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What Does Integrity Mean to You?

Whether you’re interviewing for a pipefitter or programmer position, integrity is one of the most desirable traits a hiring manager could look for in a job candidate. It makes the difference between a candidate who merely does what’s required of them to collect a paycheck and one who finds pride and meaning in their work. Thus, interviewers often ask, “What does integrity mean to you?”

We’ll explain what interviewers are looking for when they ask you about integrity and how to craft an answer that positions you as a trustworthy, honorable candidate.

Why do interviewers ask about integrity?

Skills are only one facet of a well-rounded employee. You might have all the right knowledge, but without integrity, it will be hard for colleagues and customers to work with you. An interviewer wants to gauge whether you’re an honest person who can be trusted to do the right thing even when it’s difficult or inconvenient. 

Your answer to a question about integrity tells a hiring manager about your character, which is an important aspect of making the right hire. Your response gives them a glimpse of your morals and values. In certain jobs, integrity is a make-or-break quality. For example, in fields like healthcare or education, trust is paramount, so your answer will play heavily into whether you move forward in the hiring process. 

What interviewers are looking for when they ask about integrity

Interviewers are looking for how easily you’re able to talk about integrity. It shouldn’t be something you have to think too hard about or “strategize” on; rather, you should be able to easily explain what integrity means to you personally, whether that’s treating others as you’d like to be treated, doing the honest thing even when no one is watching, etc. 

When asking questions about qualities like integrity, interviewers want to hear you speak in your own words, as if you were talking to a friend. Ideally, you want to share an actual example of what integrity looks like in your life rather than giving a generic response.

How to answer the interview question ‘What does integrity mean to you?’

Define it on your own terms

While you’re preparing for the interview, spend a few minutes thinking about how you view integrity and other similar qualities. What does it look like in the workplace? Use plain language to describe your personal definition of the word. When doing this, it can be helpful to think of someone you admire and what specifically makes them honorable. 

Give a real example

Paint a picture of yourself as a person of principle by describing an actual set of circumstances where you acted with integrity. You want your answer to reflect that what you did was the obvious choice to show that you don’t have a hard time making the right decision, even when it’s unpopular or risky.

Relate it to the job

If possible, use an example that ties back to the job you’re interviewing for. For example, if you’re applying to be a retail associate who works the register, describe a time when you returned a wallet full of cash to its rightful owner.

How not to answer

Give a generic answer

You don’t want your answer to sound scripted, as if you’re reading from a dictionary. If you’re having difficulty coming up with an example of a time you acted with integrity at work, think of a meaningful example from your personal life or something you learned about integrity from a role model.

Sample answers to ‘What does integrity mean to you?’

Example #1

“To me, integrity means speaking up when something’s not right, even if it would be easier to keep quiet. Once, a colleague was telling me about their family road trip and joked that it was ‘company sponsored.’ When I asked what they meant, they divulged that they’d used their company credit card to pay for gas. It would have been easy to keep it to myself, and I didn’t want to get my coworker in trouble, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I reported it to my HR department because I knew that was the right thing to do.”

Example #2

“Integrity means you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. I recently had an important deadline coming up, and another member of my team was behind on their portion of the work. The whole team pulled together and stayed late every night that week to help bring things up to speed. If I’m putting my name on something, I want to ensure it’s my absolute best effort.”

This question is all about your principles, so be thoughtful and speak from the heart. Share a true and compelling example to help the interviewer feel confident you’re someone they can trust and depend on.