It’s always good to use a great title to lead into an important topic. I first came across this one (the great title) in “Reframing Organizations” by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. They in turn were referencing “The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First” by Jeffrey Pfeffer. Regardless of the origin it’s a great way to open up a discussion on an important topic.
Often times in the workplace the process of hiring new employees is overly focused on academic achievement. This is particularly true when hiring less experienced employees who do not yet have an extensive work history. By placing too much importance on academic achievement we sometimes overlook some high quality candidates who could make a significant contribution to the organization. Let’s take a closer look and consider how we might modify our approach.
When I was in college I had an internship at a Navel research facility in San Diego. In school my overall GPA was solidly in the “B” range. Not a bad student but definitely not an “A” student.
I remember a very senior engineer at the facility relating a story about one of his “A” student interns. He said that when the student would get hung up on a problem she would tend to spend a great deal of time trying to solve it being reluctant to ask for help. This was a negative quality in his view as he saw it as needlessly wasting time when she could have easily asked for help. He seemed to think that behavior was more likely in his “A” student interns than in the others.
High academic achievement is certainly a desirable quality in a job candidate. The point here is that academic achievement should not overshadow other important qualities when considering a job applicant. Social skills and cultural fit are critical to success in most organizations.
Consider the following:
- Academic Achievement – Good grades indicate more than just the ability to study and pass exams. Earning a degree (with an outstanding GPA or a less than outstanding GPA) indicates an individual’s ability to stick with a challenge over a period of time until success is achieved. This ability is extremely valuable in the workplace.
- Social Skills – As project managers, most of us work in matrixed organizations where we don’t have direct reports. We are generally dependent on functional managers to supply people to work on our projects. In this environment, PM’s with good social skills are more likely to get the people they want and be able to motivate those people to high levels of performance. Individuals with good social skills are also more likely to do well in the team environment that is so prevalent in today’s workplace.
- Cultural Fit – More forward thinking companies are evaluating job candidates for cultural fit and social skills as well as for hard skills. The thinking here is that if a candidate is lacking in some technical skills, that can be addressed through training or mentoring. It’s much more difficult to address an attitude that is not aligned with the organization’s culture.
Please take some time to consider and share your thoughts on the following:
- Does your organization overemphasize academic achievement?
- How do you view this subject when you participate in the hiring process?
- Does your organization consider social skills and cultural fit in job applicants?
©2016 Joseph T Drammissi