How to take a closer look at your candidate

Take a real look

One of the reasons I appreciate our process of recruiting more and more is that it allows us to take a real look at the person who’s applied for the position.

In February, while working in a hiring campaign in Minneapolis, I also participated in an experience that changed my perspective on life. That doesn’t happen very often to us but this weekend was different. I was part of a group of eight who went into the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility (read prison) north of Minneapolis for a full-day seminar. We conducted seminar-style classes on family relationships, men’s issues and faith-based values to 180 inmates who had volunteered for the all-day event. It’s a funny feeling to leave behind your valuables, including your driver’s license, have your hand stamped with an ultraviolet marker in case of emergency (Wait a minute! What kind of emergency? “Oh, usually either fire or riot.” Oh, OK, I feel a lot better now), hear the doors shut behind you and take that long walk across the “yard”. But guess what?

Those 180 guys sang with way more enthusiasm than you’ll find in most churches. In my classes, everyone was with me from the very first word and during the Q & A time, more hands were raised than I had time to recognize. When I talked with one individual who was very concerned about his role as a father, he told me he was in the final year of a 12-year sentence for murder. The son of a pastor, he’d murdered someone who sexually molested his 3-year-old child. Stories like that make you stop and think. The most recent affirmation I’ve received came when a large envelope arrived this week from the prison containing a large card with original artwork by a prisoner on the cover and brief thank-you messages from more than 50 men who attended my seminar sessions.

The main lesson I learned that day was: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” How often do I pre-judge? How often am I wrong?

So what is the candidate thinking when they first see our sales position posted on CareerBuilder or Monster? Who is this person who’s been drawn to the position we offer?

When the applicant clicks on our Job Offer on CareerBuilder or Monster, there is an eye-catching appeal to our ad. The title “The Best Sales Job Ever!” is designed to arouse interest. The branding page on both sites is designed to convey a very stable 50-year company. The words “non-partisan, strong voice, by the people, responsible American” will attract that person who not only wants a rewarding career but wants to make a difference.

The more we ask people, “Why our company? What caused you to respond to our ad?”, the more we are learning the importance of every word and phrase on that page. When you send that first email letter, there are phrases in it that will appeal to certain salespeople. Some of those phrases are: “potential match”; “people of integrity”; “your values”; and “pursue a career”. Just as every word in our sales interview was placed there with a lot of thought and for a reason, so every word in our communications (emails, phone interview, confirmation, face-to-face) with potential representatives is selected with the same care.

“Potential match” conveys the following: “They’ve read my resume and they see things there they like…the job isn’t mine, that’s for sure, but I am in the running…they aren’t hiring out of desperation.”

“People of integrity” tells them this: “Don’t even contact this company unless you believe in America and what makes her great…You can’t sell what you don’t believe…these folks are looking for an honest and upright person…This is unusual; I like it!”

“Your values” should cause them to reflect: “What are my values?...What are the most important things to me?...Well, I really value family, career, country, faith…wonder if that’s what they mean?”

And “pursue a career” is a challenge to them: “So far, I’ve changed jobs a number of times while I was seeking fulfillment…I wonder if this is finally the one…Nothing I’d like better than for this to be my final career.”

So put yourself in the candidate’s chair and into their heart as you interview. The more you understand their motivations and what drives them, the better your selections will be.
---Mark McDowell

Views: 96

Comment by Randy Levinson on October 12, 2009 at 5:02pm
Terrific article Mark. I often tell my colleagues that we need to treat our vendors and candidates they way we hope to be treated when we are either vendors or candidates to other companies or opportunities. Being able to have that perspective when you are in the moment is an extremely powerful tool. So many people often squander the opportunity to take that view and then subsequently end up in a more adversarial than patterning relationship. As you tell the story about the man in the last year of his sentence and why - who among us would not feel compelled to do what got him there. It is important to realize that some lines are so easy to cross we never know when we may find ourselves on the other side of that line, or fence, or conference room table. Thanks for sharing.
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on October 13, 2009 at 5:58pm
Thanks Mark for sharing this and great post on taking the time to get to know the person, sometimes for another role. Whilst it takes time, it pays off in the long run! Understanding our own bias and prejudice includes challenging the wish list of the client.


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