Kowtowing Your Way to the Top

Everyone who has ever looked for a job knows that preparation is essential. Sometimes, an earnest job-seeker may spend months or even years assembling and building credentials, honing skills, cultivating professional relationships, only to find that the golden ladder to success seems always to be just beyond reach.

This is because many capable and promising applicants have everything ... except the final piece, the sine qua non. After years of study, questing for the Holy Grail of knowledge that will guarantee a steady ascent toward The Top, many would-be employees find that the skills once believed so precious are meaningless without the Secret Ingredient that no one ever bothered to mention before.


It is claimed that in Imperial China knowing how to kowtow correctly could mean the difference between life and death. In modern times, the ability to kowtow effectively is only slightly less urgent, and the long-term consequences of failure in this art could be equally fatal (though not so dramatic).

In considering the uses of kowtowing in the job search, it is important to look at this term both literally and figuratively. Literal kowtowing refers to a display of submission or obeissance in which an underling assumes a prostrate position before a superior, with the forehead tapping the ground. (The exact choreography is stand, kneel, prostrate, tap, tap, tap. Repeat twice.) With the recent tendency towards informality, the full kowtow has fallen into relative disuse and could raise eyebrows in some quarters. This is ironic, because, at the same time, figurative kowowing is enjoying unprecedented popularity in many sectors, and this trend shows no signs of abating.

How, then, is a conscientious applicant to reap the benefits of kowtowing without being too obvious? The key is to find a way of kowtowing mentally. In an interview, one must create the impression of kowtowing without all of the up and down movements that could interrupt the flow of conversation.

To this end, one of the best habits a job seeker can adopt is the creation of a small home altar for each company one is targetting.

For a basic altar, one starts with the company logo, displayed at the center, in an elegant gold frame. Around this, in a horsehoe pattern, are arranged portraits of the Director of Human Resources, the President and/or CEO and other top executives, as well as one's prospective boss, that boss's boss, and the boss's boss's boss. The company's mission statement should be inscribed on parchment, placed alongside the framed logo. Product samples and newspaper or magazine clippings may also be included.

Kowtowing twice daily to each altar for a period of at least 14 days is the key. From the ritual act of humbling oneself before these symbols, one achieves a state of mind in which conscious thought and ego fall away, leaving the applicant a perfect, empty vessel, fit for the highest use. To find this person is every company's dream; to become this person is The Secret of Success.