I’ve conducted more interviews in this last year than ever before. It always reminds me a bit like being on a first date – they are being at their best and I’m also portraying the best aspects of the job and the team on my side.
Do you know what I dislike the most about interviewing during covid? Not seeing people’s full face as we speak. I’ve come to wonder if I was a horse trader in a prior life and I need to see the teeth before I buy the pony.
I just find it so interesting when the mask comes off later and it feels like a totally different person in front of me. I think that maybe one of my “tells” on reading people is if their expressions match their eyes. Like when a person gives you a smile, but has no smile in their eyes. And some keep their eyes so neutral, that I feel like I need the visibility of the mouth to see when there is the natural curl in one direction or another.
Besides peoples demeanors, there are always those questions and answers that are revealing.
This past week I interviewed this lovely young gal who was as sweet as can be. She touted her problem solving skills albeit with little backup description. So I asked if she enjoyed puzzles and what kind she liked. I find it interesting to ask people if they like to do puzzles – because most real puzzle people don’t just think jigsaw, they also think word, soduku, jumbles and crosswords as well. She conveyed that she did love puzzles and she has been doing many with her boyfriends daughter. I knew from her hand movement of moving imaginary pieces around that she was referring to jigsaw puzzles. I immediately pictured some of the elaborate puzzles I have done with some of my family members over the years and asked how old his daughter was. “Oh, she is three and we’ve been doing all of these Princess puzzles that she has”. The elaborate 1000 piece or 3D puzzles that had been in my thoughts were immediately replaced with 20-30. big piece, Disney puzzles. Good for her, for engaging and playing with the budding child, but I would have hoped for her to relay something on her level of puzzle solving and not of a three year old in an interview.
She then said she was starting college and wanted to be a realtor and then further herself beyond that into real estate law later on. So, I asked her what her best subject was. She shrugged and said, well, she just started classes, so she didn’t really know. “Ok”, I said, “what classes did you excel at in high school?”. She paused and giggled and said that the truth was, she liked gym class the best. At this point, I was hoping that I could have had sunglasses on to mask my likely visible eye roll. Still not ready to give up on getting a good answer, I prodded further by saying, of her academic curriculum, what did she feel she did better in? Well, she wasn’t good at math (math people are problem solvers of one kind, so I’m always looking for that), although she was quick to add that she did pass. (oh good, maybe you can still balance your checkbook then). She thought for a bit and relayed that History was probably the best choice then. Now, I’ve nothing against history being the subject where anyone excels, but this sounded like it was just the choice of where she was just marginally better that other subjects that she clearly had no vested interest in. I almost wanted to ask if she was a good cheerleader – as her enthusiasm was at least putting her at the top of that possibility.
She was sweet, she likely would have been fun to have around and on the team, but in the end, I need people who can think and problem solve and not just be a bubbly voice on the phone and around the office.
I did hire and start another gal this past week who I have nicknamed Tinkerbell in my head (and probably have said it aloud to a few too many other people in the office for that nickname to not surface at some point). Unlike the interview described above, she was smart, witty, answered questions well and her views of customer support aligned with everything I wanted to hear. She has a shaved haircut much in the style that Sinead Oconnor has mostly worn, she is tiny in stature and pencil thin. She has an internal light that shines brightly and so with all the features together, I felt she was the embodiment of Tinkerbell – less the hair of coarse.
I caught myself questioning if I should hire her as our job is tough some days and I in no way wanted to consider dimming her internal light at the expense of just getting another person for the team. I then caught myself and reminded myself to not make decisions based on fear as those are the ones that limit you. I reminded myself that it was more of her type of energy that we needed, so make the leap of faith that she will make it and she will be more of the positive attitude that is always needed.
One of my favorite questions that I preface to them as I ask it, and that the answer has no bearing onto my hiring decision (although, really, anything said and done in an interview does factor in on how perceptions are logged), is, “If you were to recommend just one book to read, what would it be and why?”
I love this question for a few reasons. One, it’s not the answer that I’m interested in as much as the support of the answer. It reveals who they are thinking of or had thought of when the book stirred emotions in them. I also enjoy noticing the emotions that reflect onto their expression and body language as they talk about it. It is always a bit of a thrill to glimpse into what people are passionate about. Two, it provides a new list of books to potentially read and enjoy that I may not have heard of before. Three, it is a question that none of them have mentally prepared themselves to answer, so I get to see a glimpse of how they think on their feet.
Example: Bubbly girl with PE as her favorite class couldn’t recall the name of the book, but it was in her car and it was something to do with making goals. It’s always a bit sad to me when they cannot think of one book that has influenced them in life and the one they do try to pass off, is just the one that they clearly last touched, but didn’t have any passion about.
Tinkerbell’s favorite book was quick off of her lips as it is her ‘go to’ an any given day. It is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. She was excited to tell about it and I later felt a tad bad about telling her that I had also read it, thus denying her of her eager synopsis she was ready to relay.
I’ll have to go back through my resume’s to see the ones that I wrote down, but I do remember one gal (I hired her, she was great, but she then left to go back to her previous job that she had been furloughed and then offered back). Her book that she had stumbled into and then purchased for her mother, her aunts and well, really most of the women in her life was “Women Rowing North”. I have it on my list to get at some point and check it out for myself.
On the chance that the person can’t even come up with one example (so sad). I generally ask about a movie or podcast then, but to be honest, if they have never read, then I find they also have no thought provoking movies that they have watched as well. The answer is just some block buster movie that is candy for the senses when I’m hoping for food for the soul.
I’ve a few more people to hire, so I’ll let you know if any possible great books come out on the list.
I’d love to hear what book has made an impact on you. (Everyone can likely say the Bible as belief or not, it has influenced all aspects of society in one way or another, so I’m removing it from submission). And a favorite doesn’t need be earth shattering either. It can just be one that stirs something in you. One of my favorites is “The Secret life of Bees”.