Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique
A couple of years ago, I recruited and represented a candidate who was set to interview with a client of mine for an Operations Manager position at a medium-sized manufacturing company. My candidate had a successful history of managing operations for several small to mid-sized companies in the same industry niche as my client’s company. And by coincidence, he only lived a short distance from the client’s plant. After the interview was scheduled, I found out that another recruiter had presented a different candidate whose background included many years working for one of the “Big Four” consulting companies, with extensive operations experience at several Fortune 500 manufacturing clients. After hearing that (and seeing that other candidate’s impressive résumé) I figured my candidate’s chances were pretty slim against such formidable competition.
After both candidates had completed the interview process, to my amazement my candidate was offered the position and immediately accepted! Since I had a close relationship with the hiring manager, I felt comfortable asking him how that hiring decision had been made. I didn’t want to “look a gift horse in the mouth,” but on paper at least, the other candidate seemed so much more qualified. What I learned was quite enlightening. The “Big Four” candidate came in for his interview and took the tour of the plant. He looked around and nodded and smiled at everyone and everything. He had certainly been in similar, much larger facilities, and had little to say – he’d been there, and done that. When he met with the company executives, he regaled them with tales of his achievements at other companies in their industry, and did a good job of convincing them that he had all the skills they were looking for and more. He was the real deal … he zeroed in on their specific needs – as any good consultative salesperson would – and expressed confidence in his abilities to solve their problems and do what needed to be done. This guy was a real pro!
When my candidate went in, it was quite a different experience for the interviewers. During the tour of the plant, my guy recognized several local associates who worked there, and greeted them warmly with handshakes and quick references to other common friends. When shown the facilities, he commented over and over again at how impressed he was with how clean the place looked, and how fantastic their equipment was. He complimented everyone he met on their company’s high quality products and excellent reputation in their industry. He remarked repeatedly that he’d heard great things about them, and was honored and excited to be considered for a position there. Having done his homework (and received a thorough prep from me!) he connected with several of the executives on a personal level – he had learned things about their backgrounds, and made complimentary comments about the things he knew … schools they had gone to, other companies they had worked at in the past, community groups and charities they were active in, etc. He even had connections with some of their kids through his own children’s sports activities, and complimented their athletic talents. And, of course, he also asked a lot of great questions, listened really well, and gave thoughtful answers – which everyone should do in any interview!
At the end of the interview process, the executives and managers met to compare the candidates, and concluded that while the “Big Four” candidate was certainly more experienced, and possibly better qualified … the bottom line was that they simply liked my guy better! The comment my friend, the hiring manager, made to me said everything: “We all decided that we’d rather work with, spend time around, and go to lunch every day with your guy!”
The word I use to summarize the technique my candidate used is: “Nuggets.” Put simply, “Nuggets” are all those little things that anyone can pick out from another person’s background or experience, from a person’s résumé, from a company, a facility — or really, from almost any situation — that you can make a positive comment about, compliment a person on, and use to connect on a personal level with the person you are talking with. It has to be sincere. (You shouldn’t invent a compliment about something if you don’t really believe it to be true – that can really backfire.) However, when done correctly, using “Nuggets” in an interview or a meeting of any kind, in an email or a phone call, or in almost any interaction with other people can increase your chances of success and cast you in a more favorable light. Making those personal connections will put you miles ahead of the competition.
Using “Nuggets” is such a simple technique, but it takes some thought and effort to implement properly. Consider how many different situations this technique can apply to: job interviews (both in-person and on the phone), emails, voice-mail messages, business meetings, sales calls, networking meetings, personal relationships — the list is almost endless. Finding “Nuggets” that you can hook into and compliment someone on is huge. Everyone loves to hear compliments … and it’s simply human nature for someone to be attracted to someone else who says complimentary things about them, and who seems impressed with them.
This technique of looking for and using “Nuggets” goes hand-in-hand with the projection of a positive attitude. [See “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] I’ve coached thousands of candidates for interviews during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the interview process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. Using the “Nuggets” technique to further enhance that positive attitude is a winning combination that is certain to score you points in any situation.