12 March 2020

Can you sell yourself?

A Journalist asked Marie Curie: How is it to be married to a genius?

She replied: I don’t know, ask my husband.

Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, along with her husband and Henri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity.

The Accidental HR Representative

Some months ago, one of the local community groups I am currently engaged with was recruiting new members, and I volunteered to take part in the recruitment exercise – as an interviewer. For the first time, I was having to experience sitting down at the other side of the interview table while a candidate was being “fed” with those stereotypical #HR questions whose answers we are never profoundly interested in but keep asking anyway.

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The experience and responsibility of being in such a position was not only new for me, but it also allowed me to be able to see the interview process through a different lens. And as part of the routine, we were briefed on the task ahead. We were to ask the candidate a couple of questions from the prepared question list and provide independent assessments based on her responses. The list of questions covered aspects that mostly focused on her expertise and experience relating to the role.

But in my mind, only two kinds of subjects were of primary importance: the candidate’s motivation and her experience with failure. So, I asked her,

“1. Please tell us why you want to join this group?

2. Have you failed at anything before? And how did you handle the experience?”

Although the questions I asked were not part of the prepared questions we had received, I was keen on asking them anyway. And within the first few minutes of hearing her response to them, I had become convinced that she was right for the group.

If your life depended on it, could you “convincingly” sell yourself?

As an explorer, Christopher Columbus was mediocre at best. He knew less about the sea than the average sailor on his ships, could never determine the latitude of his discoveries, mistook Islands for vast continents and treated his crew badly. But in one area he was a genius” – he knew how to sell himself” – R. Greene in 48 Laws of Power

“The ability to “convincingly” sell oneself might say little or nothing about how you will perform or function in a role, but it can go a long way to determine if you will get considered for it in the first place. In retrospect, my conclusion about the candidate might have been flawed. For one, there was no way I could guarantee that she was going to be a good fit for the role (maybe her performance in the long term would prove me right). But at that point, I was basing my opinion on the fact that I was totally bought over by how she had sold herself. She was so good a seller, that I couldn’t resist the urge to buy on the spot.

Have you ever bought a used car or know someone who has? Then you probably can relate a similar experience. While you are “rationally” aware that there is no way to guarantee that the vehicle will, in the long term provide you with your money’s worth and investment, a good car salesperson is still able to convince you to part away with hard-earned cash without much consideration of the rational facts.

At some point in life we might find ourself in positions where we would need to sell ourselves. And if you are not Marie Curie, Christopher Columbus and a very good car’s salesperson, would you be able to convincingly sell yourself?

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