Can a job candidate with exceptional analytical skills set him/her apart from the sea of applicants? Furthermore, will good analytical skills be able to help people advance their career?
According to Julie Martin, the Controller and Director of Operations at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center¹:
Analytical skills are very important. Sometimes, it equals to “smart” even though there are smart people who might not have good analytical skills. … People with good analytical skills will be able to present their arguments with numbers and facts, which makes their statements more convincing. … Besides “numbers,” analytical skills can also be referred to a person’s ability of analyzing a complex issue and identifying the possible solutions to the problem(s).
Julie’s words remind me a qualitative study of mine in 2011, in which I asked a group of hospitality recruiters: “What intellectual skills are important in hiring a hospitality senior? Why are they important?” Analytical skills and problem solving skills were mentioned by a few recruiters. They expected college graduates must understand numbers and are able to solve business issues on their own.
I agree. Analytical skills are extremely important, no matter if we are working in a business or a not-for-profit organization. The bottom line is every organization must operate in a budget. Without the ability of generating incomes and controlling expenses, no operations can sustain. As a result, if we want to be a leader of some sort, we must understand how to make informed decisions with supporting data and rational reasons.
Have you ever worked with someone who possesses above-average analytical skills? Does this person look smart to you? Do you prefer to work with this person over others with below-average analytical skills? Why or why not? To think deeper, how can a person develop his/her analytical skills?
1. I invited Julie Martin to speak in my Hotel and Resort Operations class last week. I interpret our conversation based on my notes; Julie might not have said those sentences word by word.
Research has shown that attractive people can not only charm interviewers (and thus get hired easier), they are also more likely to earn more as compared to those with average or below-average looks. Accordingly to a Wall Street Journal report, attractive people can earn 3% – 4% more than a person with below-average look. If such difference adds up over a person’s lifetime, an attractive person can earn up to $230,000 more than an ugly worker; even an average-looking person can make $140,000 more. Another relevant Wall Street Journal report also suggests that workers who exercise regularly can earn 9% more than those who do not.
Just last week, I was having lunch with several hospitality recruiters in Syracuse University’s Career Fair. I asked them to name one thing that is crucial in interviews as well as a student’s career but many hospitality programs fail to teach in classes. Guess what I heard? — How well a student takes care of his/her look during the interviewing process and at work. Many hospitality companies set high expectations in employees’ grooming standards. It is reasonable that recruiters are looking for candidates who can dress according to the company’s guidelines, which is also supported by a qualitative study of mine.
- Have a well-groomed appearance during interviews and at work.
- Wear suits and professional dresses that fit a person well. According to some recruiters, it doesn’t matter if they are expensive designer’s clothes. If they do not fit, they will not look good at anyone.
- Pay close attention to our body languages. For example, when we are having a conversation with others, it is important for us to put down what we are doing and look at the other person’s nose/face to show our attention.
- Keep fingernails clean and in appropriate length. If fingernail polish is used, choose the conservative colors other than black, blue, or green.
- Do not wear tattoos or piercings, or cover them up.
- Do not wear perfume because others may feel uncomfortable with the smell.
- Do not wear excess amount of jewelry (applied to both men and women). People do not need to wear engagement rings or wedding bands for job interviews. At work, one ring in one hand is good enough.
- Do not wear more than one set of earrings at one time or huge earrings with exaggerating designs.
In the end, I have to admit that different industries or companies will have different expectations. It is also likely that more companies will allow employees to wear jeans, fit-flogs, or tattoos at work, but I argue that those who look professional at work can still earn more than those who do not.
What are your suggestions? Based on your experience, have you ever seen anyone getting hired or promoted solely because of his/her attractive look?
The Art of Curiosity (about last year’s Career Fair at SU)
The Wall Street Journal reported a study conducted by scholars at Stanford and Harvard, suggesting that employers are willing to pay more for candidates with high potential and promise than those with actual, proven performance. Is that for real? If so, how can job candidates demonstrate their potential during the interviewing process?
In this study, researchers asked 77 participants to evaluate two hypothetical applicants for a managerial position based on the candidates’ performance on two tests, one measuring a candidate’s leadership potential and the other measuring the actual leadership achievement. It turned out that these 77 participants were more excited with the candidate who did very well in leadership potential but moderate in actual achievement, as compared to the candidate who did very well in actual achievement but moderate in leadership potential. Interesting, but really?
I do not think potential alone can make the cut in job search especially in today’s economy. I tend to agree with Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School professor, on the fact that today’s employers are expecting new hires to immediately do the job. In fact, many employers only consider those candidates who have already had a similar job in hand. In this case, it seems that employers pay more attention to candidates’ actual achievement and work experience rather than assessing their potential.
I remember when I was interviewing for jobs as a doctoral student in 2008 and 2009. One university had great interest in my application. After the phone interview, the search committee believed that I had great potential and wanted to invite me for campus interview. I received a call later, requesting me for a copy of my actual publication(s). Even though I had several papers under review at that time, I was told that they must document at least one actual publication of mine before they could invite me for the campus interview.
Luckily, there were other schools extending an offer to me based on my potential instead of my actual publication record. I very much appreciate those schools, especially my current employer Syracuse University. Over the years, I believe I have shown SU that I can publish in high impact journals in the field.
Now that I compare my personal experience with the study about a job candidate’s potential and actual performance, I recommend job seekers to document their potential in addition to their actual achievement on their resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. For example, a job candidate can show that s/he is acquiring new skills through projects, training and development programs, and degree in-progress.
How can job candidates “document” and demonstrate their potential in job search? Any suggestions?
Silverman, Rachel Emma. (2012, July 25). Your potential beats actual achievements. The Wall Street Journal, B6.
The picture was downloaded from www.cartoonwork.com.
This month’s HR Magazine reported two interesting studies about self-promoter and self-deprecator. They are:
- Leaders who rated their skills significantly higher than the ratings given by their bosses are six times more likely to derail than those who have a more realistic view of their work performance, according to a study with 39,000 global leaders.
- While the self-deprecators are less likely to derail than self-promoters, they are also less likely to advance than those who are in touch with their actual work performance, according to Louis Quast, associate chair of the Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development Department at University of Minnesota. Self-deprecators are often overlooked even though they could be really good performers.
- Another study of 14,000 U.S.-based managers reveals that those seen by their immediate supervisors as lacking in self-awareness and tact were most likely to derail.
I am not sure whether being a self-promoter or a self-deprecator is also a cultural issue. I grew up in Canton, China. When I was a student, I was taught to remain humble all the time. Even when I achieved the highest score in class, for example, I learned to say: “I was doing just fine” or “I was doing OK; I could have done better.” If I did not get the highest score (it happened very often if you are interested) but was still among the top 10%, I learned to say: “I did not do well at all, and I must do a lot better in the next exam.” After I lived in the U.S. for a while, I have learned to be less humble and more honest with my true performance, but because I am so used to the idea of “being humble,” I still feel there are times when my potential has been overlooked.
I appreciate the idea of being honest as suggested by this HR Magazine report. It becomes obvious that neither self-promoter nor self-deprecator would get better luck at work. The key is to fully understand our ability and potential and be open to what we are capable of.
Do you believe your cultural background plays a role in making you more or less a self-promoter or a self-deprecator? How so? Furthermore, should employers consider such influence when assessing employees’ performance? In what way?
HR Magazine. (2012, July). Self-promoters more likely to derail. p. 18.
The cartoon was downloaded from http://baloo-baloosnon-politicalcartoonblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/humility-cartoon.html
There are millions of unemployed workers who are eager to find a job. Yet, there are companies still finding it difficult to fill vacancies. What is going on? Is it possible that we are not educating or training the labor force with the right skill sets that meet the society’s needs? Is it because employers are finding it challenging to screen the enormous amount of applicants for every vacant position?
According to this Wall Street Journal interview with Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School professor, there might be another possibility — employers now have a different level of expectations. In my interpretation, employers are probably expecting too much from job candidates.
Some employers, for example, no longer want to invest in new hires. In the old times, employers were usually willing to hire candidates with good attitude and great leadership potential. Then, they would train new hires the technical skills needed at work and even let them spend time adjusting to the new organizational culture. Now, employers would rather let others do the training for them by hiring a well-established candidate who has had substantial experience in the field. They want to hire someone who can plug in and do the job immediately. In addition, employers also expect new hires to do more by adding new requirements and responsibilities, making few candidates qualified for the position. If a position is not filled, the work can be done by other employees and thus, save more labor costs.
While this new hiring practice may help employers save money in the short term, I argue that it may cost more in the long term for a company and the society as a whole. I believe that job searching and hiring-selection is a fair game. While employers are selecting the best fit candidate, job seekers are also looking for the best fit boss. If an employer does not want to invest in new hires, why would any new hire want to invest in the employer or even feel committed to the job? Furthermore, if we look at the big picture (e.g. in the industrial level), since no one is willing to train or develop new hires, companies will end up fighting with each other for the same group of talent who has already felt less committed to their employers. One company’s gain becomes another company’s lost. Retention management and external recruits will become more expensive and difficult, which would eventually offset the training and development cost being saved.
What do you think? Is it a good strategy for a company to hire a candidate who is already doing the job in another company, or to hire someone with the right background and potential and then develop the new hires?
For job seekers, of course, it is important to understand employers’ new expectations. In addition, they may need to spend more effort and time on job search.
The cartoon was downloaded from CartoonStock.com