Humblebragging….the new black?

Posted on September 17, 2015 by


Humblebrag!We all have words we like the sound of or which resonate with us.  Someone I know likes the sound of the words balaclava and ptarmigan ( I know…!)

I recently came upon a word I’d never heard before – “humblebragging”. I didn’t think it was a real word but looked it up and there it was:

noun: humblebrag an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud. “social media status updates are basically selfies, humblebrags, and rants”

verb: humblebrag to make an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement with the actual intention of drawing attention to something of which one is proud.

“she humblebragged about how ‘awful’ she looks without any make-up”

Strange then that having just heard the word I should come upon it in a newspaper article a few days later.

In a recent Sunday Times article, Sathnam Sanghera writes, “The A-level humblebrag, through which a person of stature boasts indirectly about their brilliance by pointing out how doing badly in their exams didn’t hold them back from wild success, has become as much of a media cliché as beautiful blonde twins leaping in the air for the benefit of press photographers”.

He goes on to point out that that, as A Level results were published, celebrities and business leaders humblebragged about how badly they had dome in their exams. For example, Jeremy Clarkson on Twitter “If your A level results aren’t great, be cheered by the fact that I got a C and two U’s. And I’m currently sitting in a villa in St Tropez”

Smug though this sounds and annoying though it might be (especially if you are trying to drum the importance of studying into your teenage kids), there is some truth in there somewhere.

A Levels, Highers and even Degrees do not necessarily predict future success. Motivation, emotional intelligence, behavioural traits, hard work, being in a role which plays to your strengths and many other factors will ultimately contribute to excellence in a role and ultimately to career success. Large companies recruiting in volume such as Price Waterhouse Cooper and EY certainly see the importance of proper selection methods and are now putting even greater emphasis on Behavioural and Aptitude Tests in making sound selection decisions. Many smaller companies are also adding value to their recruitment process by doing more than just the traditional interview.

As Sanghera notes, “You’d never dismiss an adult on the basis of the musical taste, dress sense or social skills” they had at 18, a time of “extreme emotional turmoil”. So why seek to assess job potential “on the basis of school tests”?

Clearly, for some roles certain qualifications are required (I, for one, certainly don’t fancy being seen by a Doctor without a medical degree!) However for other roles exam results may not necessarily be the best predictor of success in the role.

Now more than ever, we need to be more creative and sophisticated in our selection methodology. We need to reduce the risk of making poor selection decisions which might cost significant amounts of time and money in the longer term.