One of the amazing incidental benefits of running a business is that I can honestly say I like every single person I work with. Building a strong, cohesive culture has been a top priority at my branding consultancy, and I think it’s contributed enormously to our success. After all, in our business it’s not like we’re relying on special patents or complex machinery. Our value exists solely in our people, and recruiting is our most important challenge as a company.
It’s not easy to get a sense of someone based on their resume and a couple of interviews. But there are certain key things we’ve learned to look for that at least point to someone being a good fit, if not guarantee it. While I’m sure these indicators vary from company to company, the overall principle is to recruit for attitude over experience, approach over specific skills. So what does that look like?
1. I don’t care about “relevant experience”
I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t care if someone has a degree in marketing or communications. Honestly, I don’t even really care if they’ve worked in the field. I suppose it would be nice to hire someone who already knew the lingo or had a few techniques up their sleeves, but it’s so easy to pick that stuff up if you’re a smart, motivated person. I feel like someone could follow me around for two weeks and understand everything they need to know about what I do. The what isn’t the hard part--it’s the how. And to be great at the how, you need a strategic, curious mind--not a few years working at a company that probably does things completely differently anyway.
2. Your questions matter more than mine
Most people go into an interview knowing they are supposed to have some questions in mind. The people who don’t have any questions--I don’t even want to talk about those people, but it never ceases to amaze me. That being said, because most people know they’re supposed to prepare a couple of questions, I’ve now started paying very close attention to the quality of a question. Is it thoughtful? Is it something this person is genuinely wondering about, or are they asking just to ask? Most importantly, does it make ME think? I love when people ask me challenging questions like, “Where do you see the business going over the next 5 years,” or “What’s your favorite thing about your job?” versus, “What will my role entail?” (although that question is obviously important and fine to ask). If someone can make me think in an interview, chances are I’m really going to enjoy working with them every day.
3. Show your passion
One of the questions I always ask in an interview is, “What do you like to do for fun?” I assume that any halfway decent candidate comes in prepared to talk about our business, why branding excites them, how they’d be a great addition to the company. But I also want to hear about your weird collection of vintage buttons, or your hilarious travel blog, or the last great movie you saw. Everyone who works here is passionate, and not just about work. Our whole team contributes to our company blog, and people often write about classes they took, parties they attended, restaurants they ate at, and how these experiences informed their perspective. It makes for a more interesting office culture, which in turn leads to more creative thinking.
And while we’re here, I would like to mention the one thing that never fails to rub me the wrong way (other than typos in a resume). I’ve had quite a few candidates say to me recently something along the lines of, “I think Red Antler would be a great fit for me because...” It’s subtle, but if you’re already talking about what we can do for you versus what you can do for us, it’s not going to work out.
Team fit is one of the hardest things to gauge in an interview, but it’s also the most important for ensuring that everyone is happy and motivated over time. While I’m not sure about the philosophy of voting for someone you’d “like to grab a beer with,” it’s probably not a bad idea as a hiring policy.
--Author Emily Heyward is a partner and director of strategy for Red Antler.
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