In his book, Present Future: Business, Science, and the Deep Tech Revolution, Guy Perelmuter writes (p.55), “The use of subjective judgment, emotional intelligence, and adaptability to unexpected situations are emerging as important characteristics for the employees of the future since these are features that are quite uniquely human and will very likely not be replaced by a machine in the foreseeable future.”
This quote is important for two reasons: First, Mr. Perelmuter is correct. Second, this is a great example of why job seekers can better spend their time reading books by legitimate authorities on the future, especially scientists and engineers, than reading “how to” books about getting a job, with the obvious exception of mine!
I have two rules about competitors. First, I never acknowledge anyone as my competitor. The minute I would do so, I would be telling potential clients that they, the competitors, are as good or better than I am. Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that? Second, I never try to build myself up by knocking someone else down. When I am asked about a competitor I always reply, “I don’t know enough about them to comment. All I can do is tell you about myself.”
No one can possibly be offended by that response. And it will work nicely in a job interview. This is especially so given that employers are not going to tell candidates against whom you are competing. That being the case, candidates have to assume that their competitors may have more direct experience than they do or may be younger. The first is faced by some veterans (although many have far more relevant experience than civilians); the second by older workers.
In either case, you never want to say, “I have experiences that no one outside of the military could bring to the table.” Or, just as bad, “I have more experiences than some twenty-something.” After all, you may be insulting the person who is interviewing you.
So ignore the competition. Don’t forget them; just ignore them. The inference will be that you have what the others don’t.
Which brings us back to Mr. Perelmuter. What are “subjective judgement,” “emotional intelligence,” and “adaptability to unexpected situations?”
First, they are all connected, in one way or another, to something I wrote about some time ago namely, on what older workers/candidates should focus in a job interview. My answer was then, and is now, dealing with adversity. In my career I have had to deal with death, criminality, and technological breakdowns, to name but a few. I guarantee I can “beat” you on your example of your worse day on the job. Someone with, let’s say, five years’ experience just can’t do that. They may have one example, but not enough to show that they can handle Perelmuter’s third point, which I will deal with first.
A good interviewee (candidate) politely takes control of the interview. They refocus the conversation to their benefit. Think about what talented politicians do in an interview. They answer questions by refocusing. (I think it was Churchill who said something on the line of, If I don’t like your question, I’ll respond to it; if I like your question, I’ll answer it!) You, the candidate, should do the same. Answer the question you are asked but immediately add a caveat. Say something like, “But what is also important is to prepare for the unknown. We do that all the time. That’s why we have insurance. That’s why we have virus protection on our computers. But, of course, we can always be surprised. No plan is perfect and no protection is fool-proof. Let me give you an example.”
I promise you, a veteran and an older worker will have a much better example than someone who has never served in the military or who has an employment record that can fit nicely on half a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.
Which brings me to “emotional intelligence.” I have read a great deal on the subject and, with all due respect to the experts, I still like my one-word definition the best: maturity. People with emotional intelligence do not panic. If you will, they do not get emotional. So, when giving your above example add, “As always, when the unexpected happens, I take a deep breath, and then begin to calmly respond. If I panic, everyone else will panic, and a bad situation will only get worse.”
And that brings us to “subjective judgement.” It’s “subjective” because it is yours. You are judging the situation. If everything works out, you are a hero, if not… Of course, in the example you will give, you will be right. So the emphasis is on “judgement.”
Now that you have explained that you do not panic, that you are mature, you have to tell the interviewer how you reached that decision which proved to be correct. In this case it is important to emphasize two things: First, experience. Briefly recall similar situations you had and what you learned from them. You can even include a failure. Recognizing your failures is a sign of strength, not weakness and, as everyone should know, you can often learn more from failures than from successes. Second, and just as important, make sure to say that you consulted with your team prior to making the decision. Team members want to have their leader agree with them but, more importantly, they want to be heard. Explain to the interviewer that you always explain to your team members why you agree or disagree with their recommendations. By doing so, you gain their support and everyone should implement your decision without bitterness.
Such a strategy in an interview should impress the interviewers and help you to secure the job offer.