Are You Interviewing for This Critical Attribute?

If you are a leader who has hiring responsibility or are interviewing for a new role yourself, here is something to keep at the top of your mind.

I saw an interesting article in the New York Times the other day claiming that for every career there is an opposite career, requiring completely opposite skills. For instance, if you are a kindergarten teacher, your opposite career is a physicist. Teaching kindergarten is all about developing young minds. Physics is about using logic, math, and reasoning to solve problems. Different skills are needed for these different kinds of work outcomes. Here you can see the top set of skills needed for these two careers side by side. 

The opposite job of a kindergarten teacher is a physicist.

Skills Kindergarten Teachers Use Most            Skills Physicist Use Most

  1. Coaching & developing others                      Physics
  2. Learning strategies                                         Mathematics
  3. Developing & building teams                        Number facility
  4. Training & teaching others                            Information ordering
  5. Philosophy & theology                                    Logical Reasoning
iStock-639107098.jpg

I thought this was really interesting on a couple of fronts. First, it fascinates me that, thanks to the tax money you provide the US government, the Department of Labor actually keeps data on this kind of information. While I never want to be critical about things I don’t know much about, I do have to scratch my head and ask if my tax dollars could have gone into the free market rather than pay for what seems on the surface to be a useless analysis of data collected.

Once I got past my inner critic it was kind of fun to think about the differences between being a writer and a mobile home installer: creative communication skill versus spatial thinking and manual dexterity. 

While it is a bit of a “blinding glimpse of the obvious” that the work of a physicist (thanks, Big Bang Theory for cluing me into this one) is very different from that of a kindergarten teacher. What becomes interesting are the assumptions we make about what it takes to be successful in different organizational roles.

3 Components of workplace success

Raw Intellect. There is a well-established link, with little to no debate, between the importance of overall intelligence and success in the workplace. It goes without saying that for any job that exists in an organization a certain amount of intellect is required to be able to accomplish the tasks that the organization is paying for. If you teach kindergarten you may not need to be able to do advanced calculus or understand how statistics applies to quantum theory but you need to be able to master education philosophies and advanced learning strategies. 

For most of the roles in our organizations, we don’t measure the minimum level of intellect is needed for job success on any kind of scale. We have some idea through education processes that if someone graduated from a school that has a  qualified welding program, most likely the person has the intellect to do the job. This is one reason that education matters so much, even if young people have no idea what they want to do after graduation, stay in school and get your degree you will just have more opportunities to choose from.

Skills and Talents. The second component for workplace success that gets the most scrutiny in interview processes are the behavior abilities the person displays. Back in my sales management days in the pharmaceutical industry, I spent many a day interviewing potential candidates trying to decipher if they had the skills needed to be successful on my team. We looked for people who could verbally articulate in a concise manner and who could solve problems on the spot. Paramount to sales success was the person's desire to learn complex ideas and then explain them simply. 

Behavior-based interviewing has become so popular over the years, focusing on a candidate's job experience gives some clue as to their ability to be able to perform similar task types in different roles. If a specialist in supply chain management knows how to use a pivot table then the use of this skill could be applied to any other role where pivot tables are important for job success.

And yet I can remember going through interviews with candidates from very good schools (had enough intellect) who had what seemed to have good transferable skills (in my case: sales experience) and think, “this person is not a good fit for my team." 

How is is that the person can be smart enough, and have the skills, but not be a good fit?

Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that people engage to know themselves better, have better relationships, and make better decisions.  Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that over one-third of the job skills that exist today will NOT be needed in the next ten years. And a new set of competencies that don't make the list today will end up on the list instead. 

In their book The EQ Edge, Steve Stein and Howard Book provide some examples of the emotional and social skills needed for different types of roles, including jobs like account executives and teachers and customer service professionals. For example, if you need to fill a customer facing role that includes sales and customer support components, you might know the type of education, skills, and talents you are looking for in a candidate, but do you know what emotional and social skills the person needs in order to increase their level of success?

Case study

Here is how I have been helping my clients think through these types of situations. Let’s use the above scenario as a case study. 

You have been hired as a consultant to help a client understand the types of candidates they need to hire for a new customer support role they are creating, which includes sales and customer service components.

Here are some steps you can use to think through the kind of people you might need to fill these roles:

Step 1. Define the Role-most of my clients have a good job description so this one is easy.

Step 2. Define what success looks like. How will your new hire know they are doing the job well?

Step 3. What kind of education level does the person need to have to be successful? Do they need an MBA from a top 10 school or a bachelors degree from any accredited institution?

Step 4. What are the skills and talents that the person has to have to meet the minimum level of success we are expecting?

For this role you might be looking for skills and talents like:

  1. Ability to collaborate and partner
  2. Self-motivation
  3. Creative problem-solving
  4. Result oriented
  5. Inspiring and influencing

Step 5. What are the emotional and social functioning abilities a person is going to need to align with the skills and talents they possess? We think about this as being the “how” they go about doing the skill.

                          Skill                                          Emotional Intelligence Ability

    1. Ability to collaborate and partner        Interpersonal relationships
    2. Self-motivation                                       Self-actualization
    3. Creative problem-solving                      Reality testing
    4. Result oriented                                       Optimism
    5. Inspiring and influencing                      Empathy

    Final Thought

    If you are a hiring manager or a candidate looking for your next role, you have probably spent a lot of time on considering education, skills, and talents, but have you spent enough time thinking through the impact that emotional intelligence plays in success?