The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This is the title of a famous book of Stephen Covey. In many online tests we use in the recruitment process we ask a simple question – “What’s the title of the best book you have ever read?”. Frankly, for me this would be a pretty difficult question, mostly because it’s quite impossible to flatten (I have a good definition of best) books based on topic. I can name a few very good books regarding engineering process, product management, architecture etc. But these books cannot compete with War and Peace, Karamazov Brothers, poesy or philosophy.

Why This Question?

Anyway, the scope of the question was to see whether the candidate challenges the question in any way. Unfortunately, many people don’t, maybe due to time constraints. Even if they write down a title, the results are very interesting. We recently conducted tests for a HR Director position and it was a big surprise to see that more than 50% of the candidates simply pointed to “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as the best book they’ve ever read. The book is interesting, but it’s also very deep. Back then I was amazed and even discussed this with several people – how did it get to pole position for the HR people? This book has not even been mentioned by other candidates and, as strange as it might seem, most candidates to software development positions do not even point to technically books. Which is good 🙂

Eventually, I asked a couple of HR candidates I met personally about the book and they said that it was recommended by a HR guru. Therefore, many might have answered this way to impress or to show that they really know the process.

Is There any Recipe for Becoming More Effective?

I recently re-read the 7 Habits and I discovered things I missed the first time, including some logical flaws that more engineering oriented people might spot. The book focuses on you as individual and describes the process on making you better. It covers the importance of your character and of things done right (basically, there is no building without foundation). The goal is to obtain not independence, which is the ultimate goal of many people, but superior interdependence.

By doing things sincerely and listening to others, you will be able to help yourself. I know many people that try this instinctively, without reading any book, but they end up in depression or immense frustration because it seems that it does not work, even if there is not much they can do more. The fact is that there is always more to do and the book can show your mistakes, but it’s also obvious that in order for a group (for example a company) to become more efficient, everyone must be made aware first.

Should You Read This Book?

No matter what you are doing, even if it’s not HR related :), I recommend the book. But in order to make most of it, I think that you must read it twice (or without many interruptions). There is a little bit inconsistency inside, but this might be intentional.

And after you finish with this book – there is more, namely “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness”. I haven’t read this one so I cannot make any recommendations. But anyway if you want to impress in a test, this seems a better choice – after all it’s an upgrade. 🙂

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