What is the single biggest green flag during a job interview?
This is a tale of two candidates.
Carl grew up a regular house pet. Will was raised by wolves.
Both were products of their upbringing.
For most of his life, Carl relied on others to feed, walk, and groom him. But where Will came from, if you wanted to eat, you killed your own lunch.
Though the two men led very different lives, their interests and good fortune led them down a similar career path.
But in the way they presented themselves, the two men revealed just how differently their circumstances made them…
For several years, both men chipped away at their careers.
Carl’s charm and easy-going natured gained him the favor of his superiors easily. In no time at all, he worked his way into management.
Meanwhile, Will’s fate proved much different. Will started at the bottom. Though his gruff, but determined attitude brought him success – it also put him at odds with authority. Still, Will never relented.
Carl continued to climb through the ranks of middle management, and the team reporting to him grew. While Will continued to slug it out in the trenches – developing an intimate familiarity with the behaviors that led to success.
As both men climbed, their paths diverged farther. Carl got comfortable. But Will got hungrier.
Carl filled his days checking in with subordinates. Will spent time getting into the weeds, taking control, and willing results into existence.
But by society’s scorecard, both men were doing very well.
Then one day, both men’s phones rang about an absolutely astonishing job prospect. Suddenly, their paths were about to collide…
Both men knew immediately this was not a job you passed up. So they threw their names in the hat – but neither had any idea what they were up against.
The recruiter for the job felt she had struck gold. After hundreds of applicants, she finally found not one, but two candidates who came highly-recommended from excellent sources. At last, she thought.
And that’s when things finally begin to unfold…
Immediately, the recruiter calls both candidates to schedule phone screens.
Will responds within 15 minutes – they complete their call that same afternoon. The recruiter scores him 5/5 stars. So the recruiter schedules an on-site with the CEO, COO, CMO, and several other key members of the leadership team.
Carl’s response comes two days later – and they finally connect the following Friday afternoon. The recruiter finds Carl charming, polite, and is baffled by his experience running a team. She immediately schedules an on-site for Carl, as well.
Carl interviews first.
He immediately wins the team over.
“Wow, this guy really knows his stuff,” remarked one executive. “He’s lightyears more knowledgeable than anyone else we’ve spoken to.”
By all accounts, Carl proved he was made for the job. But a strong suspicion lurked that his abilities did not exceed the job description.
But deep down, the CEO isn’t convinced. Something rubs him the wrong way.
Either the way Carl dressed, carried himself – or his overly casual demeanor. He could not disagree, Carl was 10x better than anyone they’d interviewed yet. But for some reason he couldn’t quite put his thumb on, he felt entirely on the fence…
Then…Will shows up.
After four hours of grueling interviews, Will finishes, and the CEO calls a meeting.
“Thoughts on both?” he asks the team.
“Will,” echoes the entire executive team.
“Ok, why?” the CEO counters.
And then the team rattles off a full list of the best things they’ve ever encountered in an interview.
Carl behaved like he had the job. He was casual. Comfortable. Too familiar. Yes, he was really good and knew his stuff. But something was off.
Will showed up with a shovel – eager and ready to jump into the trenches. He wore a suit. He commanded the room. He had a natural presence. Was he comfortable? Yes – but not in the same way as Carl. Will carried himself like Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers: first one on the field, last one off.
Basically, Will looked, lived, breathed the part. Like he would blow the doors off what the job required – and more. But Carl acted like he’d earned it.
In short, not only did Will feel like he was made for this job – it felt like this job was made for him.
How you carry and present yourself matters. Maybe someday Carl will learn that. But Will was raised by wolves. He gets it.
Originally published on Quora by Mitchell Earl.
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