The One Thing That May Get You the Job Offer
By Bruce Hurwitz
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it might get you the job offer.
Years ago I attended a lecture at New York University by a former college president. She was having a really bad day. The first thing she said was that women were more philanthropic then men because of biology. (The consensus among the men was that the buffet was impressive so, even though there was probably more nonsense to come, it would be worth the wait. It was!)
The third thing she said (and that’s not a mistake on my part; the second thing will come next), was that human beings are the only animals that show empathy, sympathy for others, and care about family. Every hand went up. There were stories about pets – dogs, cats, even birds. Instead of admitting she was wrong and had to rethink her hypothesis, she dug herself in deeper. (Rule Number One: When you find yourself in a whole, stop digging!) She said that individual stories reflected the prejudices of the pet owners. They saw what they wanted to see. (That did not go over well…) Then someone mentioned elephants and noted he did not have a pet elephant at home. Neither did the woman who spoke about horses. But it was to no avail. Then I remembered I had a copy of National Geographic with me and had read an article on birds sacrificing for the family unit. I raised my hand, stood up and, without being called upon, I said I thought that two short paragraphs from the article would end the discussion. The speaker let me read and then said she wanted to move on. (We, the men, now joined by the women, wanted to move on to the buffet!)
But it was the second thing she said which stayed with me. The speaker informed us that what separates humans from other animals was that we human beings are the only creatures on the planet who are curious. I found that an ironic statement because she obviously was not curious enough to check her facts. (No one responded because of what came next!)
This was the first, and only, time I can remember no one having a question for a speaker at the end of their presentation and everyone standing up and heading for the food as the moderator thanked the speaker. So why did her “curiosity” statement stick with me?
Back then, when I was at NYU, I was a fundraiser. The topic of the presentation was supposed to be “Women and Philanthropy,” an extremely important topic at the time as it was estimated that trillions of dollars were going to be bequeathed to women in the coming years. I, if you will, was curious and wanted some insight into how to approach elderly women, widows, to ask for donations without sounding like a fool, or worse. Needless to say, from that perspective, it was a wasted evening.
But the issue of curiosity always interested me. Why is it that we humans have always looked to the heavens and asked questions about those flickering lights in the sky? Why do we want to know why the sky is blue? Why do we want to know why men have nipples? Why… You get the idea. (And for the record, why do dogs literally stick their noses where they do not belong?) The answer is curiosity.
Perhaps the best question an interviewer can ask a job candidate is, What are you curious about? And if they don’t ask the question, perhaps the best thing a candidate can do, when given the opportunity to tell the interviewer(s) about themselves, is to say, This is what makes me curious.
It does not have to have anything to do with the actual job. In fact, it might be better if it were totally divorced from the job as that will show that the candidate is a “complete” person. I, for example, am curious about how one molecule can be in two places at the same time in the realm of quantum mechanics. I am also curious about why otherwise intelligent people would become engaged without signing a prenuptial agreement.
Of course saying that you are curious about something is not enough. You also have to prove that you have tried to find the answer. For example, the two explanations for my molecular problem that I kind of, sort of, understand, is that it has something to do with gravity or it is a question of timing, when the molecule is observed. But I readily admit I am not intelligent enough to be able to explain either explanation or to know which, if either, is correct. But that’s perfectly alright. Admitting ignorance is a strength, not a weakness, and should help, not harm, a candidate in a job interview. The important thing is the search for the answer.
So my advice, for what it is worth, is to tell potential employers what makes you think. What grabs your attention. What makes you curious. And they may make you a job offer!
Oh, and as for the pre-nup question, it seems the reason is simply the person declining the pre-nup is focused on having a successful divorce, not marriage. (That one I could not Google; I had to ask!)
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