Monday, July 17, 2017

Intelligent but Not Very Smart

I encounter it increasingly too often; highly intelligent and educated people who demonstrate a seriously deficient ability to navigate common tasks. I am referring to the chore of interviewing for a new job. To be clear, few people like to interview, it is something we do as part of a process of evaluation while being compared and judged against others who are seeking the same job. Unfortunately, many people have only themselves to blame for failing to make it beyond the first interview, unintentionally sabotaging their own efforts.
We need to look no further than the virtual collapse of soft skills in many people. For 25 years I have recruited and placed professionals of all types, but a large percentage of my work during the last few years has been in the legal market -- lawyers. As you can imagine, lawyers are smart folks but let me point to an example that applies to many people, regardless of their profession. Some people want to maintain a reasonable work / life balance and, no doubt, young lawyers put in a lot of hours and they know this, when they pursue their career choice. Before interviews I generally brief those I represent. I don’t tell anyone what to say but I know how this ritual works and often they don’t, so I share with them some of the things they should expect and should be prepared to answer.
On the minds of most people are things such as what the job demands in terms of their time invested, on a daily and weekly basis. This is reasonable but have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not about what we say, but rather how we say it”?   
I suppose words like “finesse” aren’t familiar to many of these people because contrary to my advice, during the very first interview they ask, “How late do I have to work each day?” And yeah, they really say it like that. Then they can’t figure out why they don’t get a 2nd interview. Whether intended or not they have telegraphed to the interviewer they are a clock watcher and cannot be relied upon for more than basic daily tasks nor exceeding the bare minimum effort expected from them – sorry but perception is reality in the minds of many. Note: there is nothing wrong with their question but this is clearly a soft skills screw-up and here’s where the intelligence and smarts thing comes into the equation. If you want to ask that question, use your head and ask instead, “Can you please give me an example of a typical workday and workweek at your company?” It is the same question, delivered and perceived differently. 
Some people get offended when I inform them of their mistake and retort, “well, I wanted to know?” Which just goes to show there are some people you just can’t help, sadly they don’t even know what it is they don’t know. I don’t care how well educated you may be, or how bright and shiny is your resume. If you cannot effectively communicate you are selling yourself short. Because, after all, the resume and what’s listed on it is only meant to get you in the door – and then what are you going to do?
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