Sure, your CV can tell employers a lot about you: where you went to school and what you studied; which companies you’ve worked for and which positions you’ve held; the skills you possess and the objectives you’ve achieved. But there’s another attribute employers are looking for that can’t be quantified in a bullet point. And it just happens to be the one you need the most to get ahead.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Robert Half Management Resources, integrity stands out as the characteristic valued most highly by both CFOs and workers alike.
The question posed to more than 3,300 workers and CFOs in US-based companies was: “Which of these are the most important attributes in a corporate leader?” Participants selected up to three from this list: integrity, fairness, decisiveness, strategic mindset, transparency, accessibility, collaborative mindset, and competitiveness. Integrity stands out as by far the most important to workers, earning 75% of the responses. CFOs, too, rated integrity the highest at 46%, followed closely by fairness at 45%.
So what does all this mean?
Integrity is defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” In simple terms, it means “doing the right thing even when no one else is watching.” But as we know, morals and ethics can be subjective. Just as with beauty, integrity is in the eye of the beholder. In order to demonstrate that you possess it, you need more than a nicely crafted phrase. How can you prove that you have integrity?
- Do what you say you’re going to do. Set an example for others by meeting your commitments to colleagues, supervisors and clients. Turning in incomplete or late projects, blaming others, delivering less than promised, not following up… you and your company lose integrity when you don’t live up to your word, so talk the talk AND walk the walk.
- Tell the truth (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth). There’s no real trust without honesty. Employers and clients appreciate knowing the reason for a problem or a mistake. It’s the only way to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Plus, being forthcoming about changes and company decisions prevents rumors and insecurity, and puts you in charge of your message.
- Be consistent. Reliability is one of the strongest indicators of the value of a product, a service or an employee. Anything else leads to disappointment and distrust. Who wants to be considered “great… some of the time?” Just like good product branding that sends a steady, memorable message to its customers (and lives up to it), your reputation for integrity depends on your consistency.
- Respect the Golden Rule. Treating others with respect and consideration, regardless of their position, background, age, or any other distinction, shows you have the qualities of a true leader. Managers who display respect for their employees earn their loyalty and commitment, two precious commodities in the business world.
- Advocate for others. Integrity isn’t just about you. Leadership means standing up for others, defending them and supporting their efforts for the good of the organization. By helping others advance their careers and calling attention to their accomplishments, you show that you’re not just looking out for number one: you’re part of a bigger team, with the same objectives for success.
In the final analysis, integrity is about being a straight shooter. Although many things may be beyond your control – market trends, corporate decisions, economic conditions, business shifts – you can be the captain of your integrity. And this, more than any other section of your CV, is what will make you stand out from the crowd. When employers are looking for leaders who are capable of guiding their businesses into the future, they’ll look to you.