For some time now, I have worked one-on-one with people who want to organize their homes. I call it “home curation.” This work is fascinating because it is designed to align the home with one’s concept of the self.
When the apartment or house does not “match” the internal sense of self, there is a daily conflict in life that can be exhausting. Bringing the home environment into accord with one’s inner being is a liberating, relieving experience. You simply remove things that you don’t need or want and organize everything maximally for both aesthetic enjoyment and utilitarian needs. Every person I have worked with has talked about feeling a true sense of liberation, joy, and relief when we were done even though the process itself can be grueling.
This practice of curating people’s homes in accordance with their inner wishes and desires resonates very much with the current craze to amplify one’s social media image. It is no longer the case that our family name, clothes, address, phone number, and job title are the most prominent factors in the self we put out in the world. We are now defined by our social media selves as well. We have digital images that speak volumes about who we are, and we need to be ever vigilant that the online self matches our inner selves.
The difference between curating the social-media self and curating the home is that we have a lot of control over who enters our home, but virtually no control whatsoever over who sees our online persona and what they do with the information gleaned there.
We have all heard horror stories of high school students having their college admission rescinded because of something they put out on Instagram or Facebook (for example, the recent Harvard incident). It is not uncommon to learn about people who haven’t gotten a job offer due to an online presence that is not in alignment with a company’s values.
Why does this happen so often? Because the things we find funny or cool or awesome as teenagers and young adults can be less palatable to older adults who have a more highly developed sense of ethics, aesthetics, social norms, and responsibility to family, self, community, and the planet.
In this crazy online world, I urge people at all phases of life to curate their online selves, imagining what their future self might think when looking back on the photos and articles previously posted. All of it speaks to who you are and who you want the world to think you are.
By the time you hear this line in a job interview, you are so relieved that it is almost over that you might be tempted to think that it is time to relax a little. WRONG! Your response to this question can make or break the interview. Truly. I’ve seen it dozens if not hundreds of times.
I’ve probably conducted over 1,000 interviews in my years as a hiring manager. Lately, I’ve noticed applicants posing the following question in response: “What qualities are you looking for in the person you will hire into this position?” Or some variant of that inquiry.
Why would someone ask that? If you have read the job description, studied the web site, read the mission and vision of the organization, written a good cover letter that addresses the needs of the role and the firm, and paid attention during the past 45 minutes of the interview, you should already have a pretty good idea of the qualities we are looking for, or? This is hands-down the most annoying question I get. Pay attention and do your due diligence, and this question is completely ridiculous. If someone asks me this, I just think they haven’t done their homework. At all.
What are some of the best questions I have gotten?
My all-time favorite is: “What would you ideally like the person in this role to accomplish in the first three to six months? In the first year?” So far, the interview has focused on you, your past, your skills, preferences, education, professional goals and what you can bring to the organization. If the short- and longer-term goals for the role haven’t come up, this is the moment.
Another favorite is when the interviewee asks a question that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have really done their homework. On me. Something like: “I noticed that you also worked at [company abc]. How would you describe the difference between that company and this one?” Interviewers are always flattered that you took the time and energy to pay attention to their career trajectory.
If you are dying to know what the rest of the hiring process will look like, you could finish up with that, but only if you are quite confident that it went well. This, for example, would suffice: “What is your timeline for this search?”
You do not want to waste anyone’s time. Be mindful of the interviewer’s busy schedule and let them know how much you appreciated their interest and time.
Finally, write a thank-you note IMMEDIATELY. It could be hand-written or sent via e-mail. It depends on the industry. Do not wait 24 hours if you are really interested in this position. Some candidates wait days. That is totally unacceptable.
Hiring processes are a grind. Hiring managers are always working under unrealistic deadlines and urgent operational needs. Make their lives as easy as possible. Come prepared knowing exactly what you can contribute to their organization. Don’t be long-winded. Speak succinctly and clearly. Dress impeccably. Have a firm handshake. Be confident. And good luck.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.