That’s When I Sat Up and Took Notice

Sometimes the person who is the least qualified on paper makes the most profound and lasting impression.


A few years ago I had the pleasure of selecting a dozen university student applicants to participate in an international entrepreneurship program taking place in Washington, DC and Cairo, Egypt. Applications were abundant and impressive. 


As I conducted the interviews, there was one student who stood out initially for the wrong reasons… and then for the best reasons of all.


He was definitely the underdog – not a particularly good writer, decent but not stellar grades, and nothing particularly noteworthy on his resume.


He was polite, respectful and answered the questions thoughtfully, but where I sat up and took notice was at the end when I asked him if he had any questions for me.


“Just one,” he said. “Looking up the various organizers who are part of this program, I understood why (Company X, University Y, and Organization Z) are all involved, but I don't understand your connection with it all. Why are you running this program?”


It was the best question he could possibly have asked. Simple, clear and direct, it showed me that he had done his homework, was fully prepared, and was truly invested in ensuring full understanding and the best possible experience.


It’s not that I wanted the conversation to be about me, but not one other student asked about the relationships among the players or anything beyond the basic logistics and what their individual experiences would be like.


Yep, he knocked my socks off. It's amazing the lengths to which some people will go to stand out from the rest of the herd and make a powerful and lasting impression.


Similarly, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Sardor Arkhmedov, chief revenue officer of mobile app-development company also described a time when a candidate for a sales role knocked his socks off.
The candidate had a good first conversation virtually, then took the initiative to fly across the country and show up on Sardor’s doorstep in order to have a face-to-face conversation as a demonstration of his commitment to his word and his own brand promise of going the extra mile (or thousand miles) to get the job done.



Sardor also shared insights regarding:

  • Why you should ask for something even when you’re sure the answer is “no.”
  • How telling a client exactly what they DIDN’T want to hear resulted in a more trusted, lasting relationship
  • Why he created a Chief Happiness Officer position and how they’re leveraging it to create a more cohesive company culture in a distributed, virtual workforce
  • How he encourages even the most introverted employees to join in the company’s social events


Oh – and as context, he has also been:

  • A member of the Harvard Business Review advisory council and Forbes Business Council
  • A member of the board of advisors for Pace University’s business school
  • A consultant for USAID
  • An angel investor for (that note-taker app connected to Zoom)


and all before he turned 25!


Want to make someone else sit up and take notice? Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.