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Underneath the Interview

Published on Oct 19, 2023

Late last week, I interviewed a very sharp candidate for an open position with one of my clients. I had spent some time with him on the phone prior, and his resume was more than adequate for someone we wanted to pursue. When I first met him in person, he was cordial and professional, but I needed to learn who he REALLY was and not what he prepared himself for in the moment. Upon further dialogue, I learned that he was much sharper than his resume suggested and had multiple offers extended in the same and adjacent workspaces, but wasn’t excited about any of them. Fast forward 40 minutes, and he’s shaking my hand and saying, “Ryan, for what it’s worth, this is by far the best interview I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know if you’re considering me or not moving forward to the next part of the process, but I sincerely hope you do. I would love to work for a company like this.”

So, what changed in his attitude and his desire to be here instead of somewhere else? Trust me, it’s not my good looks! I’ve got big ears and a big nose, and I’m goofy as heck! Seriously though, we connected on a deeper human level. I believe that was the difference.

How do you do this, and why would it even be important in an interview?

In a business world that’s driven by numbers, pie charts, graphs, and, at the end of the day, revenue, it’s easy to lose sight of the people that drive those numbers and just go through a process to check boxes. It’s something that most of us fall into in every part of our lives. We do this with our families, our friends, our health, our spirituality. We check boxes. When hiring for any position above entry-level, it’s important to remember not only the skillset this person has developed but what makes the person tick that actually works the skillset.

For positions like this, we need to “interview” them but also “recruit” them at the same time.

Why? Because if you don't attract the top talent then expect they are being offered positions at competing companies and losing out on the hire will result in growth for your competition. There could be many books written on this topic, but I will share one tip that opened the door in this situation with the hopes that it gets you thinking about how you can improve your process.

We connected on a couple of things at the beginning of the interview, and I could tell he felt comfortable with me and my style, and the façade started to come down. When I saw and “felt” this, I asked him if he could share something that was challenging in his life, that he was proud of himself for making it through. Whether he struggled through it, crushed it, or somewhere in between, but he was just proud to be on the other side of it now. He paused, weighing his thoughts, and I said, just whatever comes to mind first. His response was deep and personal. It took several minutes to talk through, and it wasn’t a surface-level response. When he finished, I looked him in the eyes and told him how much I appreciated him sharing that experience with me. I told him I’m sorry that it was so challenging for him and I’m happy that he made it through a better person. I didn’t do this because I learned some special tactic, but because I genuinely listened to him and felt the hardship he was expressing as just another person that’s also gone through my own challenges. I believe that this moment, coupled with other things throughout the “interview” process, helped him to know that we care about humans at this particular company, value listening, and will look at him as an individual and not just a number. I could have told him that in as many words, but I showed him instead. It also enhanced his opportunity to move through to the next phase of the process because I was hiring for a role that thrives on building relationships with others.

By opening ourselves up to share real experiences with others, we create deeper relationships.

Because I pushed the envelope further, my candidate showed that he was willing to open up, thus establishing a deeper connection with me. So, the tip here is to interview while recruiting, simultaneously. There are many things you can do to accomplish this. Asking questions that allow someone deeper thought-out responses, and then listening and responding to the person as a conversation with care and thought will help you determine if they’re a good fit for you and if your company is a good fit for them.

Remember, you pick them, but people that will be game-changers for your business need to pick you too!

Author: Ryan Drysdale, Co-Founder of ProducifyX

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