It was the second time in a month that I received a call from a hiring manager. Apparently, I had been listed as both a character and employment reference for two people I had worked with years ago, and had remained connected with. And although I typically have my head buried in workplace studies and engagement scores, these two phone calls pulled my eyes up just long enough to have my mind blown.
Both hiring managers asked me questions about the candidates that stuck with me, "Tell me how the candidate treats other people. Tell me how the candidate handles taking credit," and, "Were you ever aware of an instance where the candidate was asked to do something that wasn't in their job description? How did they respond?"
While those questions may seem like standard inquiries, it hit me during the second phone call that these were, in reality, questions about each candidate's humility.
"Thank you so much for your time and feedback," one hiring manager told me at the end of the call. "We've been through a lot of resumes to get to this point." He paused, "but you know how it is. Resumes are just what people say about themselves."
Both hiring managers were intently curious to discover, not just what the candidate would say about themselves, but also what others (not just me as the reference) would say and feel about them.
Employers should be looking for humility on resumes. A study by the University of Washington Foster School of Business showed that humble people tend to make the most effective leaders, and they are more likely to be high performers in both individual and team settings. But 'Why?' you might ask. Isn't humility just a state of mind?
According to researchers "humility entails the recognition and appreciation of knowledge and guidance beyond the self." Now, that may sound like just a bunch of philosophical jargon, but consider what that means in terms of working for a company--where everyone needs to achieve in order for the entire organization to succeed. It means our jobs--regardless of your title or position--is to not only perform our own duties, but also look out for, cheer for, and encourage the achievements of those around us.
How can you demonstrate humility on a resume or in an interview?
1. Talk about your achievements in a different way.
Instead of just talking about what you accomplished, include moments of recognition from your peers or your boss about the specifics of how your efforts were focused on helping the team, the department, or the entire company. Show that your goal was to help something greater than yourself--the company.
2. Share stories of how you recognized others.
It's often the last thing you might think about during an interview. However, sharing stories about how you recognize others not only shows that your team player and spotlights your commitment to a common cause, it also shows that you're able to learn, understand, and appreciate the work of those around you--which means you could be a great asset in numerous ways.
3. Choose better references.
While it's tempting to choose references primarily based on the esteem of their job title, think about the people you've helped the most in their jobs. Choose people who actually know how much effort you're willing to give to help others. Sometimes the high-profile people, even though they may know who you are, won't be able to say much more about you than, "They seemed like a nice person." So choose wisely.
While both of the candidates who used me as a reference were offered jobs, only one accepted the position. The other, after meeting her would-be boss face-to-face declined the position, stating, "All the guy did was talk about how great he was."
Humility may seem like a simplistic trait. But when it comes to asking people to join your team, it takes top priority. Let's not forgot, people are hired to provide value to the greater good of the company.