When you interview people for a job, it’s nice to find candidates who can speak authoritatively about their past work. There are lots of good reasons to hire an expert.

But if the person projects a feeling that they know it all, you might want to watch out.

The ability to occasionally say “I don’t know” can be just as valuable as a broad range of knowledge. Why? If a candidate puts himself into the role of authority or expert about everything, this may be a tip-off of problems with other people.

The downside of omniscience
The most effective employees aren’t necessarily those who know the most. As Adele Lynn points out in her useful book “The EQ Interview,” these folks may come across as telling others what works, or what to do, all the time.

By contrast, people who help others to come up with answers, individually or in teams, may be more valuable.

So give interviewees a few chances to say, “I don’t know.” If they won’t take them, consider it a caution flag.

4 Comments

  • BCM says:

    Great point! The smartest guy in my office is impossible to work with at times because he always think he has all of the answers.

  • BCM says:

    Great point! The smartest guy in my office is impossible to work with at times because he always think he has all of the answers.

  • BCM says:

    Great point! The smartest guy in my office is impossible to work with at times because he always think he has all of the answers.

  • BCM says:

    Great point! The smartest guy in my office is impossible to work with at times because he always think he has all of the answers.

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