by Elaine Cercado
As a manager, I have hired and promoted people who were not necessarily the top graduate or the best expert. But I’ve always made it a point to hire and promote people who exuded a positive and professional approach; demonstrated their integrity and credibility; delivered consistently high quality of work (especially under pressure); and demonstrated enthusiasm, energy, confidence, humility, ability to learn quick, pro-activeness, emotional intelligence; among others. These are what I collectively call operational values, others may call these set of attitude or soft skills. I put equal, if not, more weight to these relative to the hard skills or competencies required of the job.
How would managers know your operational values?
The concrete examples you give. When accomplishing your performance appraisal (for possible promotion) or answering an interview question (in a hiring exercise), remember to give specific examples. If you would show your change management skills, then cite a time when you adapted to a new company direction, e.g. when your company went through a significant change like a merger or acquisition that impacted the corporate vision or culture, or an organizational restructuring that impacted your job or reporting relationship, or an industry technology shift that made you face new competitors. When I started my regional job, I leveraged the experience of working with a culturally diverse team and used that as an example to show my adaptability to my bosses. When our business model & sales approach changed from a transactional to solution selling, I changed habits, learned new skills and went out of my comfort zone. It is important to give specific examples relevant to the position requirements, to show how you handled a specific situation / challenge, and to share the outcome of your approach. These would give the hiring manager a very good picture of your operational values.
The patterns you show in your records. Your records such as your resume, or your historical performance appraisals, speak for themselves. Your managers look at patterns in your resumes, at ratings in your appraisals, or at feedback from people you work with if your company practices 360-degree feedback process. An experienced manager would be able to read any inconsistencies or gaps in your records, and validate accordingly. I once hired a country sales manager because he exuded professionalism and confidence, gave specific examples that demonstrated his systematic approach to things, and showed in his record a pattern of working only with global brands and companies known for their world-class products and solutions. To me, his record showed his underlying values for excellence and integrity. I perceived him as someone who had standards and would not compromise them, even at the expense of making unpopular choices. And I was right indeed.
The X factor. This is the intangible, the gut feel, and the chemistry. It’s hard to place a finger into this. As a manager, I’ve had my share of disappointments and learnings as I’ve hired people who gave excellent specific examples and showed great record patterns, and yet were unsuccessful in their roles. Whenever I looked back, the one thing I would say to myself was “I should have stuck to my gut feel” (during the hiring process). One example was when I hired a marketing professional who seemed introvert during the interview process. As it turned out, the person was indeed extremely introverted that it became an obstacle to effective performance, as the role required a lot of team collaboration.
As a manager, my biggest learning is that for a critical position in the company, I have to look at the hard skills as well as the operational values, which I can find from all three key factors – the concrete details and quality of the interview, the patterns on the person’s records, and the X factor. If the interview and records show the person is 90% perfect, and yet I have that 10% reservation, then I would re-evaluate. The point is that there has to be a big check mark in each of these three key factors.