Recruitment Reality Check
Pragmatic advice and helpful analogies based on 10 years in recruitment by David Clark
'Your cat is dead'
Over the last 10 years I have heard many a job seeker claim that they are ‘straight talking’ or ‘say it how it is’ – at both junior and senior level – and this is always pitched to me as a positive personality trait. Any of these phrases are usually accompanied with an admission that the individual also isn’t the best at selling themselves because they are ‘too honest’.
It’s this second part that made me understand that most people (and I include some of my fellow sales professionals in this) understand sales as, at best; exaggerating and at worst; lying!
Selling is really simple. Question your potential customer (or interviewer) on what they want and with this information, match the features of your product (or your skillset/experience) which meet those needs. No need for a Rolex or a shiny suit.
By now you’re probably thinking that my dead cat title was nothing but click bait but stay with me… Here comes the analogy.
Imagine a veterinary doctor opening the door of a waiting room to a nervous elderly couple waiting for the results of an operation which had just been performed on ‘Snuffles’, their 20 year old feline life companion.
‘ Your cat is dead.’ Says the vet and with that she closes the door.
The vet was definitely honest with her statement. No one would argue that her manner wasn’t straight talking…
She has certainly ‘said it how it is’ (or was, poor Snuffles).
However, she could have said;
‘Unfortunately, Snuffles has slipped away into a painless and peaceful sleep and had a good innings with loving carers and you should feel happy that Snuffles is finally at rest after a privileged life.’
Is this second statement untruthful?
Is it a lie?
I don’t think so.
Both statements communicate Snuffles’ passing, so both are true. The first is a lazy, functional sentence. The second takes into account the impact of the information on the audience and what else they might be interested in hearing after learning the raw facts.
There’s no difference with interviewing.
For example, when asked whether you have any experience of something you simply don’t, you can answer in two ways:
"To be truthful with you, I have never ever had that experience.’
A barebones response, laced with negatives and leaving the interviewer questioning more of your character traits which are just as important to them as your honesty (motivation, disposition, empathy, self-awareness).
Try number 2 (so long as it’s how you feel!)
‘I’ve not had that experience but I am aware of it and really interested in adding it to my skillset. In my last two roles I didn’t have the complete skillset but I made it my goal to absorb the extra knowledge quickly in order to get up to speed and I found that in itself very motivating.’
Here you give an honest answer whilst minimising your negative language and also inviting the interviewer to see you as a positive, optimistic, hard working and self-aware individual.
It may not be the silver bullet that lands you the job depending on how crucial the experience is to the role but it will put you nearer the top of the pile and you’ll be remembered in a positive light.
So, remember Snuffles (RIP) when you’re preparing for your next interview and thinking about how to talk about the gaps in your skillset.
The cold hard facts will not be enough on their own.
If you're a client or a candidate who values expertise rather than playing the numbers game (pun unintended), please get in touch.