Many years ago, when I was working for another trial consultant, one of the clients spoke to my boss and told her that I “exuded competence.” The boss was happy to hear this and to tell me. I took it as a high compliment because it reinforced my goal of doing what I say I’m going to do. I was glad someone noticed. This has always been my objective – to get the job done, to ensure clients, whether it was back in my days as a photographer, or today as a trial consultant, know the service I or we provide will meet or beat their expectations. In the photography world, it is sometimes referenced as knowing that I would “get the shot.” I’ve been contemplating the idea of exuding competence lately while conducting a search for a Research Associate. Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring is never something I enjoy. It is a laborious process. Rejecting applicants is never pleasant. In today’s digital world, it just takes the press of a button; it is very impersonal. On the other hand, finding good candidates is a challenging job in separating the chaff from the wheat. One factor that makes a candidate stand out is if they seem both competent and confident in their own abilities. Over the years, we’ve encountered some employees who were, unfortunately, over confident in their abilities, that is, they didn’t recognize their limitations. But, I find a lack of confidence to be a more frequent trait of job applicants. I get it, in part; applying and interviewing for a job is intimidating and difficult. But I know, as an employer, that someone I interview by phone or, today, virtually through a meeting program, has a much better chance of progressing though the process if they appear confident in their abilities. Those who are apprehensive about various aspects of the job do not reassure me, or anyone in a hiring position, that they can do the job. I spoke with one person today whose affect was “weak” and “timid” to the point that I understand why he’s having trouble finding a job. Another candidate we interviewed in person, who looks good on paper, has such flat affect that she makes it hard to consider her candidacy for the position. For people selling things, including themselves for a job, their confidence leads to presumed competence; success depends on it. Then, of course, one better perform and meet those expectations!
David is right. We have to exude competence if we are to convince others that we possess the expertise necessary to perform a job. When I first became a trial consultant, way back in 1989, the person who trained me was a particularly tough task master. He greatly disliked my psychologist’s way of pensively contemplating all angles of every situation, including questions asked by clients. He became frustrated with my tendency to say, for example, “On one hand, the data have shown…but on the other hand, this also might happen.” He stopped me mid sentence one day and said, “Melissa, all of the clients know you are smart. Now all you have to do is convince them you are clever.” I was, at first, offended by his dismissive attitude, but relatively quickly, I understood what he meant. In any situation in which expertise is involved, one’s expertise must be conveyed to other people. It’s insufficient to possess expertise if one cannot convey its existence to someone else. For example, when one of Magnus’ clients retains me for jury selection, he/she does not want to hear me “hem and haw” about whether this particular juror would be a good juror for the case. The client wants me to say, with confidence, “I suggest you strike Juror #19 because she said she credits a doctor for saving her life and you are suing a doctor for medical malpractice.” In a similar fashion, when David asks a job candidate why he or she wants to work for Magnus, he is expecting a solid answer, not a timid, bashful, hands clasped behind the back answer provided with a downward gaze. Impressions count. Consider the impression you are trying to make and ensure you are doing what it takes to make a good one!