Interviewer: If I understand correctly, you were hired at approximately the same time as three or four other executives. Yet after three years, only you rose to become a Vice-President in the company. Why you? How were you able to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack?
Candidate: I don’t know. Maybe I am just lucky.
Interviewer: Seriously, what would you point to that might account for your success, and was the promotion to Vice-President part of a broader career plan?
Candidate: There was no master plan. I go to where my career takes me. I do work hard …maybe that’s it. Otherwise, you would have to ask others.
The above exchange actually took place. Was the candidate being modest or was he genuinely unaware of the attributes/skills that underlie his success? And, why was the interviewer pursuing this line of questioning?
Many organizations screen for self-awareness. They look for individuals who, as they say, ‘know themselves’; who understand the impact they have on those around them; who are purposeful in soliciting feedback and acting on it. They look for individuals with a balanced, realistic, ever-refined understanding of the situations in which they are most likely to thrive. They look for such individuals because self-awareness is considered an empowering step en route to continuous self- improvement. More practically, self-awareness increases the likelihood that if hired, an executive will learn, develop and succeed. Though self-awareness does not have a causal relationship with high performance, absolutely correlates with high performers.
For job-seekers, high self-awareness both expands and reduces the job choices available to them. It reduces choices because self-aware candidates focus more narrowly on the pool of roles and companies that they believe fit them and their career plans. At the same time however, self-awareness elevates candidates above the sea of the less self-aware making them more attractive to a larger number of opportunities. In the end, high self-awareness increases the odds of job seekers making a successful job decision, one in which they will thrive.
As for those job seekers who believe that modesty is a virtue, understand that self-awareness is not evidenced by immodesty, self-indulgent parading, boastfulness or other extravagances of form. If there is any extravagance at all it is of substance, balance, perhaps genuineness. Self-awareness is measured by depth rather than superficiality and blossoms with honestly and openness. So talk about yourself, if you can.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.