Going Against the Norm

As a recruiter, I want to do everything I can to set candidates up for success, especially when meeting with a potential employer. We all know that interviews are not the most comfortable situations to be in, especially when you are speaking about your life, career aspirations and challenges to someone that you don’t know. You may be nervous, stumble over your words and perhaps say the wrong thing, but that’s OK… because it happens to the majority of us!

 

Getting to know you…

One thing I do every time I meet a new candidate is ask them to tell me a bit about themselves. This might seem like a very cliché ‘icebreaker’ question that they will be accustomed to answering. However, the answer that I look for is probably not what you would expect. I don’t want a summary of your professional experience, I actually want to learn more about you as a person and to allow you to feel more comfortable.

So to go against what you will have heard and read before; please tell me about your two kids that keep you up at night, your dog that you would much rather spend time with, or whatever it is that allows you some alone time on the weekend. I also strongly encourage candidates, if it feels right, to do this when meeting with hiring managers. Why? Because your answer portrays your values, motivations and shapes the person that you are. This is really important for an organisation to see, in order to ensure that the culture of their organisation suits your needs. It also allows a hiring manager to picture who you are outside of work and gives them a good understanding of why you would be a good fit culturally in their business.

 

How do I ensure that I am a cultural fit?

As a relationship-driven individual inside and outside of work, opening up personally comes naturally to me. However, I completely appreciate that the same can’t be said for everyone. Nine times out of ten, candidates revert back to what feels comfortable to them and when asked “Tell me about yourself”, end up talking about their professional experience and technical skills. Don’t get me wrong, this is extremely important and something that I will ask candidates to discuss in great detail. However, with a large number of candidates often vying for the same opportunity, your softer skills and personality can often be the thing that sets you apart.

 

Your soft skills and personality can be the thing that sets you apart

Keep in mind when interviewing, your soft skills will be the ones that really help you stand out from other candidates. If they don’t seem tangible, make them tangible. Use examples and describe situations that demonstrate how you’ve used effective communication, teamwork and leadership skills outside of work. By doing this you will demonstrate to the recruiter and the hiring manager how you will thrive in their environment.

Try treating your initial interaction as an introduction at a friend’s BBQ. It’s relaxed, you build rapport and you actually get to know quite a lot about someone. It’s less formal, which takes the pressure off an interview scenario and trying to think of what the ‘right’ thing to say is.

 

No matter the outcome, any interaction is always valuable

Unfortunately, there is no one question, or set of questions, that people can ask to know if someone is the right cultural fit. The entire interview process is assessed in order to arrive at that decision. This is why it is important from the very first moment that you meet with someone to try and be yourself as much as possible, and in doing so, it should help you feel more comfortable throughout the interview.

I always hope to leave my candidates feeling that they have just had a valuable conversation with someone in their industry rather than a one-sided interview where they have felt interrogated. For me, the most important thing and what I enjoy the most about this job is building strong and trusting relationships, and it all starts with getting to know my candidates.

So the next time you meet with a recruiter or a potential employer, try and delve into the softer side of the interview and see if you can connect on a more personal level. Remember, you can learn just as much about them by going into the ‘softer side’ and really decide if you are in fact a good cultural alignment. It’s a two-way street. Relationships are built on trust and if you can share mutual trust, you should have a long and prosperous relationship moving forward, not only with your line manager but the organisation as a whole.

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