Years ago, I sat in a room waiting to be interviewed for a psychology program.
On paper, I was the least qualified in the room.
Everyone else had tons of work experience, was older, had high GPAs, was well dressed, and the epitome of a young professional.
A week later, I got a call: I’d been accepted…
I had two 30-minute interviews that could determine the course of my professional career—no pressure.
My palms wouldn’t stop sweating (great for first impressions).
Interview #1: We talked about politics and martial arts for the first 25 minutes.
Interview #2: Same deal—we talked about random stuff for the first 25 minutes, followed by a quick, “So why do you want to be in our program?” like it was a throw-away question.
“They clearly don’t want me. They don’t even care about why I want to do this,” I told myself.
No way I was getting in.
A few days later I got the acceptance call.
There were a limited number of spots, so that meant I’d beaten out most of the better-qualified applicants.
“Really? That’s awesome! But how?” I asked the psychologist who’d called to tell me the good news.
“We knew everyone in the room was smart enough to do the job. We wanted to know who could hold a conversation. If you can’t talk to people and put them at ease, you’re not cut out for this kind of work.”
They wanted to gauge my ability to just hang out with people and make casual conversation? I could’ve told them I was good at that—I spent all of undergrad being a recruiter for my Fraternity and genuinely networking with other organizations, which meant my job was to put people at ease and be able to hold a conversation with anyone. I guess all the times I skipped class to go do a recruitment event paid off…
Turns out, being able to build a relationship with people is important—more important than raw intelligence.
Since then, I’ve never forgotten that lesson:
If you have to choose between being the smartest in the room and the one people want to talk to—choose the second option.
High EQ beats high IQ, especially if high IQ comes at the cost of low EQ.
I’ve known people who are way more educated than me, who are in MENSA (certified geniuses or something), and who have never made less than an A+ all through school.
But they’re terrible company.
Be the person people want to hang out with. It’ll get you further.