Dear J.T. & Dale: I wish you would write about job candidates who might be highly qualified for a particular position but lack perfect interviewing skills. Some individuals suffer from lifelong social awkwardness, and sometimes it’s more than mere social awkwardness, such as being on the autism spectrum. People with even a mild version of this disorder often struggle to master basic social skills.
As for carrying out a successful interview, the obstacles can seem – and even be – nearly insurmountable. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of three but nonetheless got through school and eventually earned a master’s degree. It took more than a year of struggling through interview after interview before I finally managed to land a job. This problem deserves more attention. – India
J.T.: I agree, India. And thanks for sending us information on Temple Grandin, who authored the book Thinking In Pictures – And Other Reports From My Life With Autism. She had a successful career as an animal scientist and wrote of her success, “I’ve had to get everywhere I’ve gotten through the back door.” What the “back door” comes down to is networking, but with a twist: Instead of just getting introductions, you need to get work samples passed around as an introduction. That way, the first impression is your work, not your interview persona.
DALE: There also are some terrific bosses who have learned to look for talent beyond first impressions and even beyond personalities. I wrote about shrewd hiring strategies in my book (Great) Employees Only, and one of the executives I profiled, Brooks Baltich, who runs a thriving insurance agency in Virginia, said this about interviewing a woman for a sales position:
“It was the worst interview I’d ever had. She was so nervous she wouldn’t look at me. She finally said, ‘I’m great on the phone.’
“I said, ‘Well, do you want to go to your car and call me on your cell phone?’
“She said she did.”
It didn’t actually go that far, because the idea got her to laugh and relax. Brooks spotted something in her, took a chance, and she became a star employee. Wise managers learn to be open-minded about people who don’t interview well, looking for gems that other managers have overlooked.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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