Thursday, August 5, 2010

Let's Not Overdo This Qualifications Thing...

A recent post over at Steve's HR Technology about jobs that require degrees got me thinking.

I believe that how well someone will do at a job has more to do with who they are than what sort of degree or experience they have.

There are exceptions: If you're going to perform surgery on my brain or represent me in a court of law, I want to see a degree or two after your name and I don't want to be your first client after graduation.

But for a lot of the jobs out there, an understanding of the basics is enough to be going on with.

Let me tell you a story about a time when I talked my way into a job I wasn't qualified to do.

It was while I was in graduate school getting my MA in international management with an emphasis on Japan studies. There was a paid summer marketing internship in Tokyo that I wanted. Paid. Marketing. Tokyo.

I knew it must be mine.

Unfortunately, half the students in my class also knew it must be theirs. Most of them weren't a big threat to me - my grades were good, my Japanese was adequate, I'd already lived and worked in Japan and I'd taken a marketing class.

So, I had what you might call the basic minimum profile.

Only one person was a real threat to me. His grades weren't quite as good as mine, but no one actually cares about grades and his Japanese was friggin' amazing.

I plotted his downfall. Just kidding - he's still a good friend of mine - but I did plan to get that job.

Fortunately, the application required a self-introduction video. I wasn't so arrogant as to think I had the job in the bag when I heard this - because not everyone warms to an overconfident ham - but I knew this was my chance to stand out.

Let's face it, a video is almost always better than a resume with dubious credentials like 'ESL Teacher', 'Graduate Study Body President', 'Senior Aerobics Instructor', 'Writing Skills Tutor' and 'Assistant Financial Aid Clerk.'

I enlisted my teacher for help crafting a modest-yet-compelling introduction. I practiced the heck out of it. I wore my one suit and used copious amounts of product in my hair.

I shined. I exuded reliability. I appeared to speak fluent Japanese. I smelled good (just in case).

And I got the job. That was the first hurdle. The second hurdle was doing the job.

Despite my fluent introduction, my Japanese wasn't good enough to sit in on Japanese focus groups and take notes. We employed some note takers who would turn in their handwritten comments at the end of each focus group but that didn't help me much. I could decipher typed kanji characters with the help of a dictionary but the hand-written notes were way beyond me.

So, that first week I made stuff up. I told Coca-Cola executives their new Fanta drink was too pink (well, it was!). I told the Zegna management team that people found their suits elegant but expensive. I told... well, never mind, it was for the best.

I wasn't flying totally blind, you understand. I'd lived in Japan for 2 years and could read facial expressions and body language and I also understood some of what was said.

But in that first week or so, the guy I beat out for the job would have been a better fit.

Then something changed. In the focus groups, the same sorts of phrases were used over and over. I started being able to recognize and decipher the hand-written kanji characters. My brain adapted and began accepting new types of information.

After 6 weeks, I could fly through 10 hand-written pages of notes, pluck out the salient points and write up a killer executive presentation outlining product and marketing recommdations.

At the end of the summer, after several of my executive presentations had been favorably received by key clients, they offered me a permanent position after graduation. Which I politely declined.

It was a great learning experience but the job just wasn't challenging enough.

43 comments:

  1. Great story! I agree that arbitrary "qualifications" can be talent killers. I think that assessing "potential" is a neglected part of the hiring process. Too often we see employers looking for "plug-n-play" new hires, which is a mistake because down the road you never know what that employee may end up doing for the company. On a side note, it's cool that you can speak Japanese. Do you happen to still use it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for commenting. Sadly, 10 years in Munich has driven Japanese a bit out of my head, although I think I could pick it up again quickly if someone would pay me to work in Tokyo again. But my German is pretty darn good.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thankfulness to my father who ѕhаreԁ ωith
    me on the topic of this web sitе, thiѕ weblοg is rеаlly геmarkable.


    Ηere iѕ my web-sitе :: payday loans online

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dеfinitеly believе that which
    you said. Youг favorite reason appeared to bе on the internet the eаsіest thing to be
    aware of. I say to you, I definіtely get annoуeԁ whіle pеople
    thіnk аbout worries that they plaіnly
    don't know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

    Also visit my site payday loans

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. bookmarked!!, I really like your web site!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your style is unique in comparison to other folks I've read stuff from.
    Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will
    just book mark this site.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is the perfect blog for everyone who wishes to understand this topic.
    You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I
    actually will need to…HaHa). You definitely
    put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for many years.
    Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and also the rest of the site is also very good.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the issues.

    It was definitely informative. Your site is very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like looking through an article that can make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great blog you've got here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours these days.

    I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your style is really unique compared to other people I've read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark
    this page.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Excellent blog you've got here.. It’s hard to find
    high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals like you!
    Take care!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. There is definately a great deal to learn about this topic.
    I love all the points you have made.

    ReplyDelete
  17. After looking at a few of the articles on your web page, I
    seriously appreciate your technique of blogging. I book marked it to
    my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future.
    Please visit my website as well and tell me how you feel.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to
    see more, thanks for the information!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was excited to discover this website. I need to to thank you for ones
    time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every little bit of it and i also have you book-marked to check out new
    things in your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm excited to uncover this great site. I want to to
    thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every part of it and I have
    you saved as a favorite to check out new things in your site.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me.
    Appreciate it!

    ReplyDelete
  22. You should take part in a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the web.
    I most certainly will recommend this website!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Saved as a favorite, I love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  24. This web site really has all of the info I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Very nice blog post. I certainly love this website. Keep it
    up!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular
    post! It is the little changes which will make the greatest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I really love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my very own site and would love to
    know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called.
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be useful to read articles from other
    writers and use a little something from other sites.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hello, There's no doubt that your site might be having browser compatibility
    issues. Whenever I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening
    in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to
    give you a quick heads up! Besides that, fantastic blog!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Good site you have here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays.
    I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. You've made some decent points there. I checked on the net for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with
    your views on this web site.

    ReplyDelete
  32. An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto
    a friend who has been doing a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me dinner because I found it for him...

    lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for
    the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this topic here on your
    website.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this web site before but after browsing through a few of
    the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I discovered it and
    I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post
    and also the rest of the website is extremely good.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe that this site needs much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  36. You're so cool! I don't suppose I've read a single thing like this before.
    So nice to discover somebody with some unique thoughts on this
    issue. Really.. many thanks for starting this up.
    This website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I really like reading an article that will make people think.
    Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

    ReplyDelete
  39. This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I've read stuff
    from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess
    I will just book mark this site.

    ReplyDelete
  41. That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!

    ReplyDelete
  42. After looking into a number of the articles on your blog, I truly
    like your way of writing a blog. I saved it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website as well
    and let me know how you feel.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hello, I do believe your site could be having internet
    browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening
    in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!

    Other than that, excellent website!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...