First Job: Interview - Communications (1) (工作)
first published on rolia.net, 2010-4-26
The other day, I had to send my daughter to school. We're a little late so she was worried that her school might lock her out. I asked: when does your school lock the door? She said: the door is always locked. Then I asked: so how do students get in? She said: well, they open the door in the morning to let students in. So I asked again: so when do they lock the door? Finally she said: I don't know.
I always feel that communication skills are important, probably more important than technical skills. We grew up spending more time with books than with humans. Our parents only cared about our grades. Fighting our way into university, we neither received any education in communications, nor did we get much chance to practice. Compared to whites and Indians, we're much weaker in this area. As a result, we lose out in the competition for jobs and for advancement.
Ironically, the most important thing in a good communicator is not his ability to talk, rather it's his ability to listen. Most of us are not good listeners. Instead of listening to what others have to say, we tend to think about what we'd say next. Instead of learning about other people's concerns, we're pre-occupied with our own concerns. So we interrupt others, we misunderstand them and we ignore their questions.
It's strange that my daughter failed to answer a simple question. My guess is that she wasn't listening. She's so worried about being locked out that she didn't realize exactly what I was asking. Instead of answering my concern - "when they'll lock the door", she simply spoke out loud her fear - "the door is locked", probably with some displeasure and exaggeration.
Last few days, I posted some opinions on Rolia about adapting your resume to job requirements. My points are simple and clear: IT skills are transferable from one product to another; it's unreasonable for employers to demand exact match of skills; most employers make such demands and it's made worse by the recruitment industry; therefore, it's reasonable for job seekers to make up experiences in their resume as long as they can back them up with skills.
A lot of people oppose my position. Some on moral grounds which I sincerely respect. Some on the grounds that fake people hurt employers and hurt the reputation of peers. This is a mild case of not listening before speaking: I advocated fake work experience, but not fake skills. The most severe case of not listening is the people who accuses me of encouraging others to stay at low levels. This accusation is so baseless that it doesn't even deserve a reply. Why do people distort the other side so much? Most likely because overwhelming emotions, such as fear, contempt, hate, etc, blinded their senses. One guy even assumed I'm a loser many times over
My first professional job in Canada was secured by an UNIX command. After carefully listening to the interviewers, especially the big boss, I realized they didn't care much about my strong education or my keen understanding of software design principles. The only thing they cared was if I could do it.
So I climbed down from my higher ground and started to tell them what I knew and what I could do. At last, the big boss took me to an UNIX workstation and said he'd show me their product. He typed a command and we waited a few seconds. Nothing showed up on the screen. He typed the command one more time and we waited a bit longer. Still nothing. No error messages.
Instead of standing there waiting, I started to think about the problem. And I asked the big boss for the keyboard ... I typed a command ... And then I reissued his command. And a window popped up on screen. I knew right there I got the job. And it's all because of one UNIX command.
The older I get, the more I understand that people are often different from my perceptions about them. They don't care what I think they care. They don't fear what I think they fear. They don't like what I think they like. My deepest fear is often a non-issue to an employer. My biggest pride may not be worth a dime. Yet things I think trivial might be the key to them.
Therefore, the #1 thing in communications is to listen carefully. Throw away assumptions. Hold down your fear, your prejudice, and your ego. Talk less. Stop thinking about your next sentence. Stop the urge to talk at all. Just listen. Ask questions. Paraphrase. Encourage the other side to give more details. People will appreciate you more and what you finally say will be a lot more effective.