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Who Would You Pick?

Two Great Candidates….


Who Would You Pick?

Many of you might already be familiar with this story – especially if you’ve worked with me in the past (I love this story!). It really drives home the critical nature of genuinely successful executives.

Two top contenders were vying for a premium position at a renowned Fortune 500.

Candidate #1: Recent Harvard graduate, with a shiny new 4.0 MBA to show for it. Not only did he meet the minimum requirements for the position, but he exceeded areas of expertise that would likely get him promoted faster than what was considered norm at this particular company. Plus, he had served as an intern with a competitor, so that was another leg-up. He showed up in an Armani, carrying a very impressive, high end briefcase (attaché). His portfolio could blow the socks off the decision makers.

Candidate #2: Also earned his MBA, at a less prestigious university a handful of years ago. With a 3.7, his GPA was backed by five years of experience in the field. He earned promotions at his last position hand over foot. The work he accomplished at his previous position was extremely impressive. Not only did he have the numbers to support the revenues generated by his work, but it was no secret – the decision makers were well aware of how well their competitors were doing. This particular candidate was coming from a top competitor. He arrived in a nice suit – well pressed and conservative.  His portfolio was almost as impressive as Candidate #1.

So, the final interviews ensued. Candidate #1 spent a considerable amount of time impressing the decision making panel. He was well-versed and was not shy about presenting numbers – even before being asked. He was polite, but aggressive. He knew his background was impressive and he made no bones about it. When the final set of interview questions came – the ones where we ask real-world questions – this particular candidate rolled out the numbers, aggressively and pointedly explained the technical aspects to a tee. He was spot on – considering the fact that he was directing this answer to top decision makers. He made it clear that with his background, they didn’t need to waste time with on-the-job traichess-pieces1-picning and he certainly didn’t need a mentor. As a matter of fact – he could be the mentor, or so he explained.

Candidate #2 was just as impressive with his presentation. He provided numbers and real-world examples. He was well-versed, polite, and assertive. He presented his expertise (i.e. MBA-related information, mixed with on-the-job experience) in a manner that appealed to this particular company. He approached this interview with the company as the core topic of interest. When the final set of interview questions came – this candidate artfully demonstrated numbers and approach in a manner that appealed to this company’s clients. His demeanor was approachable; he invited inquiry. His eyes lit up when they explained on-the-job training. He welcomed the idea of being   allotted a mentor. He demonstrated genuine appreciation for the additional support and training.chess-pieces3-pic

So, who got the job? Candidate #2. Candidate #2 may not have the Harvard MBA or the aggressive nature supporting the amazing background that Candidate #1 possessed, but guess what? Candidate #1’s genius presentation isn’t going to do this hiring company any good if he isn’t open to training. He needs to learn the ideosycracies of your organization. If he isn’t coachable. Both candidates possessed the experience, education, knowledge, and skill needed to execute this job. On paper, Candidate #1 would probably be the top choice – hands down. …until the hiring personnel had a chance to get to know him.

It’s amazing what a bit of humility, mixed with assertiveness can do; what attentive listening skills matched with a genuine interest in others can wield; and how our demeanor can make or break a deal.

It’s also astounding to realize that we can literally destroy opportunities because of the way we present ourselves.


The same thing applies to leadership