Thursday, January 30, 2014

What distinguishes the grain from chaff?

Years back when computer was not in vogue, I was recruiting stenographers for a lubricant company. Though many would appear for the interview, their performance would be dismal. In a short passage there would be innumerable spelling mistakes and words/sentences would be left out. Their listening skill was poor and knowledge of English weak. They wouldn't be able to complete within the liberal time allowed. Nevertheless I gave the test again to three who made the least mistakes only to find them below par. It was a frustrating experience to go through this exercise frequently to find good candidates.
It was on one such occasion, I had dictated an easy passage with the names of a few our products to a group of a dozen candidates. Amongst the typed sheets there was one where the candidate had typed the passage with very few mistakes and had spelt the uncommon names of the products of the company correctly. The rest of the papers were all duds.
 When I asked this boy of just 19 years whether he had worked earlier in a lubricant or oil company,he said this was his first interview. To another query he replied that he had no relative or friend in the company.
When asked how he typed the names of various products correctly, he replied he had come about 45 minutes earlier and saw a calendar of the company hanging in the waiting hall. It had all the names of company's products like Gear oils, Brake fluids, Hydraulic oils, Wire rope lubricants, Quenching oils etc. It seemed he thought the dictation may consist of a few names of these products and spent the time memorizing the words and spelling. When asked what the other candidates in the room did, he said they were chatting
This incident demonstrated the usefulness of the powers of the observation in our day to day life. I was pretty sure that this boy would rise to very high level in his career given the high motivation and intelligence he had. Most of the boys would have seen the calendar but the words did not register in their minds. They did not also anticipate the likely words for the test as this boy did. They took the examination and interview casually in their stride.
 There is a lesson in this incident. Most of us see but rarely observe what we see. Seeing and observing are different. How many of 25 items spread on a table and seen for three minutes, can one recollect?  It should become our second nature to be keenly observant about men and matters to serve us in good stead. This trait is what distinguishes a Holmes from Dr Watson, the successful from the not so successful.


  1. There is interesting things to observe even in the most ordinary places. Observations lead to a lot of learning and very few realize that. Wise people never miss an opportunity with their keen observations that lead to success. I have seen it in my life! Thanks for this post, truly an amazing youngster that one.

  2. True. More so in the present gen. Used as they are to computers and mobiles, the power of observation is depreciating at an alarming rate
    BTW how did the boy perform and progress later on??

  3. Very interesting incident. The boy will go places! Unless you have interest in what you are doing, you will not notice the surroundings when you go for an interview. Other boys will just be machines, working for their pay.

  4. Ah!! Some people just stand out. That 19 yr old by is brilliant!

  5. Very interesting instance from your past experience. Inspiring!