Suppose that Helen is the HR manager of a large clothing company, and Adriana and Mirabel are two women applying for a position in Helen’s department. Both women moved to the area recently. Here is an excerpt from their interviews.
Helen: I see that you were president of your SHRM chapter a few years ago. What made you want to do that?
Adriana: When I was starting out in HR, I joined the chapter, and the president at the time made me feel welcome. I started volunteering for various committees, and eventually my friend Darren, who has taught me a lot about the profession, suggested I run for president. I remembered how I grateful I was when the president reached out to me years ago, and I wanted to have the same impact on others.
Helen: What are you proudest of having accomplished during your year as president?
Adriana: Our members really enjoyed the programs we put together, and although I can’t claim full credit for that, I will say that I invested a lot of time looking for fun topics and engaging speakers. We were one of the first chapters in the country to use Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools, and it was one of our newer members who correctly predicted how important they would be in increasing and maintaining our membership.
Helen: What achievement are you proudest of?
Mirabel: That’s hard to say. A lot of people liked the article I wrote for HR Magazine about how HR managers can use social media successfully. It bothers me that so many people post things that could embarrass their employer. The article I wrote led to a couple of national TV interviews and even some paid speaking engagements.
Helen: What do you like most about HR?
Mirabel: I’ve had other jobs, but I until I got into HR, I always felt like a little fish in a big pond. Even in high school I felt like an outsider, but the things that made me a geek at the time, like knowing a lot about computers, are now in high demand!
Helen: Do you consider yourself a team player?
Mirabel: Yes, but I find that too many people lack a strong work ethic. Too often I end up doing most of the tasks no one else wants to do. But I enjoy working with others, and I’d like to think they enjoy working with me.
Both Adriana and Mirabel are accomplished, knowledgeable, and passionate, but there are subtle differences worth noting. There are no self-made women or men, and Adriana lets Helen know that other people have played an important role in her success. Although she used the word grateful only once, it’s clear that gratitude plays a strong role in her life.
With Mirabel, however, you don’t get the sense that her achievements had anything to do with anyone but herself. Even self-described geeks like Mirabel owe at least some of their technical expertise to others.
It’s also troubling to hear Mirabel disparage her teammates. She may indeed have had the misfortune of working with a few slackers, but surely she has also had colleagues who have helped her, just as she helped them. Why, then, doesn’t she mention them?
There is an emerging body of literature suggesting that grateful people are happier and more productive than people who aren’t. At the very least, grateful people are nice to be around! Assessing gratitude in someone you don’t know is trickier than evaluating sales performance, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
This is the sixth in a series of blog posts on how to hire high-character people. The first five were How to Hire Honest People, How to Hire Accountable People, How to Hire Caring People, How to Hire Courageous People, and How to Hire Fair People. Next time, we’ll look at what it means to be a humble person and how to evaluate this quality in job applicants.