourself.

This question often prompts interviewees to present a grand “why-I’m-so-great” soliloquy, Halvorson writes, the one “they’ve been practicing in their bathroom mirrors.”

Instead of taking that standard tact, however, why not use it as an opportunity “for sending two powerful signals of warmth: modesty and gratitude.”

Oftentimes, the advice given about interviews is to sell yourself, to be your own publicist. Halvorson challenges this notion when she writes, “…research shows that if you exhibit some modesty with respect to your skills and abilities, people will add, on average, 20-30 percent to their estimate of your competence. Go overboard with the self-promotion, and they’ll subtract the same amount.”

Instead of ascribing celebrity status to yourself with an answer like, “I am really great with clients. They love me,” the article advises that you use a more subtle approach: “I’ve worked hard to understand what clients want, and I’m proud of the successes I’ve had with them.” You’re basically saying the same thing, but with a brine of modesty for added flavor.

Gratitude can be shown by not only emphasizing your skills and achievements, Halvorson writes, but also by talking about your mentors, the doors others opened for you, valuable advice you’ve received, etc.

Remember: “…you did not get where you are alone, and you should be explicit about that.”

As physicians and advanced practitioners who are looking for jobs, as you reflect on the answer you normally give to this interview question, do you think it shows enough modesty and gratitude? How could your answer be improved to both promote yourself and demonstrate modesty and gratitude for your skills and achievements?

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