what you aren’t

…stream of consciousness post, I reserve the right to not make sense. Please call me on it..

I was chatting with a friend today about different people that we both know who have recently changed positions/companies. Both of our careers have involved our building teams (for ourselves and for our clients), and because we’ve both been on both sides of the “hiring table”, we were talking about the skills and qualities that were brought to the table.

It seemed funny to me that after a quick overview of skills/abilities, which were actually similar for both people, we ended up having a long discussion on what each person WASN’T bringing to the table. In a few of those cases, it was actually an advantage to be lacking something….

An example could be someone who right after college, joined a huge corporation, and has been there ever since. Now I know all big companies preach about how they have a “Start up culture of uber-dynamicism“, but let’s be real here. Anywhere a process needs 16 layers of approvals pretty much forgoes the “Start-up mentality”.. So it would make sense that this person would bring a structured, yet potentially slow approach to change. (I’m not saying it’s a permanent thing, I’m just saying we tend to be products of our environment).. So if you’re looking for a solid process-led person, here they are. They won’t actively advertise that they can’t turn on a dime, but it’s an advantage for them here maybe.

Of course, the other side of that coin works too, a “Start-up” guy may have trouble in the BigCo’s slow-turning gears..

The traditional approach is to market your skills/what you do/what you are, but I’m thinking that sometimes, the differentiators might be what you aren’t. Know what I mean? How does one promote what they aren’t?

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One Comment

  1. By showing, through example sort of, what you are.

    Now, admittedly I am in a different work culture. Universities are a weird breed. We hire our colleagues with no input from HR, we also give tenure, and well, we are responsible for umm, shall we call it not giving tenure….

    Our job interviews are a day or two long. People usually give a couple of talks, there are a couple of meals etc. You get a feel for the person, and then you know what they are, and if you know what they are (and you get a good idea in a couple of days) you get a good idea of what they are not.

    When I interviewed at Memorial University back in 98 I was asked what I thought of committee work, I repsonded ‘it is a tragic waste of the human spirit’. When I was asked what the human applicability of my work on animal memory was I replied ‘would you like the short flippant answer? None, don’t care, next question”. This showed I was not a yes man type and that I had opinions and was not afraid to share them. I got the job. I usually look for this type of thing, when people show me by what they are doing, what they are not.

    BTW, this year I have chaired four hiring committees and we have hired some great people.

    Speaking of stream of consciousness…

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