Just read a great book, Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. It chronicles ancient as well as modern historical disasters as a result of leaders’ big egos. It reminded me of the Sanskrit quote that, “ego is a mistake of the intellect.”
It also reminded me of the interviewing situation… on both sides of the desk. All of us will admit that there are some pretty phenomenally big egos out there in business. Some people feel that in order to be successful they have to be the center of attention. For whatever inadequacy they may have in their personality makeup, they feel the best way to offset their inadequacy is to be particularly egotistical. (I worked with the hiring authority some years back who actually told candidates that his job was to hire people to make “him look good.” And it would be their job to do the same.)
Many job candidates feel as though they must assert their ego in the interviewing situation. “After all,” they say, “if I don’t toot my own horn in the interview, no one will pay attention to me.” And hiring authorities often want to communicate that they are just that, the “authority.” These kind of managers are phenomenally difficult to interview with, much less work for. And, frankly, there is very little a candidate can do about it when interviewing. If you’re a job candidate, and you are offered the opportunity to work with such a person, you’d best ask a lot of questions of the people who presently work there to see if you can work for this kind of personality. Sometimes, managers come across much more egotistically in the interviewing environment than they really are. Often, this kind of ego can be worked “with” rather than “for.”
As a job candidate, however, there is a great deal you can do about taming your ego. There’s a really big difference between having a healthy ego and a big ego. A person with a healthy ego puts their accomplishments in the light of how they helped their previous company or their previous customers succeed. They couch their successes in terms of others rather than themselves. You hear them using the terms “we” and “fortunate,” and “blessed” as well as “the team” and “great clients.” They connect their successes of the past to the great mentors they had. They recall their “wins” with the same humility as their experience of failure. They put failure in the context of what they learned and take full, personal responsibility for outcomes. They focus on process rather than results. They take what they do seriously but not themselves too seriously. They accept failure as well as success with the same grateful attitude. They sell their strengths with humility and readily admit their weaknesses with humor and a smile.
Many candidates, because they are nervous and anxious about interviewing, go overboard in the ego department. Because they are nervous and insecure they feel compelled to push what “they” have done. “I…I…I…” becomes their mantra.
Interviewing in this manner takes practice.