“He only errs when he thinks he knows what he does not know” – Socrates
One of the worst traits a candidate can exhibit is being a “know it all”. There’s a huge difference between someone who has healthy self-esteem and someone who’s a “know it all”. A person with healthy self-esteem has clear knowledge of his strengths and abilities, but is comfortable knowing he has limitations. People who are more amenable to suggestions and advice tend to be more likable, and typically make better business partners, employees and managers. They don’t need to be an expert on everything.
“Barb” came for coaching because she couldn’t decide on a career path. When she attempted to get a job, though undecided about her ultimate career path, she failed to get hired. Barb was suffering from a sense of helplessness and despair, but she could not take in anything I said. Her approach in getting hired was all wrong because she never matched her accomplishments and achievements from previous work experience to the jobs she was applying for. Hiring managers ignored her resume because it was not obvious to them if she could contribute or add value.
At first I empathized with her and tried to help her see her own strengths. I offered suggestions on how she could research companies, learn more about sectors that interested her and get informational interviews with influencers. I also showed her how she could improve her resume and her LinkedIn profile to attract a hiring manager’s attention. Unfortunately she couldn’t get motivated to take action to improve her situation. She gave me a blank stare and said, “I don’t want to change my resume or my LinkedIn profile. I’d rather try to see what I can get leaving it the way it is.” Barb was unwilling to explore new strategies even though her old ones had failed.
She was unwilling to take any advice and needed to maintain the position that she had all the answers. Barb, “Knew it all” on one level but knew she needed help on another. Her old strategies were not working but she couldn’t adopt knew ones. She repeated my suggestions back to me as if they were her own and though she requested feedback she couldn’t accept any constructive criticism. After our third session, Barb said she didn’t want to do the work that I suggested to advance her career. I proposed that we take a break from coaching unless she changed her mind and would be amenable to trying some of the new strategies.
Low self-esteem and having a”know it all” attitude is a dead end for making strides in building relationships and for making progress in one’s career. “Know it alls” struggle with co-workers and superiors, have difficulty getting hired and are the most challenging to coach. Since they resist being introspective they limit themselves from having breakthroughs.
Introspection usually leads one to recognize that certain qualities attract people and others turn them off. Is it possible to practice building traits that are equated with people who are likable? Can you avoid those signals which get you labeled as a nuisance, difficult person or “Know it all?” Focusing on building self-esteem may help.
Recognize the Traits of Those Who Possess Healthy Self-Esteem
- Seeks feedback
- Expresses gratitude
- Knows strengths but doesn’t need to share them
- Recognizes limitations
- Asks the right questions
- Seeks to learn from others
- Accepts other ideas and gives credit
- Assertive but not aggressive
- Good listener
- Principled and ethical
- Not afraid of failing
- Can laugh at herself/himself
- Open to correction
- Willing to say “I don’t know”
Recognize the Traits of a Know it All
- Needs to be right all the time
- Can’t be wrong
- Projects blame on others
- Constantly challenges others views
- Denies making mistakes
- Rejects suggestions, advice or support
- Dogmatic, abrupt and a poor listener
- Needs to be center of attention
- Fails to recognize other’s with greater knowledge
- Takes credit
- Lacks empathy
- Like to hear themselves talk
- Self-centered and pompous
- Puts others down
- Can’t give other’s credit
Humility rather than being a “know it all,” will usually transmit emotional maturity and make you more desirable when applying for jobs. Candidates who know what they know and are able to learn from others become great team players and potential leaders. Hiring managers tell me that the best employees are accountable for their mistakes, open to suggestions, rapid learners and actively seek ways to improve. They come to work each day ready to make a contribution and seek new knowledge to add value.
Being a “know it all” does not transmit strength but actually can damage your reputation as a desirable candidate. Top talent realizes that the best tactic to get noticed isn’t to know everything but to show your potential for learning anything and using it for the greater good.