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
I Heard Professionalism, Maturity, Passion, and Leadership in My Interview with Ms. Britney Bubrowski
Last Thursday, I invited Ms. Britney Bubrowski to speak in my HR class. Britney graduated from college in 2008. She started her career as a HR Coordinator for a hotel before she moved up to the HR Manager and Director of HR position. Very recently, she accepted an offer from The Widewaters Group and became the company’s Corporate HR Manager of Hospitality. Britney has such an impressive career path. I wonder: what are her secrets for success?
Coincidentally, Britney pointed out two important factors: professionalism and maturity. Accordingly to Britney, it is important to maintain a professional relationship with the co-workers at work and have the level of maturity when dealing with work-related issues. I remember that not long ago in my other guest speaker sessions, the Director of HR at the Sheraton Syracuse University suggested that “maturity,” “flexibility,” and “personal branding” could be vital to a person’s career; another HR professional working in a soft-drink and beverage company emphasized the importance of “professionalism” at work. Is it just so happened that everyone echoes each other? Or is it a testimonial that professionalism and maturity are crucial in the work place? I believe they are critical for anyone’s success. Do you agree?
Being a corporate HR manager, Britney is heavily involved in the recruiting and selection process for hotel executives. She mentioned that she received many applications and that many candidates seemed well-qualified for the positions based on what was written on their resumes. I then asked her what makes a candidate stand out from the crowd. She told me that she would look for “passion” and “leadership” in the interviewing process, i.e. the passion for the hospitality industry, the passion for what s/he is doing, being able to motivate others, and being able to motivate him/herself. Once again, I agree with her 100% because I also “coincidentally” discussed the importance of leadership skills and passion before.
The class and I truly enjoyed our conversation with Ms. Britney Bubrowski. As always, she presented some very useful information. Do you find today’s discussion helpful? According to your experience, what factors can contribute to a person’s success? What advice will you give for those who are preparing for a professional career?
I was in three special events last Thursday (03/29) and Friday (03/30). Thursday morning, I invited a senior human resource (HR) manager working in one of the biggest soft drink companies to speak in my HR class. In the evening, I presented in the Etiquette Dinner hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) at Syracuse University. I then attended the 2012 Hospitality Senior Gala Event as a guest on Friday. These three events are different in many ways, but they all remind me the importance of professionalism. When it comes to professionalism, every tiny little detail matters.
Guest Speaker Section in the HR Class
The guest speaker has been working in the HR field for over 10 years. As the HR Business Partner in 2011, she took an active role in merging two big companies into one giant enterprise in the soft drink and beverage industry. Merger means more work for HR. For example, all job descriptions and employee performance must be reviewed, the organizational structure must be redesigned, layoffs (if there is any) must be carefully executed to comply with the employment law and legislation, communications about the merging process must remain transparent to all stakeholders, and strategies must be developed to redefine and nurture a new organizational culture.
While there are already so many things going on in the office, HR managers will also experience more traffic of employees who need assistance, many of whom feel uncertain about their future and want to talk to the HR managers. Being a professional HR, one must comfort the employees who worry about the merger and find time to get the “extra” work done, which entails a lot of attention to details. The most difficult thing, sometimes, is that the HR managers themselves may also feel uncertain about their future, but they must let professionalism drive them. A true professional should deliver and perform 100% until the last minute when they hold the position.
The Etiquette Dinner Hosted by OMA
It was my great pleasure of meeting with a group of student leaders in the Etiquette Dinner. Besides the proper manners for formal dining, I emphasized the three golden rules of dinner etiquette. They include:
- We are not there to eat when going out for a business dinner. The focus is never on the meal. Rather, it is about building a relationship, networking, and selling — either selling a product or service if we are negotiating a contract or selling ourselves if the dinner is part of the interviewing process.
- We must follow the host. We should order the items with a price tag that is less than or similar to what the host orders. More importantly, if a host breaks the proper rules for formal dining, we can either continue to follow the dinner etiquette we know without making a big deal of it or do what the host does. The bottom line for dinner etiquette is to make everyone around the table feel comfortable. For more examples of what I mean by “follow the host,” please visit my previous discussion on dinner etiquette.
- We must be discreet. Everyone deserves others’ attention. The dinner is not about “me” as a guest, and we should not talk loud.
Dinner etiquette covers many tiny little details regarding table manners. We need to know the details because professionalism reflects on our behaviors.
The 2012 Hospitality Senior Gala Event
I felt very proud of our graduating seniors who planned and ran the gala event on Friday. The turnout was great. Everyone had a wonderful experience, and the feedback was phenomenal. But once again, every detail counts in an event. As a hospitality professional, we know that “99 + 1 = 0” — we could have done 99 exceptional things for a guest, but the guest may still end up feeling very upset because of one tiny little thing that went wrong in his/her experience with us. Accordingly, many hospitality professionals pay attention to every detail and always strive for perfection.
So, how do you interpret professionalism? What criteria do you use in evaluating a person’s professionalism?