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Wonderfully encouraging, Garr! Just as I would expect from the author of Presentation Zen. I'm going to share your 13 Tips with my grad students at USD (University of San Diego). (7) and (8) are my favorites -- Show your enthusiasm and remain open to possibilities. So true. I would add to the list, Be transparent. Kids rarely have hidden agendas, and even when they do, those agendas tend to be sweet and obvious, as in, "Beautiful, thin Mother, may I please have a popsicle?"
"Are narcissists at times worth the trouble?" Probably so, but I think it pays to find a different way to engage with them. It was only after reading your post that I realized how I'd learned that lesson somewhat by accident. Years ago, I worked for a wild-eyed entrepreneur -- I won't call him a narcissist, but he was all of the things you described: creative, engaging, risk-taking to the hilt, etc. (No, Dad, I'm not talking about you.) Over time, the company started going in a different direction, one that I thought was TOO risky (and random). Plus, for various personal reasons I was ready to move on and go back to freelancing. But when I gave notice, the boss made it clear he didn't want to lose my contribution, and asked if I would still work with them on projects (we were more than fair to each other, which I still appreciate). So when he asked if I would still do work for them, I said, "Yeah -- I'm not leaving the family; I'm just getting my own apartment." I was happy to hear they still wanted my contribution. They went on to become one of my biggest clients -- and my impact in some ways grew stronger, because I was tackling higher-level projects. And of course I was happier with the new working relationship, which probably influenced the quality of my work. So even when that sort of arrangement isn't feasible, we need to look for ways to contain the narcissist's damage, rather than tolerate it, or worse -- reward it!
Philosophically I agree with the question, but I think there are even smarter, more strategic ways to ask it. For example: "I see you're looking for someone to solve x, y and z -- and I'm prepared to do that, even before Day 1. What other skills or competencies matter most to you?" This approach will work, of course, only if the candidate takes to heart what is shared, and feeds it back to the interviewers. I don't mean regurgitate, but make it clear that the candidate understands the recruiter's needs. One must never assume, or leave it to the interviewer to connect the dots. I think an even more important question, following on the what-are-you-looking-for inquiry is, "What's it like to work here?" I love the honesty of people's responses. I interviewed an IT guy for an article years ago, who asked that question during interviews with two different companies. Both times, the response was along the lines of, "People don't really like it here, and they tend not to stay long." Wow. He wisely walked away from both places. As with the first question, the key is to listen to and heed what you hear!
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Jun 2, 2010