I Recruit, Therefore I Am

The Curse Of Over Ambition

One of the things I look for in an interview is Ambition. Someone who knows where they are and where they want to be. Someone who has a clear goal in mind. Someone who is going to be happy doing more than the bare minimum required.

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That is, after all, the stuff companies want to pay good money for.

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I recently had the opportunity to spend a day interviewing students for a former company’s HR co-op position.

It’s interesting interviewing students. You become so hardened over the years with trying to catch people in their tall tales that you forget what it once was to be young and nervous and hoping beyond all measure that you are the one lucky one, out of who knows how many, chosen to be offered a real job.

And when you interview a student, you get to the bare essentials of what separates a successful interview from an unsuccessful one.

Most of the students handled themselves with impressive tact, professionalism, and an arsenal of tips their teachers suggested they try to get the job.

But there was one young lady who stood out.

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She’d interned at an office during the summer doing Administration and Payroll. She’d also been involved with imputing data into the company’s ATS (Applicant Tracking System), screening resumes, performing phone screens, managing the Healthy & Safety, updating employee files, organizing the office lunch program, and oh, does our company have a recycling program, because if not it’s something she highly recommends and would implement and manage should she be offered the job. She also offered to teach me how to better manage my Inbox to make it more efficient.

It was an easy no.

But wait…huh?

Clarification

One of the things I also look for in interviews is Over Ambition. This girl had it. And then some.

Where Ambition shows that you are driven by something to succeed, Over Ambition shows that you are either overshooting your mark or have more talk than walk. There is nothing that kills an interview quicker than someone who wants to rebuild the Coliseum before the offer is printed.

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The girl I interviewed was an extreme case of Over Ambition. Instead of trying to understand what the company would expect from her and relating that to her own background, she simply started spouting off. She offered everything and the kitchen sink. The conclusion was obvious: instead of focusing on mastering her job and taking ownership of it, she would instead be busy trying to do mine and maybe even my bosses and that is just no good.

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Ambitious people are masters of their domain. They understand the tasks before them and how to best complete them. Over Ambitious people are too busy looking ahead. They are only in their current job so they can get to their next one and usually look at their current tasks as below them. They don’t value learning because they feel they already have it all figured out and because of this, are usually hard to manage. No one, after all, wants to be told that they don’t know how to do their job by the new person. I am perfectly comfortable with the state of my Inbox, thank you very much.

 

Over Ambition can also be a mask for desperation.

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If you were most recently a Technology Manager who was hired to spearhead a major network upgrade that consisted of over 500 servers, then I’m interested. If, in the process, you also discovered a way to reduce network downtime by 60% by implementing a new set of procedures, then you sound like an ambitious person.

However, if you are a Network Manager who single-handedly performed a 500 server Network upgrade, managed all 300 incoming incident tickets per day, implemented brand new software that saved the company a million dollars, was the CEO’s personal point of contact for all technology matters, had your own reserved company parking space, and helped take down the Deathstar, resulting in another 100 million in savings because the Empire was threatening to take over…

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You’re probably a little too Over Ambitious for this gig.

Before you start packing your resume with dollar and percentage signs or talking about how you were the MVP of your last company, take a step back and ask yourself: is this point relevant or self-serving? Is it believable? And if someone were to do some digging and inquire about these figures, would your references be able to back them up? If not, get rid of it. These are the things that separate Ambition from Over Ambition.

Next time a Recruiter asks why they should hire you, don’t try to be all things to all people. Don’t position yourself as the all-encompassing centre of knowledge on everything you come into contact with. And don’t promise the sun, the moon, the stars and all the known matter in the universe. Be yourself, be proud of your achievements and know where you want to go next.

That is something Ambitious people know how to do.

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Michael Lippert

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