18 Behaviors of Emotionally Intelligent People

Emotional intelligence is a huge driver of success

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When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into the broadly held assumption that IQ was the sole source of success.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90 percent of top performers have high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.

Despite the significance of EQ, its intangible nature makes it difficult to measure and to know what to do to improve it if you’re lacking. You can always take a scientifically validated test, such as the one that comes with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book, but unfortunately, most such tests aren’t free. So, I’ve analyzed the data from the million-plus people TalentSmart has tested in order to identify the behaviors that are the hallmarks of a high EQ. What follows are sure signs that you have a high EQ.

You have a robust emotional vocabulary

All people experience emotions, but it is a select few who can accurately identify them as they occur. Our research shows that only 36 percent of people can do this, which is problematic because unlabeled emotions often go misunderstood, which leads to irrational choices and counterproductive actions.

People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. While many people might describe themselves as simply feeling “bad,” emotionally intelligent people can pinpoint whether they feel “irritable,” “frustrated,” “downtrodden,” or “anxious.” The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what caused it, and what you should do about it.

You’re curious about people

It doesn’t matter if they’re introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they’re going through, the more curiosity you’re going to have about them.

You embrace change

Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur.

You know your strengths and weaknesses

Emotionally intelligent people don’t just understand emotions; they know what they’re good at and what they’re terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EQ means you know your strengths and how to lean into and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back.

You’re a good judge of character

Much of emotional intelligence comes down to social awareness; the ability to read other people, know what they’re about, and understand what they’re going through. Over time, this skill makes you an exceptional judge of character. People are no mystery to you. You know what they’re all about and understand their motivations, even those that lie hidden beneath the surface.

You are difficult to offend

If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humor and degradation.

You know how to say no (to yourself and others)

Emotional intelligence means knowing how to exert self-control. You delay gratification and avoid impulsive action. Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is a major self-control challenge for many people, but “No” is a powerful word that you should unafraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

You let go of mistakes

Emotionally intelligent people distance themselves from their mistakes, but do so without forgetting them. By keeping their mistakes at a safe distance, yet still handy enough to refer to, they are able to adapt and adjust for future success. It takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering. Dwelling too long on your mistakes makes you anxious and gun shy, while forgetting about them completely makes you bound to repeat them. The key to balance lies in your ability to transform failures into nuggets of improvement. This creates the tendency to get right back up every time you fall down.

You give and expect nothing in return

When someone gives you something spontaneously, without expecting anything in return, this leaves a powerful impression. For example, you might have an interesting conversation with someone about a book, and when you see them again a month later, you show up with the book in hand. Emotionally intelligent people build strong relationships because they are constantly thinking about others.

You don’t hold grudges

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. When the threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when the threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Letting go of a grudge not only makes you feel better now but can also improve your health.

You neutralize toxic people

Dealing with difficult people is frustrating and exhausting for most. But high-EQ individuals control their interactions with toxic people by keeping their feelings in check. When they need to confront a toxic person, they approach the situation rationally. They identify their own emotions and don’t allow anger or frustration to fuel the chaos. They also consider the difficult person’s standpoint and are able to find solutions and common ground. Even when things completely derail, emotionally intelligent people are able to take the toxic person with a grain of salt to avoid letting him or her bring them down.

You don’t seek perfection

Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know that it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and should have done differently instead of moving forward, excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.

You appreciate what you have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it also improves your mood by reducing the stress hormone cortisol (in some cases by 23 percent). Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who work daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experience improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol play a major role in this.

You disconnect

Taking regular time off the grid is a sign of a high EQ because it helps you to keep your stress under control and to live in the moment. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even–gulp!–turning off your phone gives your body and mind a break. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels. Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email with the power to bring your thinking (read: stressing) back to work can drop onto your phone at any moment.

You limit your caffeine intake

Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, which is the primary source of a fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response to ensure survival. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. Caffeine’s long half-life ensures you stay this way as it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body. High-EQ individuals know that caffeine is trouble, and they don’t let it get the better of them.

You get enough sleep

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams) so that you wake up alert and clearheaded. High-EQ individuals know that their self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when they don’t get enough–or the right kind–of sleep. So, they make sleep a top priority.

You stop negative self-talk in its tracks

The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that–thoughts, not facts. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural tendency to perceive threats (inflating the frequency or severity of an event). Emotionally intelligent people separate their thoughts from the facts in order to escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive, new outlook.

You won’t let anyone limit your joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

The Surprising Benefits of Sarcasm

Sarcastic comments boost creativity, a study finds

man with sarcastic expression

Instead of avoiding sarcasm completely in the office, the research suggests sarcasm, used with care and in moderation, can be effectively used and trigger some creative sparks.
Credit: ©iStock

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence,” wrote that connoisseur of wit, Oscar Wilde. Whether sarcasm is a sign of intelligence or not, communication experts and marriage counselors alike typically advise us to stay away from this particular form of expression. The reason is simple: sarcasm expresses the poisonous sting of contempt, hurting others and harming relationships. As a form of communication, sarcasm takes on the debt of conflict.

And yet, our research suggests, there may also be some unexpected benefits from sarcasm: greater creativity. The use of sarcasm, in fact, promotes creativity for those on both the giving and receiving end of sarcastic exchanges. Instead of avoiding sarcasm completely in the office, the research suggests sarcasm, used with care and in moderation, can be effectively used and trigger some creative sparks.

Sarcasm involves constructing or exposing contradictions between intended meanings. The most common form of verbal irony, sarcasm is often used to humorously convey thinly veiled disapproval or scorn. “Pat, don’t work so hard!”, a boss might say upon catching his assistant surfing the Internet. Early research on sarcasm explored how people interpret statements and found that, as expected, sarcasm makes a statement sound more critical. In one laboratory study, participants read scenarios in which, for instance, (1) one person did something that could be viewed negatively, such as smoking, and (2) a second person commented on the behavior to the first person, either literally (“I see you don’t have a healthy concern for your lungs”) or sarcastically (“I see you have a healthy concern for your lungs”). Participants rated sarcasm to be more condemning than literal statements. In a similar study, participants were encouraged to empathize either with a person behaving in a way that could be construed as negative or with a second person commenting on the first person’s behavior. Both perspectives prompted participants to rate sarcastic comments by the second person as more impolite relative to literal comments.

Other research has show that sarcasm can be easily misinterpreted, particularly when communicated electronically. In one study, 30 pairs of university students were given a list of statements to communicate, half of which were sarcastic and half of which were serious. Some students communicated their messages via e-mail and others via voice recordings. Participants who received the voice messages accurately gleaned the sarcasm (or lack thereof) 73 percent of the time, but those who received the statements via e-mail did so only 56 percent of the time, hardly better than chance. By comparison, the e-mailers had anticipated that 78 percent of participants would pick up on the sarcasm inherent in their sarcastic statements. That is, they badly overestimated their ability to communicate the tenor of their sarcastic statements via e-mail. What’s more, the recipients of the sarcastic e-mails were also decidedly overconfident. They guessed they would correctly interpret the tone of the e-mails they received about 90 percent of the time. They were considerably less overconfident about their ability to interpret voice messages.

In recent research, my colleagues and I discovered an upside to this otherwise gloomy picture of sarcasm. In one study, we assigned some participants to engage in either simulated sarcastic, sincere, or neutral dialogues by choosing from pre-written responses on a sheet of paper. Others were recipients of these different types of messages from others. Immediately after participants engaged in these “conversations,” we presented them with tasks testing their creativity. Not surprisingly, the participants exposed to sarcasm reported more interpersonal conflict than those in other groups. More interestingly, those who engaged in a sarcastic conversation fared better on creativity tasks. The processes involved in initiating and delivering a sarcastic comment improved the creativity and cognitive functioning of both the commenter and the recipient. This creativity effect only emerged when recipients picked up on the sarcasm behind the expresser’s message rather than taking mean comments at face value.

Why might sarcasm enhance creativity? Because the brain must think creatively to understand or convey a sarcastic comment, sarcasm may lead to clearer and more creative thinking. To either create or understand sarcasm, tone must overcome the contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates, and is facilitated by, abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking. Consider the following example, which comes from a conversation one of my co-authors on the research (Adam Galinsky, of Columbia) had a few weeks before getting married. His fiancée woke him up as he was soundly asleep at night to tell him about some new ideas she has for their upcoming wedding next month –many of which were quite expensive. Adam responded with some ideas of his own: “Why don’t we get Paul McCartney to sing, Barack Obama to give a benediction and Amy Schumer to entertain people.” His comment required his fiancée to recognize that there is a distinction between the surface level meaning of the sentence (actually signing up these people to perform) and the meaning that was intended.

This is not the first set of studies showing that creativity can be boosted by things that would commonly be considered creativity killers. In one series of studies, for example, researchers found that moderate noise can be an untapped source of creativity, providing a welcome distraction that helps the brain make disparate associations. In addition, alcohol is believed to aid creativity, up to a point, by reducing focus and relaxing the mind.

Sarcasm can be interpreted negatively, and thus cause relationship costs. So, how do we harness its creative benefits without creating the type of conflict that can damage a relationship? It comes down to trust. Our studies show that, given the same content and tone, sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we trust is less conflict provoking than sarcasm expressed toward or received from someone we distrust. Of course, if we were to vary the tone and content, it would make a difference too – given an extremely harsh tone and critical content, even trust might not be enough.

Given the risks and benefits of sarcasm, your best bet is to keep salty remarks limited to conversations with those you know well, lest you offend others—even as you potentially help them think more creatively.

 

A famous British philosopher explains the surprising root of all procrastination

You tell your friend you can’t meet for drinks tonight because you’re too busy. You cancel your morning meeting because you’re already running late on completing your project.

Finally, you have a full day ahead of you. Hours pass and you have done plenty of things — but not the project that pushed you to push aside everything else.

Your boss and colleagues probably think you’re lazy, you figure. You think you’re lazy. You spend more time preparing for your project rather than beginning it.

The situation above may seem familiar. Sure, there are times when laziness is the reason for not getting something done, but more often the root of procrastination is fear, says British philosopher and author Alain de Botton on his website, The Book of Life.

“We begin to work only when the fear of doing nothing at all exceeds the fear of not doing it very well … And that can take time,” he writes.

The only way to overcome this habit, then, is to abandon the accompanying habit of perfectionism. Instead of wasting time planning around and preparing for your project, find a way to begin it. Do not fuss over details as you move forward.

An imperfectly done task is better than an unfinished task.

The Book of Life’s parent organization, The School of Life, produced a short animated video that outlines de Botton’s thoughts on the subject:

How Period Trackers Have Changed Girl Culture

A special report on personal technology for health, family and fitness.

My 18-year-old daughter knows exactly when it will be that time of the month. Since June, she’s been plugging the dates of her menstrual cycle into a popular period tracking app called Clue, and has it programmed to send her an alert every month, two days before her next period is due.

“It’s great because I never think about it, and now I never have to think about it,” she said.

Like a lot of young women, my teenager is just too busy. And no, she doesn’t mind being quoted, she said, adding, “Mom: I’m not embarrassed about my period.”

She’s not the only one. Girls and women are openly talking, tweeting and texting about their periods, and not just to Donald Trump. New companies tired of the stigma are selling menstrual products using the “P” word, singers and artists weave menstruation themes into their work, athletes and others have mentioned it on talk shows and at press conferences. Two New York City high school girls developed a video game called “Tampon Run” — the heroine’s mission is “to rid the world of the menstrual taboo.”

Add to this mix period tracker apps, which have helped shift attitudes, demystifying and normalizing menstruation by assigning cute icons to once unmentionables like heavy flow, maxi pads and period pimples. Most important, the apps transform the input into crunchable data that can tell a young woman when her period is due, when it’s late and even why she might be feeling so blue.

There are over 200 different period tracker apps to choose from, and they are immensely popular: consumers have downloadedPeriod Tracker (by GP International) and Period Calendar/Tracker(by Abishkking) more than 10 million times from the Android store alone, according to IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Period tracker apps can track a range of issues related to the menstrual cycle including emotions, cramps, weight, sleep, energy, food cravings and more. They also can record when you had sex (Clue’s icon for protected sex is a man wearing a tie) or remind you to pack tampons, take your birth control pill or do a breast exam, all information women say is both empowering and liberating. Some apps are pink and girlie, all hearts and flowers and butterflies; others take a more subtle approach with lots of graphs in muted shades of purple. Specialized apps have even been developed for niche groups like Orthodox Jewish women who adhere to religious family purity laws. The apps say they are “rabbinically approved.”

“When you see a technology that someone has developed specifically for you as a woman, it really legitimizes talking about your periods and thinking about them,” said Shuangyi “E.E.” Hou, 24, a product designer in San Francisco for apps and websites who has used a period tracker app for over a year. “If we as a society say women should be checking in on their periods, and we give them permission to talk about it, I’m convinced it will be beneficial for women’s health.”

While the apps also can be used to track ovulation, signaling the days the user is more or less likely to become pregnant, most period tracker apps explicitly warn users not to rely on them to prevent pregnancy. The ovulation tracker and fertility prediction can be helpful for a woman trying to conceive, but it can give a false sense of security to a woman who relies on the app as a form of birth control.

That’s because even the most vigilant ovulation tracking methods have shockingly high failure rates, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with up to one in four women becoming pregnant over the course of a year with typical use.

“Apps are a tool; they’re not actually a birth control method,” said Hannah Ransom of San Diego, a certified fertility awareness educator.

But many users of period tracker apps rely on them to help schedule their busy lives or for tracking health conditions that fluctuate with their cycle, rather than contraception. Aliya, a 23-year-old from the Bronx, said she uses Pink Pad Pro to schedule social outings like visits to a Russian bath house and to give her doctor an accurate answer to the inevitable question about the date of her last menstrual period (though she admitted relying on it occasionally for birth control as well).

One college theater student said she always forgets about her period during the week or two before a production, when there are a million other details to think about, so she likes the push notification reminders from Period Tracker Lite.

One concern about the trackers is privacy, and the fact that most young users won’t read the app’s privacy policy. Registered users of Clue agree to let the company use anonymous cycle data to improve the app and for academic and clinical research. Data isn’t collected from unregistered users.

Ida Tin, who founded Clue, one of the fastest growing period tracker apps with 2 million active users in 180 countries, said her motivation in developing the app was to provide women with more information and greater understanding about a “foundational” part of their lives for 40 years.

“If you just have the data about what is going on in your body,” said Ms. Tin, “It’s a navigating tool for your life.”

Stop Blaming Poverty for Educational Problems

Annie Holmquist

Last week the news hit that U.S. student scores in math and reading had dropped. In stark terms, this news tells us that only 40% or less of American 4thand 8th grade students are proficient in math and reading.

These poor results are excused by a number of issues, poverty being the most prevalent. But according to a recent paper from Michael Petrilli and Brandon Wright, the poverty excuse doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on.

When Petrilli and Wright compared U.S. poverty rates with those in other nations, they discovered that the U.S. numbers may be rather misleading. Apparently, the U.S. calculates student poverty by using the relative poverty rate, which excludes income from government transfers. When these government transfers are accounted for, poverty dramatically declines and the U.S. poverty rate isn’t as high as it appears (chart).

What does such a finding mean? Petrilli and Wright explain:

“What it does show is that poverty can’t explain away America’s lackluster academic performance. That excuse, however soothing it may be to educators, politicians, and social critics, turns out to be a crutch that’s unfounded in evidence. We need to stop using it and start getting serious about improving the achievement of all the nation’s students.”

If poverty isn’t necessarily the main culprit in America’s poor performance, then what is? How can we bring high quality education back to American schools?

Why Adults Are Getting into Coloring Books

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Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

It’s the latest “literary” craze.

Coloring books: they’re not just for kids anymore.

That’s the word from The Boston Globe, which reportsthat coloring books for adults are flying off store shelves. The books, which the paper says are more detailed than their child-focussed counterparts, are among the top sellers on Amazon and are well stocked by bookseller Barnes and Noble.

Why are grownups buying up a genre generally targeted at younger children? The answer seems to be that coloring between the lines can be a therapeutic exercise.

“I think it probably speaks to people’s enjoyment in doing this kind of relaxing hobby or distraction from everyday life,” Sarah Deaver, president of the American Art Therapy Association, told the Globe. “It creates an object of focus, and it creates something that’s beautiful and that’s satisfying.” One best-selling coloring book is subtitled Stress Relieving Patterns, and promises to provide “hours and hours of stress relief, mindful calm, and fun, creative expression.”

Adult coloring books have become so popular that even Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the act. Earlier this month, Bantam books announced it would publish a GoT coloring book meant for a mature audience. The book “will feature 45 original black and white illustrations, inspired by characters, scenes, locations and other iconic images from Martin’s wildly successful ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series,” the company told the Los Angeles Times. The coloring book is scheduled for release sometime this fall.

A top recruiter on what anyone can see after 30 seconds with your resume

This question originally appeared on Quora: What do recruiters look for in a resume at first glance? Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter.

I don’t look through stacks of resumes anymore. I hate paper. I do everything online.

There has been for many decades, a mysterious Wizard of Oz-type viewpoint of the recruiting world that I think is somewhat misappropriated. People seem to be truly fascinated by what goes on behind the curtain, when in reality, recruiters aren’t running the covert operation many think. “Does this candidate seem like they stand a chance of being a good match for this role? If yes, proceed to next step. If no, reject.”

I’ll highlight how I personally absorb a resume. I should preface this by saying that currently I primarily recruit for senior-level software engineers. In my past life I recruited for PMs, MBAs, finance, sales, and pretty much all of it. Everything I’m about to say broadly applies to all of these fields. I also was a campus recruiter, and you read resumes of new grads a bit differently since experience is less meaty. So for non-new grads, here’s how it goes in my brain:

  • Most recent role. I’m generally trying to figure out what this person’s current status is, and why/if they might even be interested in a new role. Have they only been in their last position for three months? If so, probably not the best time for me to reach out, right? Unless they work for Zynga, or somewhere tragic like that (said with great respect for Farmville, the app that put Facebook apps on the map). If it’s an incoming resume, I’m wondering why the candidate is looking now. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months and they’re possibly hating it? But most importantly, is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I’m hiring?
  • Company recognition. Not even gonna lie. I am a company snob. Now don’t get all Judgy McJudgerson about my judgy-ness. Hear me out. It’s not even that I think certain companies are better than others (although some most certainly are). It’s purely a matter of how quickly can I assign a frame of reference. This is also known as “credibility.” Oh you worked at Amazon? Then you’re probably accustomed to working on projects at scale. You’re at a well known crash-and-burn start-up? You have probably worn many hats and have been running at a sprinter’s pace. There are some pretty blatant if/then associations I can make simply by recognizing a company name. Because recruiters have generally been doing this job for awhile, we notice patterns and trends among candidates from certain companies and we formulate assumptions as a result. There are edge cases and our assumptions can fail us, but again, this is a resume review; we’re talking a less than 20-second analysis. Assigning frame of reference is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies I’ve never heard of. When I can’t assign company recognition, it just means I have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn’t an issue, unless it’s poorly formatted, poorly written, uninformative, and wrought with spelling errors—in which case, you might have lost my interest.
  • Overall experience. Is there a career progression? Does the person have increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? (You’re a VP of Marketing for a five-person company? Heck, I would be too.) Do the responsibilities listed therein match what I’m looking for?
  • Keyword search. Does the person have the specific experience for the role I’m hiring for? There have been times when I command + F the crap out of resumes. Especially the long ones that are hard to follow. This isn’t fool proof, but if I’m looking for an iOS engineer, for example, and the words “iOS” or “objective-c” don’t even make a cameo appearance in someone’s resume, I have to furrow my brow, read a little deeper and figure out what the heck is going on. Throughout my career supporting hiring for different profiles, I’ve done this on many occasions searching for things like Ruby on Rails, Mule, Javascript, and seriously, anything you can think of. Now if you’re thinking you should “key word” it up on your resume, think again. Keep it authentic. And don’t you dare think of putting your resume online and embed 250 irrelevant key words at the bottom in 5pt white text. I’m on to you. But I do think you should be vigilant to ensure that the actual important key words contained in the meat of your experience are represented on your resume.
  • Gaps. I don’t mind gaps so long as there’s a sufficient explanation. Oh you took three years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add: #respect. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it. It’s the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder. Still, I understand that sometimes people feel uncomfortable sharing certain things in a professional context. If you had a gap, surely you were busy doing something during that time, right? Get creatively honest and just name that period of your life in a way that shows you acknowledge that it might raise an eyebrow.
  • Personal online footprint. This is not required. But if you have an online footprint, and you’ve bothered to include it in your resume, I’m gonna click. This includes personal domains, Quora profiles, Twitter handles, GitHub contributions, Dribbble accounts, or anything a candidate has chosen to list. Two out of three times, I almost always click through to a candidate’s website or Twitter account. It’s one of my favorite parts of recruiting. You never know what you’re gonna get.
  • General logistics. Location, eligibility to work in the US. I try to make some raw guesses here, but this is not a place of weeding someone out, more just trying to figure out their story.
  • Overall organization. This includes spelling, grammar, ease of use, ability to clearly present ideas. If you’re in marketing and you’ve lost me in the first three bullets, I have concerns.
  • Total time it takes me to do all of above: < 25 seconds.*

Note: I will likely later read the resume far more in-depth, but only if I already know I like the candidate. It takes me way less than a minute to fully digest a resume and flag that person for follow-up. I read a resume pretty thoroughly once I know I will be speaking to that person on the phone or reaching out via email. But I will not thoroughly read a resume of someone who did not pass the above categories. Recruiters move quickly. I’m trying to remove the barrier for people who might struggle with getting their resume properly acknowledged.

Things I rarely pay as much attention to:

  • Education. There have been times in my career where I could go a month reviewing hundreds of resumes and not recall looking at that section even once. However, I will say that as a university recruiter, I almost always looked at education first because experience is often lacking with new graduates. But if you are not a new graduate, experience is king. I can think of a few exceptions where perhaps a hiring manager wanted a certain pedigree (Wharton or HBS MBA, for example), but even that’s being de-prioritized more and more. I will also add that this changesdrastically by industry and company. I currently work in tech, but I’ve also worked in management consulting, and education is huge in consulting. I’ll also add that some tech companies care more about education than others, for example, Facebook definitely more heavily favors engineering candidates who have demonstrated core CS fundamentals by obtaining a computer science degree. However, Facebook employs many engineers who never finished college.
  • Fancy formatting. There are exceptions here. I say this with the caveat that I LOVE a creatively formatted resume. However, no amount of fancy formatting is going to make up for a lack of experience. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re applying to a position online, whether it’s a PDF or not, many companies’ applicant tracking systems parse your resume for information and convert it to pure text as the most immediate viewing format. Recruiters don’t often see how awesome your resume is. The original file is usually there for us, but many recruiters aren’t clicking through. If you’re going to do something fun with your resume, I recommend keeping it PDF and also be sure it converts to text fairly cleanly so it doesn’t come through our system looking wonky. Or just email it to an actual person.
  • Uncomfortably personal details. In Europe for example, I’ve noted that it’s very common to list things like family status, citizenship, and sometimes even weight and height on CVs. It’s also common to include a photo. The US is a bit different, and by different I mean very litigious. Many employers are trying to avoid any type of discrimination, so often seeing that stuff on a resume can make recruiters feel uncomfortable. We just want to know about things that pertain to your work history. So please take your photo off your resume.
  • Cover letters. There is a debate on this, but I’m sorry, I don’t read cover letters. I want to see the resume. Most of my recruiting colleagues agree, but I know there are still recruiters that do love and value cover letters. I find that a lot of candidates don’t even send them anymore. I’m of the mind that most companies that request cover letters only do so to weed out the people who haven’t bothered to read the directions.

Things I wish more people would do:

  • Bring personality into the resume. We recruiters are staring at these missives all day long. Throw a joke in there somewhere for goodness’ sake. Very few of us are curing cancer. We should lighten up a bit. Know your industry, of course. An easter egg buried in a resume may not go over well if you’re in a very buttoned-up industry. I think it’s important to keep the work experience details as professional as possible, but trust me, there are ways to have fun with it. I absolutely LIVE for creatively written LinkedIn profiles. For example, this guy is boss. I have emailed his LinkedIn profile around to dozens of friends and co-workers over the years. (He knows his industry. Probably not a good play to talk about marijuana in your LinkedIn profile if you’re gunning for Director of Communications for Bank of America.)
  • Include URLs for online footprints. I get it. We’ve overshared our way to a more private society, but if you’re looking to stand out, write some stuff on the Internet. Contribute to open-source repositories. Demonstrate some level of domain expertise/interest outside of your 9-5.
  • List key personal projects. I ask this in almost every phone interview I do. “What kind of stuff are you working on in your free time?” I am always inspired by this. Also shows me that you have passion for your industry.

Things I wish people would stop doing:

  • Using MS Word’s resume templates. Especially that one with the double horizontal lines above and beneath the candidate name.
  • Writing resumes in first person. Exceptions for people who do it cleverly. If no one has ever told you you’re clever, then you’re probably not that clever. Don’t do it.
  • Allowing their resume to be a ridiculous number of pages.Unless you are a tenured college professor noble laureate with multiple published works, you do not need an 8+ page resume. That is not impressive; that is obnoxious.
  • Mixing up first person and third person or present tense and past tense. Pick a voice, pick a tense, and then stick with it. I suggest third person and past tense. If I were you, I’d eliminate pronouns (e.g. my, I, she, he) from your resume altogether. Instead of writing “I helped increase overall sales by 300% by breeding rabbits in my garage,” eliminate the “I” in that sentence. Go through your resume and remove all the pronouns and rewrite the sentence to make it sound like a bullet point. By “past tense” I mean that your resume should always be voiced from the perspective of something you already did, not something you’re currently doing.
  • Listing an objective at the top of the resume. Dude, seriously? This isn’t 1992.
  • Mailing, faxing, or hand-delivering paper resumes. Immediate disqualification. Do not pass go. While I have your attention though, let’s camp out on that last point for a moment: Hand-delivering paper resumes. Look, I get it. People are trying to stand out. I completely respect the hustle. But in 2015, HR professionals are swamped, anxious, and jumpy. When a random stranger shows up unannounced asking to speak to someone in HR or recruiting, we’re wondering if you have a gun and a vendetta, and we’ve probably alerted security. It’s really creepy. It’s also not really how the corporate world works any more, and oftentimes it can place an undue burden on people to rearrange their schedule to make time to talk to you, which makes them grumpy, which doesn’t exactly put you in a good spot as a potential candidate.
  • Sending resumes addressed to the CEO that end up on some random recruiter’s desk unopened. This is a gross generalization here and exceptions are made for smaller companies, but um, CEOs don’t often read resumes. We sometimes laugh at people who do this.
  • Exaggerating titles and responsibilities. The truth comes out.

If you take issue with anything I’ve said here, you’re well within your right. Recruiters are paid to be judgemental. I am nothing if not honest.

Happy hunting.

30 Day Writing Challenge

4 Strategies For Remembering Everything You Learn

chalkboard teacher black white

If you’re going to learn anything, you need two kinds of prior knowledge:

• knowledge about the subject at hand, like math, history, or programming

• knowledge about how learning actually works

The bad news: Our education system kinda skips one of them, which is terrifying, given that your ability to learn is such a huge predictor of success in life, from achieving in academics to getting ahead at work. It all requires mastering skill after skill.

“Parents and educators are pretty good at imparting the first kind of knowledge,” shares psych writer Annie Murphy Paul. “We’re comfortable talking about concrete information: names, dates, numbers, facts. But the guidance we offer on the act of learning itself — the ‘metacognitive’ aspects of learning — is more hit-or-miss, and it shows.”

To wit, new education research shows that low-achieving students have “substantial deficits” in their understanding of the cognitive strategies that allow people to learn well. This, Paul says, suggests that part of the reason students perform poorly is that they don’t know a lot about how learning actually works.

It’s a culture-wide issue.

Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel, psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis  and coauthors of “Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning,” say that “how we teach and study is largely a mix of theory, lore, and intuition.”

So let’s cut through that lore. Here are learning strategies that really work.

Force yourself to recall.

The least-fun part of effective learning is that it’s hard. In fact, the “Make It Stick” authors contend that when learning if difficult, you’re doing your best learning, in the same way that lifting a weight at the limit of your capacity makes you strongest. 

It’s simple, though not easy, to take advantage of this: force yourself to recall a fact. Flashcardsare a great ally in this, since they force you to supply answers.

Don’t fall for fluency.

When you’re reading something and it feels easy, what you’re experiencing is fluency.

It’ll only get you in trouble.

Example: Say, for instance, you’re at the airport and you’re trying to remember which gate your flight to Chicago is waiting for you at. You look at the terminal monitors — it’s B44. You think to yourself, oh, B44, that’s easy. Then you walk away, idly check your phone, and instantly forget where you’re going.

The alternative: You read the gate number. Then you turn away from the monitor and ask yourself, what’s the gate? If you can recall that it’s B44, you’re good to go.

Connect the new thing to the old things.

“The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to prior knowledge,” the “Make It Stick” authors write, “the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.”

When you’re weaving in new threads into your pre-existing web of knowledge, you’re elaborating. 

One killer technique is to come up with real-life examples of principles you’ve just uncovered. If you’ve just learned about slant rhyme, you could read poems that exhibit it. If you’ve just discovered heat transfer, you could think of the way a warm cup of cocoa disperses warmth into your hands on a cold winter’s day.

Reflect, reflect, reflect.

Looking back helps. In a Harvard Business School study, employees who were onboarded to a call center had 22.8% higher performance than the control group when they spent just 15 minutes reflecting on their work at the end of the day.

“When people have the opportunity to reflect, they experience a boost in self-efficacy,” HBS professor Francesca Gino tells us. “They feel more confident that they can achieve things. As a result, they put more effort into what they’re doing and what they learn.”

While reflecting may seem like it leads to working less, it leads to achieving more.

Stop using these 19 common words until you know what they really mean

Mouth tapeKatie Tegtmeyer/Flickr“Reticent” just means shy. It doesn’t mean reluctant.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

They’re just words, aren’t they?

Why shouldn’t they take on new meanings as people start to use them incorrectly?

Indeed, “silly” once mean “blessed” and then “pious.” There’s a certain justice in where it’s ended up.

Fundamentalists won’t have it, though. They insist on specific interpretations only.

Ergo, because you’re likely more righteous than I am and still want to climb some virtual, figurative ladder, here are 18 words and 1 phrase (consisting of three words) that don’t mean what many people think they do.

They come courtesy of Harvard linguist Steven Pinker and his book “The Sense Of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century.”

I worry when books claim to offer a “Thinking Person’s Guide.” It’s so ineffably elitist. It suggests that some people don’t think, that they function like underintelligent organisms.

Still, you fancy yourself a thinking person, don’t you? So these suggestions are perfect for you. Pinker does explain, “Here is a list of words, which I am prepared to try to dissuade you from using in their nonstandard sense.”

So he’s not a complete meanie.

1. Appraise.

You, as a thinking person, must become frustrated every time you hear someone say they have “appraised the board of the current situation.” This literally means they have “valued the board of the current situation.” Which makes as much sense as most of what is usually said in board meetings. You apprise the board of something. Your pawnbroker appraises a necklace you picked up in a parking lot.

2. Begs The Question.

You know what this doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean “raises the question.” It simply means “assuming what it should be proving.” For example, when you ask the nice tight-suited man at your local Gucci store, why you should pay more for Gucci products and he says you’ll be getting “Gucci quality,” that just begs the question.

3. Bemused.

It sounds almost the same as “amused,” so some people believe that “bemused” is, perhaps, a squeezing of “being amused.” Or maybe a stronger level of amusement. It isn’t. It’s just the state of being bewildered.

4. Clich.

Americans aren’t too good with French words at the best of times. Just ask them to pronounce — or spell, for that matter — “chaise-longue.” Clich is just a noun. It isn’t an adjective. It’s not risqu. It should be pass.

5. Disinterested.

I’m (not) sure you’re not one of these people, but some believe that this means the same as “uninterested.” Because discombobulated is the same as uncombobulated, I suppose. Save it. It only means fair and balanced like Fox News.

6. Enormity.

You might be enormously disturbed by this one. Enormity does not mean “extreme bigness.” It’s true, says Pinker, that some writers insist that enormity can mean “extremely big evil.” But enormity is always evil, alright? It’s not necessarily big.

7. Enervate.

I’ve made this mistake before. I think I’m going to make it again, just for snits and giggles. Enervate does not mean, has never meant, “getting on nerves” nor “to charge you up.” It actually means to sap or weaken. Let’s face it, though, the word is just too energetic to mean that.

8. Flounder.

“Flounder” and “Founder” are often used interchangeably, unless you’re talking fish or Silicon Valley. The truth is that that floundering simply means to flap about without any useful consequences. It doesn’t mean “sink to the bottom.” Although, I suppose you could flap around without any consequences until you sink to the bottom.

9. Fortuitous.

I’ve sunk to the bottom with this one, too, once or twice. It doesn’t mean “lucky.” It just doesn’t. It means “coincidental.”

10. Fulsome.

You’ve offered fulsome praise before, haven’t you? Perhaps even a fulsome apology. Please admit it. Please then admit that what you’ve offered is “excessively and insincerely complimentary praise.” Or, indeed, “an unctuous apology.” I’d like to offer a fulsome apology to the word “fulsome.”

11. Hone.

You hone in on things, I feel sure of it. At least, you’ve done it once or twice. Which would, in fact, suggest you’ve sharpened in on something. I get what you mean. A fundamentalist would not be happy, however. Please make sure you merely home in on things in the future.

12. Irregardless.

This word doesn’t exist. However, if you’ve invented it, I secretly admire you. For your courage, if not for creating a word that is, um, over-superfluous. There “irrespective” and there’s “regardless.” You may choose from those.

13. Meretricious.

This is one of those tricky words that seems to be about merit. In a way, it is. It lies somewhere along the axis of sleazy to tawdry. It means nauseatingly insincere. Which means it cannot mean “deserving of reward or praise.” Unless, of course, you liked praising the sleazy.

14. Opportunism.

This word is all about taking. It is not about creating. It means taking an opportunity or capitalizing upon it. It does not mean “creating or promoting opportunities.” So when a politician champions economic opportunism, he’s talking nonsense. But you already knew politicians talked nonsense, right? Except for Donald Trump. He’s just opportunistic.

15. Parameter.

You love setting parameters, don’t you? You’ve been in meetings where parameters were set and even drawn. But parameters aren’t borders or limits. They’re merely variables. I know it feels like a downgrade for the word. But look what the Catholic Church did to St. Christopher.

16. Reticent.

This just means shy. It doesn’t mean reluctant. Yes, shy people can be reluctant to do things. On the other hand, they could be reluctant just to do things with you. In fact, though they’re shy, they could be the most daring people of all.

17. Simplistic.

Please tell me you’ve never bought simplistic art. Oh, wait. Here’s some. Never mind. But “simplistic” means “navely or overly simple.” It doesn’t mean: “Gosh, this simplicity is so beautiful that it lifts my heart to the moon.”

18. Tortuous.

Roads can be tortuous, therefore twisty. They can’t be painful. If they were, they’d be torturous. They wouldn’t be tortuous. Is that logic too tortuous for you? In which case, this section must be torturous for you.

19. Urban Legend.

I know you come from New Jersey and think that Bruce Springsteen is your finest urban legend. He isn’t. He’s real. Urban legends are lovely stories told by drunken people playing poker. Stories that are entirely false. Bruce Springsteen is real. I’ve seen him in concert. Chris Christie has written him fan mail. Chris Christie is also real.

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