From December, 2013

Skills vs. Attitude: What Lands the Job?

Of course you need skills to get considered for employment but to land a job one could argue they aren’t nearly as important as you think.  Cosmetics giant L’Oreal recently began Smiling businesswomanassessing sales people for emotional intelligence (EQ) during their hiring process.  They found that those with a high EQ score outsold their peers by $90,000.  Additionally turnover among those with high EQ scores was 63% less than those hired through traditional methods.

Naturally I’m sure the final pool of people from which L’Oreal chose their next sales person all had prior sales experience.  Can we not deduct from this case study though that the most experienced candidates didn’t always get the job and that someone who had less experience but a high EQ score did?

Beyond the EQ score used in hiring, we find further evidence that a high level of skills is not the determining factor for employment.  Business Insider recently ran an article featuring the favorite interview question of 9 CEOs.  I have included the questions below and ask for you to tell me how many of them relate directly to someone’s skills.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?” Tony Hsieh, CEO – Zappos

 “Tell me about the time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.” Simon Anderson, CEO – Dreamhost

 “How would you describe yourself in one word?” Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO – YWCA

 “What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?” Ashley Morris, CEO – Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

“Tell me about the last person you fired.” Marc Barros, CEO – Contour

“Tell me about your failures.” Jenny Ming, CEO – Charlotte Russe

“What was the last costume you wore?” Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal, CEOs – Warby Parker

“Tell me about your crowning achievement.” Lou Adler, CEO – The Adler Group

“Tell me about your last project.  Who was involved and what was the biggest challenge?” Jane Eggers, CEO – Spreadshirt

I suppose that while detailing how one would survive a zombie apocalypse a job candidate might list the skills necessary to ensure their survival but sandwich making and customer service is probably not one of them.

Many of the questions above have no right or wrong answer.  They are asked simply to learn more about the candidate’s personality and potential cultural fit, not their skills.

Moving on, a three year study conducted by LeadershipIQ involving thousands of hiring managers and employees revealed that of the 46% that failed within the first 18 months of being hired, 89% failed for attitudinal reasons, not for skills.

So here’s my question to you the hiring manager.  If higher emotional intelligence leads to greater performance and less turnover and if 46% of employees fail within the first 18 months because of their attitude and not skills, how are you going to evaluate your job candidates going forward?

Here’s my question to you the job candidate.  If higher emotional intelligence leads to greater performance and less turnover and if 46% of employees fail within the first 18 months because of their attitude and not skills, how are you going to answer questions during your next job interview?

Does Your Hiring Process Lack “Sense”?

Humans rely on our senses to experience and interpret the world around us.  We have evolved over time to use sensory inputs to make judgments about all kinds of things. closed door Is that fruit OK to eat?  Is that music something I want to hear more of?  Is that car going to stop?

When it comes to hiring, we often deny our senses a full role in the process in ways that could save time and money.  If all we do is look at someone’s resume to make a decision about them, are we evaluating them without sense, ie, is our hiring process nonsensical?

The resume certainly isn’t the person.  And it may not even be a good representation of the person, just a poor simulacrum, defined as “a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance.”

Realizing this, some employers chose to bring sense to their hiring, or should we say “a sense”, by employing a phone screen.  This begs the question of how much do we learn from each additional sensory experience of a candidate.  How insightful and how reliable is each of our five senses in providing information about our world?

Here’s an experiment.  You are put in a room alone.  The room has 4 closed doors, and you are told that there are four animals, one behind each door.  Behind three of the doors are dangerous animals and behind the fourth door is a friendly animal.  You have one minute to decide which door you are going to open.  To help you decide you are offered the choice of learning something about each of the 4 animals using just one of the following inputs:

  • a brief written description of the animal
  • a smell from the animal
  • a sound from the animal
  • a taste of each animal
  • a touch of each animal
  • a view of each animal

Let’s see, I know a brief written description wouldn’t be my first pick.  Of course not, most of us would pick the last option, the chance to use our sense of sight.

This choice is supported by scientific research.  Work by Dr. John Medina, and others, shows that the normal brain is predisposed to visuals. Our vision trumps all other senses. It is so well established that people have a better memory for images than words that it even has a name – “Pictorial Superiority Effect” (see Hamilton, M. & Geraci, L., 20006).

These findings can be applied to improve hiring.  The screening of job candidates using video has been shown to be predictive of job success.  The research is in keeping with other research showing that video of an individual can communicate a person’s abilities.  Perhaps that’s the reason for the growing use of video interviews for screening applicants.  It just makes more sense… literally.

“Why Should We Hire You?” – You Might be Answering this Question All Wrong.

Are you out of work and in need of a job?  Maybe you’re currently employed and looking Confused2for greener pastures, or at least a boss with whom you can get a long.  Either way, if you want a job and I asked you, “Why should we hire you,” odds are you aren’t going to tell me that you’re lazy, unreliable and hard to get along with.  You’re going to say the opposite of that right?

Let’s give it a shot.  I’m offering you a position in which you can make twenty percent more than what you previously or currently earn.  You have answered all my questions thus far and finally I ask, “Why should Super Awesome Technologies hire you?”  Never mind the position for which you’re interviewing, it doesn’t matter.  Just tell me right now why you are the right guy/gal for the job.  More often than not here is what you might say.

“Super Awesome Technologies should hire me because I’m a hard worker.  I’m reliable.  I’m easy to get along with.  I give 110% in everything I do.  I like working with new people.  I’m very adaptable to any situation and if you ask any of my references they will tell you how much effort I put into the tasks assigned to me.”

Sounds good right?  Problem is four out of five candidates before you told me the exact same thing.  Of course everyone applying for a new job is “a hard worker and reliable”.  Sure you like “to meet new people”.  I can’t imagine you not “giving 110%”.  That’s all great but that still doesn’t tell me why I should hire you.  You haven’t differentiated yourself.  You haven’t told me anything genuine that is going to keep me awake.

So how should you answer this question?

First shy away from telling me why you want the job.  Your enthusiasm for the job is certainly important and should be addressed but telling me how great my job is going to make your life is not the way to go.  You should be telling me how great you are going to make mine.

Secondly, tell me what you have accomplished.  The candidates that nail the “Why hire me?” question take their past successes and apply them to the position for which they are interviewing.  They say things like, “I have ten years of experience managing multiple departments,” or “I have exceeded my quota each of the last seven years” or “I improved office operations efficiency by 20% my first three months in the job” and you believe you can do it for me.  Hiring managers want to hear about your successes and how your success will benefit them.

Lastly consider the question differently.  Rather than viewing it as, “Why hire me?” understand what the company really wants to know, which is, “How are you going to take our company to the next level?” When you view the question in this light you will be less inclined to discuss how the job is great for you but rather how you are great for the job.

If you are having difficulty answering the “Why hire me” question or any of the other more common interview questions encountered you should consider practicing your interviewing skills online and sharing with friends for feedback. Doing so will help you refine and deliver your answers more confidently.