December 16, 2010
Match.com might be wise
to ask people to describe themselves metaphorically to ensure better match-ups
When I was General
Manager of a leading communications firm in NYC, I interviewed a candidate for a
sales position who I initially liked, but who I then realized would be
absolutely wrong for the job. In the course of conversation, he mentioned he
loved theater. Since I share that passion, I spontaneously asked him, “If he
were to describe himself as a dramatic genre, which would he be?” Without
missing a beat, he said, “Tragedy.” When asked why he chose tragedy, he
explained, “Tragedy captures the essential existential nature of man. Like King
Lear, for example, tragedy reminds us that we cannot control our destiny, that
we are no better than footballs being kicked around carelessly in life by the
And I was looking for a
gung-ho, upbeat sales person to crack new accounts. Needless to say, whatever
the merits of his view on tragedy, this otherwise attractive candidate did not
get the job.
A metaphor saved me from
a hiring error and, inadvertently, saved this candidate from what would most
likely have been failure on the job as well.
Get the Fit Right
Both sides of the hiring process know how to prepare and read resumes;
how to ask probing questions; how to research each other; and how to sell the
benefits of their company or their experience. That said, getting the
intangibles right, getting the cultural fit and energy right is another matter.
Metaphor can solve that
As an Employer
John Osborn, CEO of BBDO, the global advertising agency, was recently
interviewed in “Selling Power” magazine. When asked about the type of people the
agency hires, he said he looks for people who are “radiators” not “drains,”
“hand-raisers, not finger-pointers.” Team players, collaborators, sharers,
forces for positivism and support—all distilled in succinct visual phrases.
Mindy Grossman, CEO of
HSN, Inc., which includes the Home Shopping Network, interviewed in a “New York
Times” ‘Corner Office’ column said, she only hires “Tiggers.” She needs
energy-givers. “You don’t hire Eeyores.” Cheerful, outgoing, confident people
vs. sad and gloomy downers--all captured by metaphorical references to the Pooh
As a Candidate
Everyone puts their best foot forward in an interview. Everyone’s
resume shouts experience and accomplishment. Everyone’s reference letters glow
with praise for the subject of the letter. So, how does a candidate separate
him/herself from competent competition to nail the job?
In one case, asked by an interviewer why he should be hired to sell that firm’s
professional services, he got the job by replying, “I‘m just like Rocky. You
knock me over and I come right back for more.” Determination, persistence and
energy--everything a sales manager wants in a new hire, expressed
metaphorically. No wonder he got the job.
Meet Your Match
(or Mate) Metaphorically
Getting agreement from management on the apt metaphor for a job
description will save employers time in finding the right candidate for a job.
If you are a candidate, a strong metaphor to describe your value will get you
remembered in an interviewer’s mind. A match in metaphors translates into a good
match for both sides.
See you in the New Year
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
In Case You Missed It...
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