Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Importance Of Gravitas When Hiring Or Interviewing

When one meets Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or even Mitt Romney, they each exude an aura of authority, power, and, if you will, leadership and command. In short - gravitas.  The dictionary defines gravitas as seriousness of demeanor.  But it goes farther.  There is also a certain substance that goes with it.  Gravitas is why Bill de Blasio won the mayoral race – his competitors lacked it.

When hiring, especially senior executives, companies look for gravitas.  It is evident immediately  from the moment a candidate enters the room.  It is the way they are dressed; it is their posture; it is in their smile and their demeanor. And it is in their handshake. It is in something they exude.

Some people have gravitas. Some do not.  The ones who have it are born with it.  It is just part of their being.  The ones who do not, must create it (there are many books written on this subject).  They have to relearn how to dress and how to carry themselves. It can be a learned trait.  Some get to it quickly; others have to work hard to present themselves in a way which compensates for it in their lack of carriage.

It is really important as people move up the career ladder and become more senior.  Everyone wants to hire a leader.  Everyone wants to hire someone who commands respect.  It isn’t just about body type – look at Chris Christie or Madeline Albright (only 4'10").  It is about authority and the ability to take over a room when it is entered.

That is why I insist on meeting all my local candidates in person.  Or, if they are not local, I always do a Skype call.  Any recruiter who doesn’t do this is doing themselves, their candidates and their clients a disservice.  It is also why I like to visit my clients.  There is a certain “type” who works at different companies.  That is part of their culture and it is an important thing for a recruiter and a candidate to understand.

In the old days of the original Chiat/Day, before TBWA, when account people at other agencies were still wearing suits, the Chiat account person was loose, upbeat, casual and authoritative. I made lots of placements there because I got it immediately. And people who interviewed with me wearing dark, somber suits and rep ties would never get hired there – unless, of course, they had gravitas and were upbeat and creative.  In that case I would have them dress way down for their interviews.  And some of them even got jobs there.

It doesn't matter what level you are, but coming across strong and smart is what counts.

My wife was a wardrobe stylist who dressed people for commercials.  She used to say that there is central casting for every business.  But if someone dressed like a duck and looked like a duck, they were a duck.  

Ultimately, carriage and demeanor wins the day.


  1. Gravitas? Or girth?

    Oh...and it's spelled "Christie." Please get it right...or I might just shut down a bridge near you, too.

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  3. Tks very much for your post.

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