Updated: Jul 1, 2021
One Fine Day
It was a nice Saturday morning, I had my cup of tea and breakfast and I started reading the news. Suddenly my phone rang, seemed like a known number so I answered it. I heard a female voice “Hi Biswadeep, Good morning , so are you ready ? I have one candidate for you”
I told her to give me 10 mins time to get ready and she agreed. The call ended. The voice on the other side was of an HR professional who contacted me to conduct the final round of an interview for an Network Engineer. By this time I must tell you that I was kind of expecting this call since I was aware of a massive hiring drive being conducted by my current employer. This interview had to be taken remotely over a video call since the candidate was at Pune and I was at my Kolkata residence. So without wasting much time, I reached out for my laptop, got online and was all set in around 5 mins. I pinged the HR over skype and immediately she responded back.
“ Hi Biswadeep, so the candidate’s name is Bharat ( I am not using his real name here) and he has scored pretty good in his technical round, seems to be a great guy, here is his resume. So can I bring him online for the interview ?” . I sensed her excitement for 2 things, one was that I was 5 mins early and 2nd thing was that she thought this candidate is so good that he will just do a walkover and she will have one person hired for the day, one box checked for HR ( Number matters ). However I am as I am , I told her to give me another 5 mins to read the candidate’s resume properly. I heard a very low voice at the other end “Alright sure, take your time”.
Bharat was a CCNP certified professional ( considered to be pretty advanced level certification in Cisco), scored decent at college , had close to 8 years of experience. Once I was pretty much satisfied with my reading, I asked for Bharat. The camera was turned on and within few seconds I saw a stout guy take his seat infront of the camera and he greeted me for which I returned the favour back to him by greeting him. Even before I could speak any other words Bharat started talking about himself.
(Note- I have been completely against using “tell me something about yourself question” which interviewers use like mayonnaise. For me it is a waste of time and it might mean the hard work a candidate did for writing his resume and submitting to the interviewer well before the interview has begun, has gone for nothing. But this overhyped stylized question has been used so many times for so many years in so many organizations, in so many countries in the world that candidates these days are almost expecting this question )
So I had to stop Bharat and a strange conversation followed after that for Bharat.
Me- “ Wait wait wait, I did not ask you anything yet. You need to relax a bit and answer only when asked . Also I need you to be very specific for your answers, that way both your and my time will be respected “
Bharat – “ Sure Sir, I am sorry Sir”
Me – “ So I see you have worked for 8 years however in those 8 years you have worked for 5 organizations. Can you explain ?”
Bharat – ( Seemed a bit uncomfortable in his body language ) “ So the first one I had to leave due to contractual role , 2nd one I had to leave for salary issues, 4th one I had to leave due to promotion issues, 5th one I am working and not much exposure to data centres so I want a change “
Me- “ What about the 3rd one ?”
Bharat – ( Rolled his eyes as if it was unintentional) “ Oh! I am sorry , yes 3rd one also I left due to salary issues”
Me – “ What do you know of our organization ?”
Bharat – “ Well it is great company to work for, it is an MNC and I heard it has lot of projects “
Me – “ You said you wanted to join due to exposure to Data centres, but I am afraid we might or might not have data centre projects for you, will you be still interested to work for us “
Bharat – “ well I wanted to work in that type of projects but anyways it is a great organization to work with so am sure someday I will get to work on data centres right. So I am okay to work If I get a chance.
Me – “ Great so tell me about one assignment of yours where you failed ?”
Bharat – ( seemed shocked, as of he has heard an incorrect question) “ You asked about one assignment where I failed ?”
Me – “ Yes “
Bharat – “ Well, cant recall one, I have been a good performer and all I can remember that whatever task were given to me I have done it all “
The interview continued for sometime more but I mentioned the part that mattered most. Can you guess the verdict ? With full conviction I am telling you that about 95% of the time these types of final round or management round or fitment round whatever you want to call them, are just a formal walkover and interviewers compromise on the “will” part if the skill part is there. That is something I cannot digest till today. However back to topic, so I rejected Bharat ( Much to the lovely HR’ s astonishment). Bharat was a knowledgeable engineer with great technical acumen but he failed me in the “Will” matrix. Here is why,
1. A person who changes one organization to another in short time without having issue based or family based justification is disloyal. It was pretty evident that Bharat has greed for money and my organization was his next prey in his hunt for more. He is dangerous for my organization.
2. A person who states reason as data centre exposure first but was still okay later on to join anyhow is pathological liar without self-respect. This shows he des not have a strong will and value system.
3. Bharat did not spend any time learning about my organization before appearing for the interview, shows that for him organization, it’s work culture or values does not matter, only thing that matters to him is what he will get back by working here. It exposed his insincere and selfish nature the moment I asked him about my organization, he gave subjective and generic replies.
4. A person who say that he has never failed in his work is either lying which is not great, and even if someone is telling the truth it means that he has not taken enough challenging work himself where he might fail ( Note that he mentioned I did what was given to me ). This sort of employee will just sit and wait for task assignment and willingly will not venture into anything even if he can execute them.
Why does WILL matter first
For me there is no dilemma, no confusion, no ambiguity at all. “Skill” is always welcome if you have the “Will” or else you are a Bharat for me. I know there is a reverse logic to this, if you don’t have the required skills how will you work even if you have the will ? Whenever I have been asked this question, I have always told that a skill can be taught, trained or acquired in short time, even if a person is short on skill but he is willing to help he will ensure he gets someone to help his customers who has the required skills. Then I always ask a counter question, what if a person has the skill and when you contact him for help he gives excuses of being busy and refuses to help or maybe he has a bad temper or throws an arrogant attitude or treats everyone less -skilled than him as inferiors, do you have a time bound training course for that kind of guy to change his will and attitude ? Till now no one gave me an answer to that in affirmative.
Human skills are always changing and evolving. From the skill demand of lifting heavy loads to knowing how to use Loader Cranes, from knowing computers to knowing programming, from knowing networks to knowing cloud network and now we are in the AI and robotics age learning data science and automation. Skills are always changing since that is external factor and deals with your conscious thinking mind so it is trainable and acquired talent. Will and attitude however is an internal factor which does not change track frequently, your will and attitude has been under construction since your birth, factors like parenting, schooling, upbringing, friends, social status, environmental circumstances – all of these have kept on influencing and building your attitude slowly and it continues throughout lifetime. A persons behaviour and attitude develops throughout his first 20 to 25 years of life experience, it is deal of your subconscious mind. This deal is very messy, tangled with emotions and memory which takes a much longer time to change direction. It is much easier to hire someone with good attitude and then provide him all the training he requires to be successful vs to hire someone with wrong attitude and then try to change him. I have seen managers and leaders fall in the number trap so often and then suffer throughout the year with wrong hires. No warning letter, no performance improvement plan, no nothing can change someone attitude in short span of time, on top of that a person of bad attitude can spoil the harmony of the team and take away your peace of mind. WILL always should be No. 1 on your priority list.
This is 100% practical
Without wasting much time here, let me take you straight to the institution who delivers the most disciplined, skilful , lethal and the bravest of the Human breed year on year without excuses. I am talking about the Elite forces. Does not matter whether it is US Navy seal, or SAS UK OR India’s MARCOS. They are the toughest of the tough.
MARCOS training for instance is one of the toughest in the world and has at attrition rate of 95% which means only 5% of brave applicants ( Note that the applicants are from Indian Army who already possess great attitude) gets selected. Off course physical strength, mental strength, intellect, presence of mind, reflex actions, grit, perseverance, skills are tested to the core however the Training Officers say one thing, “ Not always the strongest, the fittest, the fastest, the most skillful commandos pass the test however almost every time during the final rounds when all energy is sapped and drained , the ones who carry their teammates home on their shoulder without stopping amidst bullets flying all around pass the test” . The attitude of helping your buddies first. This is the same thing you will hear from US Navy seals as well. No wonder when you offer a more lucrative job to an army men, most of them will turn down the offer since for them their fellow army men are brothers in arm and not just colleagues or any disposable forgettable relationship (Just compare that to how we run organizations where people compete with one another to nudge past their colleague just to secure that bonus or rating )
A lot of you might have started to frown a bit, if you have started thinking I consider my job done. For the rest of you who still might be sceptic thinking an army is very different from an organization or corporation so this might work on battlefield but doesn’t work at actual work place, So, let me take you to one level up further.
During my business trips, I always prefer to stay at Lemon Tree Hotel, rather if you ask corporates in India, am sure you will hear that name as a preferred choice for most. I still remember the first time I went to Pune, I searched online and I got a great deal @Rs1500 /Night at Zip By Spree Spine Hotel. When I arrived I got introduced to my room and trust me to my astonishment it was a suite. The spine hotel also had aa huge campus to stroll and even cycle around, with all other amenities like GYM, swimming pool there. I had a good stay however their internet never worked properly, I could not get any food after 11 pm If I wanted and service was average. Basically I did not get to feel anything special even though all the amenities were there. I have never went back to Spine Hotel since then, I always prefer staying at Lemon Tree even if it cost me more than double per night. Now let me tell you something about my experiences of staying at Lemon Tree Hotels and before I begin I like to mention that I found hardly any difference ( experience wise ) in between any of their Hotels at Vadodara, Pune, Bangalore . They are all well calibrated. Lemon Tree will give a very small but clean room. You will find all amenities just like other Hotels but customers just keep returning back to them. The secret of India’s Largest Midrange Hotel Chain is not the luxury or amenities they provide, it is the service they provide, their turn around time to resolve an issue and their staff delivers you an unique and personal experience. So you might be thinking that they hire the best staff in soft skills or customer service. Absolutely wrong, on the contrary Lemon Tree Hotel’s 20% workforce comprises of disabled staffs. you may be greeted with a person who is deaf or physically handicapped. The restaurant staff may include persons who have Downs Syndrome, but despite their physical limitations, work long shifts – and always serve with a smile. Your bellboy could be one who has a hearing impairment and the housekeeping staff could have been an acid attack victim. Also note that Lemon tree has been following this model since 2006. Even with this kind of staff in a service industry Lemon Tree remains a top choice for many and it’s popularity keeps growing.
I am not going into the business model or why they do it, if you are interested you may go through the articles in my reference section to know more. I am highlighting one simple fact here, in a service industry where skill to handle customer is so important that no -one dares to think out of box, here was one group of people who sacrificed the SKILL factor completely and still retained the top spot. During one of my stay at Lemon Tree I had a discussion with their restaurant manager. I asked him “ how do you guys hire staff and manage them, they are so good and friendly and warm and all of them are like that “ He told me that “ We look for people who are willing to serve people and whenever any staff does any mistake we monitor very closely on who reveals the name or who doesn’t, If someone is honest we give that person multiple chances to succeed even if we receive customer escalations. Rest everything depend on our training “ – So basically he revealed to me that Skill is something that they train but what they monitor closely is the attitude, character, humility and behavior of that person. Next time you travel please try out Lemon Tree Hotels atleast once, you will get it. You will also find many other companies like KFC, Amazon employing disabled staffs as their contribution to society and trust me , their customers are not complaining.
I wrote this article to help those who are in management and leadership roles now or will be in future. You should have absolutely zero doubt in your mind that WILL is uncompromisable and if you want betterment of your organization and save yourself from headaches and stress do not hire people who lacks the will but have the skill. Do not just fill the slot in hiring, do not let anyone and everyone take interviews. Create one interview panel, train and coach them, do R&D on interview questions which will reveal candidate’s true intention or journey, certify them and then only then let them hire people.
The will must be stronger than the skill - Muhammad Ali.