Authenticity – It’s Where It’s At

Posted by David Gee | No Comments

Authenticity. The degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. And I’ll add the degree to which you can communicate that clearly – and quickly. This past summer I was invited to present 3 Second Selling to 200 recruiting and HR pros at the Minnesota Recruiters Conference on the campus of Best Buy. You can watch an edited version of that speech here.

David Gee presents 3 Second Selling to 200 recruiters

Following that presentation, about 10 or 12 people came up to the podium to talk to me. Every one of them wanted to discuss the importance of being authentic in the job interview process, both as an interviewee, and an interviewer.

One woman who is a senior recruiter at a large bank says her colleagues often complain about the lack of authenticity on the part of applicants. She quickly added though, “We are guilty of it sometimes ourselves.”

She detailed a couple of instances recently when her company made what might be referred to by most as bad hires. But she said that’s not really accurate, they were just the wrong people for those particular positions. She also said if both sides had been more authentic in the hiring and interview process, instead of merely saying what they thought the other wanted to hear, this lack of alignment would have been apparent early on.

What’s the point of the charade? We are all going to be found out eventually, so why not be ourselves, warts and all, from the outset? It would sure save a lot of trouble and hassle, and in some cases, dollars even.

A friend of mine who got divorced a year ago decided to try an online dating service this summer. She said the guys she met bore little or no resemblance to their profiles. So their strategy was successful I guess to a point, in that they got the first date. But they were never going to get to the second due to their lack of authenticity.

One of the criticisms people – on both sides of the aisle – level at Mitt Romney is his lack of authenticity. What does he really stand for? Believe in?

On Twitter @lukebrinker said, “Anyone claiming to understand the ‘real’ Romney is fibbing. His only core conviction is that he should be President.”

I don’t want to make this a political post. It’s not about anyone’s views or leanings. My point is people place a value on authenticity, and many don’t feel as if Romney is revealing his true self. Whoever and whatever that is.

An issue of TIME Magazine’s Style & Design showed up in my mailbox recently, and in it was an article about  a place called Bhutan. It’s a landlocked state in South Asia, at the eastern end of the Himalayas, bordered by India and China.

The article called it “the last authentic place on Earth,” a real-life Shangri-la, and one of the world’s most coveted destinations. “Authenticity is a rare and valuable commodity, and people will travel far to find it,” writes Bobby Ghosh in this piece. .

“Authenticity is a rare and valuable commodity, and people will travel far to find it.”

I recently met with a man who is a professional facilitator. He has 12 groups of 12 business executives who pay for peer-to-peer conversations, interactions and guidance.

At the end of our lunch he asked me for my 3 second, thin sliced impression of him. And then he offered me the same. The first thing he said to me? “You are one of the most authentic people I have ever met.” Awesome. He also said “I talk a lot.” Not so awesome. A caffeniateed coffee chat preceded lunch, and I don’t usually drink coffee, so that’s at least partly to blame. Otherwise, point taken and I’ll work on it.

I appreciated the honesty though. And the authenticity. Are you being open and honest and authentic about jobs you might be applying for?  Are you being open and honest and authentic in the job descriptions and interviews for positions you might be hiring for?

It’s hard to fake this stuff. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote long ago, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Who you are doesn’t just come out of your brain and your mouth though. It seeps out of your pores!

“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” It doesn’t just come out of your brain and your mouth though. It seeps out of your pores!

I’ll close with a quote from Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, from his book Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”

I’ll add the people who are lasting – and successful – are those who are authentic.

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