“Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

This goes in the file of my all-time favorite quotes.  It is such a simple turn of phrase, but it delivers a knock-out punch of common-sense.  To go beyond the obvious of clothing, jewelry, haircut, body art, etc. Let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, I was in charge of training new consultants how to interview people for very senior positions.  One of the things I would tell them is to get the person out-of-context in order to find out who they really are.  The easiest way to do this is to invite them to a meal in a restaurant.  This pulls them out of the context of a by-the-book interview. 

The things an observant person can learn are manyfold and quite enlightening.  I know someone who would invite candidates to a meal at a restaurant where he was a regular.  He would tell his friend the maître d to tell the person who waits on him and the candidate, to completely screw-up the candidate’s order.  If she orders a steak, medium rare, bring her an omelet.  You get the picture.  What he is looking for is how the candidate deals with the situation.  That will speak volumes about who they are—much louder than all the prepared responses to standard interview questions. 

I read that Sir Richard Branson used to pick up very senior candidates at the airport disguised as an old, arthritic limo driver, just to see how they treated the “driver”.  I’ll bet you are already thinking of how you are going to pull someone out of context.

Good luck on your journey!