I have written recently a book about studying in Germany. And I would like to put up one advice I give young adults for picking an university to team leaders as well: Do not take the credibility of a university as your main measure of picking. In the following article, I would like to share my thoughts about CV backgrounds, grades, skills and mindset.

Starting points are inequal

One of the few unfairnesses of life is that each of us starts different. Some start in remote villages, other in big cities. Some start in wealthy families, other in poor. Some start close to education, others start far away from it. 

I was born in an urban area in the west of Germany that has seen its best times some ten years ago. For most people here in south Germany, this area is considered already as ghetto like district. Once, I was even called upon the fact that the southerns allow people from this area to study here because the final high school exams are nowhere of equal. Holy cow…

I remember that my first CV that I have written contained the name and jobs of my parents. This was at a time of 1995 in Germany. Nowadays, this is not recommended anymore by the federal German work agency. In other countries like the USA, the application process even rules out that you give away too much personal information. Gender, age, born nationality – they all should not be contained in the CV and have to be blackened out.

But then, how do you measure each person when you try to fill in a position? Some people might pick already by the heritage they might read out of a CV if possible. Joining a company from one of the big, reknown universities might help for sure. But we are a web page for leaders and executivies, so what does it do with us? It rises expectations. It initiate trust. Trust in technical skills, so that we just have to decide whether the personal mindset of the person just has to be tested. But this is the lazy way and not a good one to find raw diamonds. 

In the next few paragraphs, I will write about some of the methods and mindsets I use when picking people for job positions. Maybe you can use this as an inspiration.

Easy tests in interviews

I always test people in the interviews on their technical skills. I do not ask big and difficult questions, they are rather easy. This helps me to see several things.

  • Can the person explain technical answers even in unpleasent circumstancas?
  • How does the person think of himself or herself?

I have seen that arrogant people give snappy comments because I gave them an easy task. That is a character trade, I cannot tolerate and I have rated them directly down. As written before, my employees have to help me out with any task, even if they think the task is unworthy for them. An example from my story was to clean up the laboratories – regularly. It is simple, it consumes time, but I expect this even from a genius. Yes, even from PhD holders. 

Inequal graduation grades

Personally, I like diversity very much. I have had many clever guys and girls around me from all over the world. Unfortunately, I have witnissed some point of inequality due to national backgrounds. You know, being the victim of nazi jokes is one thing as a German. Steoretyping can happen very fast and I have been victim of this, as well. But if your nationality reframes you directly to be not equal, that is a different story.

I had this experience once in academics. I passed my grades in Scotland with As but then in Germany this counted as Bs. There was a certain shift of graduation grade level. For a German A you had to go in the Scottish Exams A++. I still think that was unfair to introduce such scaling shifts or factors. The decision board said that the test difficulty is not equal. I was enraged back then. But then I saw a similar problem: Some certifications depict the percentile in which you are in at point of graduation. I have seen final grades in which people had 90/100 and were in the last 50% of the final year’s graduation.  How shall I rate this then if all is squeezed in the top? Grades are tough as a base. Even if you are from a good university this might be misleading. I passed at the KIT with an A level physics master degree and I still was at the bottom half! Every third person in my year got a distinction. Well, so what can grades then tell you? Barely just a tendency.

I mean, I have nearly failed my high school graduation due to physics. Such an irony, isn’t it?

A gut feeling

All in all, I prepick people for interviews when I see that they have a fitting profile of topics dealt with beforehands and if they seem humble. I do not care much of grades. I was bad in school, had my D in physics and C in math and in the end still became an A level phycisist. I have failed my laser exam with E and still became one of the leading senior lidar engineers. Who am I to judge persons by institutional names or grades? 

I pick people because of a gut feeling that the vibes for the working life might play well. And because I trust them. And I trust from my own experience people more that have an inner drive to work hard than to someone who is just clever. Maybe because I am not so clever myself – but hey, at least I work hard. 🙂


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