Interview Prep

When you wan to get hired you need to make sure you prep properly. Getting great tips on interview prep is a great way to start. We don’t have much space in this article for

When you wan to get hired you need to make sure you prep properly. Getting great tips on interview prep is a great way to start.

We don’t have much space in this article for the input of ancient Greek philosophers—except for Heraclitus, whose writing is so brief that there’s room for it in any article. Heraclitus’ most famous phrase is just three words long, yet it manages to describe all of human history:

“Character is destiny.”

Was there ever a more succinct performance review than that?

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Our character is the single most reliable predictor of what we achieve and where we end up, both in the workplace and in life in general. That’s why every good interviewer will want to put your character at the center of the conversation.

And so they should. Read a biography of any highly successful person, be they an entrepreneur, scientist, actor or anyone else at the top of their game and it’ll be clear that their character counted toward their success much more than a high IQ, good looks, money, a fancy education or good connections. All those other things help, but character can trump them all. Some people like to say that their career makes them who they are, but I think it’s the other way round—a person’s career emerges out of their character.

Don’t believe me? Here are three people who were supposedly blessed with everything in life that one might need to succeed and stay on top, yet they were all led by their character into failure or disgrace:

  • Good looks and money: If you’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, you’ll know that the real-life Howard Hughes was a rich, outgoing and devilishly handsome entrepreneur with a string of Hollywood actress girlfriends. He was still rich and handsome the day he bumped his head in a plane crash, causing his character to change for the worse. Although fully functional, he became progressively paranoid and withdrawn to the point where eventually he died a lonely recluse, when I daresay no billionaire has to. As Heraclitus could have predicted, Hughes’ destiny changed the day his character changed.
  • Good education and connections: The blue-blooded Jonathan Aitken went to Eton, then to Oxford and then on to the Cabinet—and then to jail, for committing perjury during a 1997 trial. He could have avoided jail if he’d told the truth in court, but that would have meant a loss of face, and for Aitken’s character that would have been too much. To his credit, Aitken used his time in jail to face up to himself, becoming an articulate advocate for the welfare of his fellow prisoners. Nevertheless, it was his character that put him in jail in the first place.
  • High IQ: Some readers will remember Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and copper-bottomed genius who brought us the revolutionary Sinclair Spectrum computer. He’s someone with a larger IQ than most, but he’s also an endearingly geeky character who believed that everyone would want the same thing he wanted, namely to drive around in one of his Sinclair C5s. For those who don’t remember, a C5 looked like a coffin crossed with a golf cart. Doubtless its engineering was brilliant—but nobody wanted to drive a coffin-shaped golf cart and, for all his genius, Sinclair never saw that coming. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Sinclair was a morally bad character. It’s just that some people can’t see beyond their own tastes and won’t be told any different; when those people occupy leadership positions, commercial disaster often ensues.

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