Bullshit detection

Mind Camp 3.0 is this weekend, and I’m getting to know some of the participants through the planning process. One is Scott Berkun, whose eponymous blog contains an incisive analysis of bullshit. It starts with the history (beginning with Genesis, in which, Berkun points out “nearly everyone lied”) and then goes into the nitty gritty of how to combat BS. Very much worth reading if you deal with human beings on a regular basis. Not sure I could use the suggestions to stand up to God, though, if he told me the apples were fatal.

After reading this essay, I’m very much looking forward to meeting Scott. As a writer/editor, my fight against BS is usually conducted from the inside — for instance, someone has hired me to help them foist (wittingly or unwittingly) a certain amount of BS onto an audience. My job is to lower the BS quotient to the point that their communication won’t be perceived as BS and discounted or (worse) sprayed back at them. Amazingly, bullshitters never seem to perceive this is a risk; they never say “Gee, Karen, I know this sounds like, er, bullshit…is there any way to make it sound more credible?”

Proofreading. It can change your life.

Think back on the day you got the greatest job, or contract, of your career. Chances are you sent in a resume, or wrote a proposal, that led to an interview, that led to the work. Not only did someone’s decision to hire you go on to change your life, it changed some other lives as well — those of the people who competed against you and didn’t get the gig.

Recently I had dinner with a friend who does some of the hiring for his office. He’d been interviewing candidates, all of them well qualified, and two of them had been quite out of the ordinary. After some deliberation, he’d decided on one, but was still wondering if he’d made the right choice. He described his interactions with them in some detail. One of them had come across very thoughtful and thorough, but a tad hesitant. The other had been decisive, but verging on brash. In fact, another interviewer had complained about her manners. My friend had decided on the more aggressive candidate, saying her style was a good match for their particular field of work.

But just before he had to report his decision to the company’s HR folks, my friend found himself having second thoughts. He sent the two finalists’ resumes, along with the resume of a third highly qualified applicant, to his boss to get his opinion.

His boss pointed out that the two preferred candidates both had resumes and cover letters with multiple typos and spelling errors. The third candidate’s written presentation was perfectly proofed. My friend and his boss discussed it, and agreed that because a major part of the job entails highly accurate and professional written communication with outside agencies, the candidate with the most professional writing and presentation skills would be the best one. They hired him.

A sobering story. I think I’ll be a little slower to hit the Send button for the next few days.

%d bloggers like this: