At the risk of covering a topic that has been done to death, I feel compelled to share with you a few of the lessons I gained after spending the past week interviewing candidates for a sales job.
Here’s what I look for in candidates – to make sure that I’m surrounded by excellence and by winners:
- Be on time. Get yourself in the shoes of your future boss – would you hire someone who cannot be on time to an interview? No way, right? It made my job much easier each time one of the 10 candidates arrived late. Their resume immmediately went on the ‘no’ pile. BTW it didn’t matter if a candidate called me to say that they were running late. All that said to me was that they’re good at making up excuses – and terrible at taking action on reasons for being on time.
- Know the company. Again, put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s looking for excellent people for their team. Would you hire someone who thought they could wing it when it came to knowing your business? It would make you wonder what else would they be okay with winging, right?
- Tell the truth. I always ask candidates to tell me about a mistake they made. I find it’s one of the best ways to measure a candidate’s integrity. It’s those who can quickly recount a mistake and the lesson they learned who make it to my short list. Contrary to what most candidates may think, future bosses are not looking for flawless team members. Bosses who are looking to hire for excellence are looking for real people who are willing to admit their mistakes – and learn from them. That’s one of the traits that makes a person excellent.
- Ask for the job. Memorize that. I know it can feel awkward to look at someone in the eyes and say something like: “I really like this job – and I really want it. What will it take for me to get it?” Yet as awkwrad as that may feel, it’s even stranger to go to a job interview and leave without finding out how will you land the job. Ask yourself why are you there in the first place. Now go do whatever it takes to accomplish your main objective.
- Be yourself. As stressful as an interview can be, know that your future boss wants to hire you, definitely not a phony. So chillax. Nervousness is one thing, pretending you’re someone else is another. The latter says to me that you’re not confident and don’t believe in yourself. On the other hand, I see it as my job to make candidates at ease.
- Be R & S focused. R stands for results and S for solutions. To you that means that you should mind the company’s bottom-line. On a balance sheet employees are part of the cost of goods sold. That’s why your future boss wants to make sure they get a return on the investment that they make in you. Prove to them that you will be an asset to their business, not a liability. Tell them about ways you’ve added value to past employers. What results have you delivered? What actions have you taken to solve problems?
- Zero whining. I always ask candidates to tell me why they’re leaving their current role. I’ve learned it’s one of the best ways to learn about how they cope with challenges. As they answer, I pay close attention to the perspective they take and the tone of their voice. The last thing I want is a whiner on my team – someone who feels they have been wronged. Even when bad things happen, we all have the choice to learn from our mistakes or waste time whining, placing blame or feeling victimized.
- Passion is not an option. It’s worth reminding you that a job will take up more than 30% of your adult life. Even more if you count the time it takes you to get ready, to commute and to unwind after work. It’s those who strive for excellence who look for work they are passionate about. And how do I know whether someone is bluffing passion or not? The passionate ones light up when they talk about work – the roles they’ve had, the lessons they’ve gained, the impact they’ve made. Besides, it’s easy to pick out passion – especially after you’ve interviewed someone who lacks it. So if you’re not passionate about the role you’re applying for, don’t bluff it – in the long run the only person you’ll be short-changing is yourself!
- Risk takers are welcome. Sure, I’m looking to invest in a candidate who will produce a good return on my investment. And sure, mistakes can be costly. Even so, I want to be surrounded by people who are willing to take risks, to try new things, to go beyond the status quo. It’s risk takers who will not settle for mediocrity. In the long run they will help me take my business to the next level. That’s a worthwhile investment.
- Be legacy focused. Excellent people are those who work for more than a pay check. Admittedly paying bills are part of life’s package – but allowing bills to take over your life shows a lack of understanding about your existence. We were not put on earth to pay bills. Read that one more time. Each one of us has a purpose to accomplish, something to contribute, and an impact to make. What will you leave behind? What will your footprint on earth look like? Get excited about it.
And which candidate, out of the 10 I interviewed, made it to the next round? A job hopper who has a winning track record and is commited to excellence. Risky? While loyalty is a nice-to-have, results and excellence are a must-have. Job hopping is only a weakness if you fail to prove that your strengths outweigh a patchy career. I’d love to hear what you think…