The Difference Between Book Smarts and Experience on Labor Day

Don’t recite the stats. Wow your interviewer by drawing upon the lessons learned on the job.

Cartoonist Hugh MacLeod nailed it with this cartoon:

HughMacLeod_GapingVoid(For more of Hugh’s clever work, visit his  site here.)

There is a world of difference in the workplace between knowing facts, and knowing how those facts fit together. Even more important is knowing what to do about it.

Hugh’s cartoon is a good reminder of your goal in the interview process.

You see, anybody with book smarts can come into an interview and repeat the information they’ve found online about the company, the industry, and the job.

Your goal, especially for those of you further along in your career, is to share and explain how you can make the connections between those bits of information. Particularly if your interviewer is not as experienced in your domain, it’s up to you to show that those little lines between the dots exist, that they’re important, and that you have a certain level of mastery of them.

So it’s not simply:
“I implemented an incentive plan.”
“I cut headcount.”
“I implemented Agile development.”
or “I launched our TV advertising campaign.”

But rather, it’s… “Based on my past experience, I knew that we…”

“Shouldn’t implement just an incentive plan, but had to divide the sales team along industry lines in order to hit our goals.”

“Shouldn’t just cut headcount, but that we should remove 2 classes of managerial oversight which were actually impeding our ability to hear directly from the field.”

“Shouldn’t just switch from Waterfall to Agile, but that it was important that we bring the Customer Care teams into each Agile Team.”

“Shouldn’t just launch a national TV advertising campaign, but that we should overweight on shows targeting the 44 – 64 demographic on Mondays and Tuesdays, because I’d learned from research that would have the biggest bang for our buck.”

You see, it’s not just sharing the information, but sharing how you made the connections between the bits of information, that allow the interviewer to understand your capabilities.

And that gets you the job.

Enjoy your Labor Day, Readers!