Our team is often called upon to help our clients to clarify job roles and to create job descriptions.
When we meet with managers to talk about what type of employee they need to a position, it is natural that they start to think of every employee who has been successful in the past. They start to list the traits that have helped past employees be successful.
"Let's see. We need an employee who is really good with people, has strong technical skills, is a strategic thinker, is really good at detailed work, who loves to work with numbers, who empathizes with our customers and other employers, and who has potential for taking on an executive position."
When we sit back and look at the traits, we immediately recognize that this employer is looking for a unicorn and unfortunately, unicorns don't exist.
Every human comes with strengths and weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything they do. A person with great technical skills might not be the best "people person". A strategic thinker might not be good at details. An empathetic relationship driver might struggle with conflict. These aren't flaws but are simply personality and strengths. Our strengths are like a coin and the coin has another side to it.
When organizations think about what type of person they need for a specific position, the better approach is to narrow down the "must haves" to just a few characteristics. If you hiring a bookkeeper, is it critical that they are also a strategic thinker? If you are hiring for a sales position, is it important that the person has a lot of attention to detail? Rather than list 15-20 characteristics, narrow it down to just a few key characteristics.
On the flip side, if you are looking for a job, be careful that your resume doesn't say that you are great at doing everything. You are not great at everything, and savvy hiring professionals know that. Focus on the things you really do well. Be prepared to share the situations where you excel while being honest in the situations where you struggle. If your potential employer wants a unicorn, don't pretend to be one. Even if you fool them into thinking you are a unicorn, you and the employer will end up being disappointed.
Unicorns don't exist. Fortunately, you don't need unicorns to build a great team and you don't have to be a unicorn to work for a great organization.
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