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Love That Job! (by Paul W. Smith)

51-Love-My-Job 001

I don’t have exact numbers to back this up, but I would be willing to bet that the nationwide ratio of total job interviews to actual hirings has gone up considerably over the past few years.  Companies are pickier than ever, most of them believing that the perfect match is out there just waiting to be found.  They are more than willing to wait.  Members of my professional network struggle to secure an interview, spend countless hours preparing, give their absolute best possible performance, and then sit next to the phone agonizing over that magical, elusive call-back. 

Now reread that last sentence and replace the word “interview” with “first date”.  You would not be alone in your epiphany.  It doesn’t take a heart surgeon to see that putting a job seeker together with a company is a lot like bringing two folks together to start a personal relationship.   Does this mean you should skip the post-interview thank you note and send a dozen red roses instead?  It depends.

Change is the operative word in today’s job market.  Consider that age-old business standard, the resume.  Leonard da Vinci gets the credit for quilling the first one in 1482, although I can’t imagine the iconic Renaissance man fitting all of his accomplishments onto a single sheet of parchment.  Resumes became a routine part of the job seeking process around 1950, and have remained a permanent fixture ever since.  Over the course of my own career, I have witnessed some subtle shifts in the utility of this archetypal document.  Any career coach will say that you absolutely must have one, and then immediately point out that it has very little value in landing a job.

Resumes are good for a quick read on education and experience, but not so good at revealing the personality of the one they represent.  This is partly because it is difficult to paint that picture using the traditional format, and largely due to accepted practice.  Try putting “Likes long walks on the beach and cuddling by the fire” on your resume and see how that works out for you. 

Since hiring is a $400 billion global industry, it’s no surprise that it’s heavily scrutinized for potential improvement.   Companies have started to embrace the importance of soft skills and cultural compatibility in potential new hires.  While education and experience remain important, they don’t always correlate with job success.  For economists, hiring is a conventional two-sided matching problem; in their computer models, the words “company and worker” are interchangeable with “man and woman”.

There is another glaring similarity between hiring and dating that shouldn’t be overlooked; both are a train wreck.  Couples rush to the altar based on frequenting the same bars, looking tolerably hot, and sharing a love for Thai food.  Companies drool over the resume of a PhD with a 4.0 GPA who put herself through school working as a machinist.  Meanwhile, about half of all marriages fail, and two-thirds of today’s workers say they are unhappy enough to leave their job if only they could. 

Innovation happens when two unlikely entities come together and make a baby.  Like any good e-business, dating website eHarmony has been looking for ways to broaden its business model.   With more than 10 years of experience and a self-proclaimed mastery of the soft human factors that lead to good personal relationships, they are about to launch a similar approach to the hiring process.  There are indications that the market may be ripe for this.

Sir Richard Branson has said that when he interviews someone who is caring, fun and loves helping others, he knows he has a winner.  Deepak Chopra fashions a “soul profile” based on questions that seek to reveal a candidate’s archetypal life themes, things like passion, vision and values.   Apple’s Dan Jacobs is a bit more succinct - “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole on your team.” 

When surveyed, women say the top five character traits they look for in a man, in order of importance, are faithfulness, dependability, kindness, moral integrity, and being a good role model (fatherliness).  E-Harmony is betting that those same qualities will make for a successful hire. 

For the relationship version of the matching problem, psychologist Dr. James Dobson has this advice - “Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can't live without.”  Now reread that last sentence and replace the word “marry” with the word “hire”. 

As I ponder the many companies I have worked for, it does seem that the ones which were a good cultural fit and that truly valued the soft skills were those where I was happiest and most productive. 

The days of lifetime one-company employment, culminating in a gold watch and weekday tee-times, are over.  On the other hand, my wife hired me as her mate 34 years ago.  As far as I know, there are no rumored layoffs.  



Author Profile - Paul W. Smith, a Founder and Director of Engineering with INVENtPM LLC, has more than 35 years of experience in research and advanced product development. 

Prior to founding INVENtPM, Dr. Smith spent 10 years with Seagate Technology in Longmont, Colorado. At Seagate, he was primarily responsible for evaluating new data storage technologies under development throughout the company, and utilizing six-sigma processes to stage them for implementation in early engineering models. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, and currently administers the group “Technology for the Journey” on the ASME website.  

Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.