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Interview Battle: Qualities vs Strengths

“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
-John D. Rockefeller

Almost certainly, all of us have experienced success if for nothing else but perseverance. We’ve seen something through to the end through thick and thin. Or, we’ve simply persevered longer than our competitor. However, would the quote ring any less true if perseverance were replaced with honesty? What about knowledge, loyalty, passion, or compassion? Even flexibility, kindness, or fortitude?

No doubt these qualities, as well as numerous others, are essential for success on a broader and long-term level. As important as they are, though, can they be quantified? Outside of measuring on some scale of relativity, which varies greatly based on an individual or the situation, they are not quantifiable. They’re valued but can’t be tallied. No manager would decide to hire a candidate perceived to be dishonest, but, would have trouble discerning between multiple ‘honest’ candidates, all other factors being equal.

Therein lies the battle: How is a manager to decide on a candidate when all seem to, or at least claim to, possess the qualities of honesty, flexibility, knowledge, passion, perseverance, etc? Without the requisite strengths, the answer is the manager likely won’t decide based solely on qualities.

Strengths are those quantifiable factors that make a candidate the better choice, the one who will be invited for a personal interview or offered the job. Strengths, correctly described and outlined, differentiate candidates from one another.

John may have 8 years of industry experience, but Jane has 12. Adam has been ranked #1 out of 200 sales professionals four years in a row, while Mary finally achieved the top rank against 40 this year. Quinn’s vendor negotiations cover five states and consistently result in lower costs while Harry holds annual national vendor meetings resulting in rebates of $2MM. Each candidate can legitimately claim their differing experience as a strength while providing the hiring authority with varying and quantifiable points of differentiation. While a manager will certainly consider a candidate’s qualities in the hiring decision, notice that the terms loyalty, flexibility, or even honesty are not included in the strengths and experiences described above.

Consider this simple statement: Strengths are tangible, qualities are intangible. There’s no denying the intangibles are necessary to succeed, but understand the difference when interviewing.

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”-Judith Henderson

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