Don’t tell me about your accomplishments. I don’t care about them.
Everyone has accomplishments. That’s the price of entry. If you’ve been working, you’ll have compiled a list of successes. It would be more difficult not to do so.
So I don’t really care about what you accomplished.
But I do care about why you accomplished them.
I care about the obstacles you came through. About what propelled you to overcome these challenges. And what inspired you to respond with top quality effort.
I care about your humility. I care whether you’ve reflected on these accomplishments and seen how you can improve going forward.
I’m not really interested in where you are now. I’m much more interested in the map you made to get here.
Every Interview is a Sales Negotiation
Every interview is, at its heart, a sales negotiation. The candidate’s selling herself and considering whether to buy into my company. I’m selling the company and considering whether to buy into the candidate.
Interview guides tell managers to use an evaluation matrix and score each candidate across different attributes like leadership, technical knowledge, etc. Use consistent questions with everyone, grade the answers, grade the candidates, and out pops the top qualified hire. Then we’ll revel in our objectivity, secure that we made the best, rational, data-driven decision.
Except this method is complete bullshit. No one does it. If you asked 100 hiring managers how they choose the best candidate, 50 will tell you they go with their gut. And the other 50 would be lying.
We decide based on our intuition. We decide based on who we can visualize stepping into that job and being successful. Any “objective” weighting and ranking is biased to arrange our instinctive choice into the selected position. Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously, we do it. And that’s all that really matters.
So if you know this, and you do because I just told you, you’re much better prepared to make sure that you end up being the top choice. To be the one that everyone just knows will be successful.
What Makes a Good Gut Call?
“Selling is essentially transference of feeling.” – Zig Ziglar
As every good salesperson knows, people buy things for emotional reasons. As the father of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman, would say, “it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable.”
Antonio Damasio’s studies in the areas of emotion and decision-making show the fierce dependence between our emotional instincts and our ability to commit to a decision. People who’ve injured the areas of their brains that connect frontal lobes with emotions became paralyzed by decisions. Damasio went on to develop his somatic marker hypothesis to describe how critically emotions affect our decisions. In the Iowa gambling task, he showed that people’s fingers will begin to sweat when they’ve chosen a losing hand, even before they consciously realize they’ve made a poor choice.
Gut decisions, instinct, following your heart, we have many names for it. But the reason these decisions feel right is because they’re controlled in the same part of our brain that controls these emotions. And this part of our brain will often drive behavior that overrides our analytical understanding of a situation.
So emotions drive our gut decisions and gut decisions drive our hiring choice. And the main emotion which drives that decision is trust.
I need to trust you.
Be the Trusted Choice
“Look for 3 things in a person. Intelligence, Energy, & Integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.” – Warren Buffet
Who do you trust?
Do you trust people based on a history of past success? Or is it based on a deeper understanding of their purpose?
What about those who trust you?
I doubt it’s solely a result of your past accomplishments. Few of us bat 1.000.
Simon Sinek repeatedly demonstrated in his book, Start With Why, that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Whether with brands or people, we develop trust and build loyalty when we share a common purpose.
Barack Obama didn’t have universal appeal, but in 2008 he inspired a great many people to trust and support his vision for the future. They didn’t do that because they were impressed with his record as a Senator of Illinois.
When we believe in someone’s guiding principles, we understand their decision-making process. We begin to trust how they’ll respond in different situations. We trust that they’ll respond in accordance with their values. And if we share those values, then we’re much more trusting of how they’ll behave.
So the main concern shouldn’t be what accomplishments you need to communicate, but on what values you need to demonstrate. What behaviors and values can you demonstrate that will build that trust level of trust?
We Trust What is Familiar
“Few if any of the people recruiting you explicitly said: ‘One of the big reasons we’re hiring you is because we think you will fit in, that you share our implicit values and beliefs, and that you will adjust easily to our norms.’ They probably didn’t say this because they are unaware of how strongly they apply cultural criteria in hiring.” – John Kotter, Leading Change
We live and breathe our company’s culture every day. It may be words on a poster, but it’s also reflected in hundreds of decisions that we make every day. Our culture’s behavioral norms and shared values are repeatedly reinforced and encouraged.
Employees see that those behaviors are rewarded. Senior employees demonstrate these behaviors to new employees. And the culture becomes even more ingrained until it’s demonstrated without conscious intent. It becomes second-nature.
So when I’m considering which candidate will be the best fit, I’m deciding which candidate will best fit in with our culture. I’m deciding which candidate will demonstrate our shared values of integrity, excellence, and growth. I’m trying to find the candidate who will come into this environment and thrive. And because this culture is so ingrained in my daily behavior, whether I realize it or not, I’m matching up candidates against this set of values. Because those are the values that I trust. And someone who demonstrates them is someone I’ll consider trustworthy.
When you see a hiring decision from the aspect of cultural fit, it becomes more obvious that accomplishments alone are insufficient to develop this trust. We don’t trust accomplishments if we can’t see the behaviors that led to them and the values that drove those behaviors.
Be the Best Fit
If the interviewer is any good, they’ll ask you questions that focus on these motivations. If they’re not, they’ll still use this as the basis for their decision, they just won’t know it.
I don’t care what evaluation sheet is in play, or what job is in consideration, it all comes down to a gut decision. We want to hire someone with whom we’re comfortable. We want to work with someone we’ll trust.
So don’t downplay your accomplishments, because you do have a right to be proud of them. But be proud of them as the tangible evidence of your behaviors and values. And recognize its those factors which will build trust and set you apart.
Explain why you took that action. Tell me what made you respond the way that you did. Help me understand the behaviors that led to your accomplishments and why you did them in the first place.
Communicate your guiding principles. Demonstrate your values.
Build that trust. And be ahead of everyone else who’s just droning on about their accomplishments.