Saturday, January 12, 2013

Job Candidates: Genuine Article VS Cheap Imitations

By Mary Salvino, Career Coach

When I last went rummaging through my jewelry box, I came across two strings of pearls.  One string of pearls were of the ‘genuine cultured’ variety and the other I knew to be a string of inexpensive knockoffs that would fool anyone who really didn’t know what they were doing when it came to judging the quality of the gems.

I am not a gemologist, but, as I examined the two strands more closely, I couldn’t help but consider how both similar and yet different they each looked to the naked eye.  I considered how these two lustrous and unique cords of orbs reflected, refracted and diffracted light and how their physical properties could be also be applied to the world of people, and more specifically, the process of comparing one job candidate to another.  

The Basics:

The rudimentary difference between wild pearls and cultured pearls is related to how the pearls are created.  Pearls that are created spontaneously by nature, i.e. without human intervention, are considered ‘wild’, almost freaks of nature, and viewed as akin to those phenoms of industry that can be found in many of the most successful companies throughout the world. Cultured pearls are farmed, i.e. formed via human intervention, and can easily be obtained for the right price.  Imitation pearls can be made of anything from mother-of-pearl, to coral or conch shells to glass that is coated with a solution containing fish scales called ‘essence d’Orient’.

Pearls of Wisdom:

  • Natural pearls [job candidates] are very rare and outrageously expensive – it is doubtful that you will ever see [meet one] in person
  • All pearls [job candidates] sold on the public market are ‘cultured pearls’, i.e. form with human intervention
  • Decide on what type of pearl [job candidate] suites your style [organizational culture] and your budget
  • All pearls [job candidates] come in a variety of sizes, colours and varying degrees of quality
  • Size matters
  • Quality counts
  • Value Factors:
    • Shape:
      • Round pearls command the highest price
      • Baroque pearls are desired/appreciated for their uniqueness
    • Surface:
      • Pearls that are clean and blemish-free are most desirable
    • Coating/Nacre thickness – The more layers of nacre, the finer the pearl
    • High luster = high quality
      • Superior pearls are bright, even and reflective
    • Matching:
      • Each pearl on the necklace needs to be graded on its own merit
      • Each pearl will become part of a string/team.  Will they work well with others?
    • Colour:
      • There are two colours to consider when looking at pearls:
        • Body colour
        • Overtone colour – the sheen or ‘pool’ of secondary colour [found when you look at the crest of the pearl itself]
  • All pearls are best judged in natural light
  • Pearls are made primarily of calcium carbonate; they will dissolve in an acidic environment [Employers will need to ask themselves if they will be placing their newly acquired ‘gems’ into an inhospitable environment.]

Standard Test for Authenticity:
Run the pearl lightly along the biting edge of your front teeth. A real pearl will feel slightly gritty or sandy, whereas a fake pearl will feel smooth. [Employers, you need to ask yourself if you are looking for an employee with some ‘grit’, or a simple sycophant.]

Dear Readers,

Admittedly, I had some fun with my use of metaphors here, but I still stand strong by the analogy.   

Copyright © 2013, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2013, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at