The CV of interest

I look at many CVs, rewrite a fair number, and often tell people that under “Interests” there should be something beyond the anodyne ‘reading, hiking, traveling, listening to music’ line. This is important–not because of any blather of ‘work-life balance’, but because it distinguishes the person as having a passion, another type of innate intelligence and curiosity. Some people do, others feel the CV is simply about their work, not them. I don’t agree, so let me now present two business luminaries to reinforce my opinion on ‘interests’, and how they interview.

First is Bing Gordon, now partner with VC firm Kleiner Perkins, with an astute study of corporate character profiles.

In hiring… I will always ask about your learning practices, who are your heroes, what do you read. I want to know your hobbies, what’s the personal arc you see for your career, where are you trying to get to.

I read résumés upside down, so I start with personal interests. So if somebody doesn’t have believable, interesting interests, they’re not going to work in a creative business. You can’t have a creative organization without individual peccadilloes, so if somebody’s not copped to something interesting, and if they aren’t passionate about something in life, they’re just not going to be able to bring it.

Most people on their résumés report task and process – “I held this job, and I was responsible for this. I held this job, and I was responsible for this.” It’s like, O.K., you’re telling that you don’t measure yourself by achievement. If you don’t even measure yourself by achievement, how are you going to set achievement levels for other people? What have you done that’s any good? And strip out all the history stuff, just tell me what you’re proud of and how you think about it.

Second is Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO.

[In hiring someone] getting to know them, getting under their skin to the extent possible, becomes important. I love curiosity, particularly in our business–being curious about the world, but also being curious about your business, new business models, new technology. I try to learn more about a person, what he does outside of work, his family, what their interests are–someone with too many interests is usually faking it. But you can quickly determine whether they’ve got a couple of interests, or one in particular that they’re really passionate about. Passion suggests some level of curiosity, by the way, too.

(Both quoted from Adam Bryant’s Corner Office)

One caveat. The above quotes can easily be read as a western perspective, and some senior Asian talent might be less likely to reflect such outside interests. But this is the age of the global firm, and everyone at a senior level must understand how to communicate their values and character on levels far beyond the realm of functional. No company hires at a top level based on function. It grounded in character, and at work, character is charted by values, energy and integrity–all of which are easily reflected in “Interests”.

So think about it when pondering how to market yourself on your CV, and read the aforementioned quotations again, slowly.

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