Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique

January 4, 2010 at 10:33 am 57 comments

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.

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , .

New Year’s Resolutions for Unemployed Job-Seekers Following-Up: An Essential Key to Success

57 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Philip Setnik  |  January 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Great stuff as always, Michael! Happy New Year!

  • 2. Debi W.  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Quite simply said, outstanding. Sincerity, genuine interest, being nice and simply appreciating and respecting others efforts and talents can move mountains … I believe we learned this in kindergarten. Thanks, Michael. You’re the best!

  • 3. J. Thomas  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I read your ‘nuggets’ article. I enjoyed it. Naming something that I personally try to practice – instinctively I find – is helpful when trying to explain what it is you’re doing. I’m dropping nuggets!

    Thanks … and best to you in the New Year.

  • 4. Ranjit  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Makes a lot of sense. And very well written too. My experience resonates a lot with what Michael has said here.

  • 5. Dan Leone-Zwillinger  |  January 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I found a link to this tip on our LinkedIn board. I normally don’t get time to go through the Linked In newsletter, but on a whim I followed the link, and I’m glad I did.

    This is good advice, and it comes in a timely fashion as a loved one is likely interviewing in the next few days. I’m going to pass it along to her, and make sure to check out these posts in the future!

    Thanks for the words of wisdom, Michael!


  • 6. Jonas Silva  |  January 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Congrats on the article. Not with the intent of using the Nuggets technique but already using it.

  • 7. Mel Reyes  |  January 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Nice article, definitely great advice.

  • 8. Michael Sigler  |  January 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Michael, very nice post. Using the “Nuggets” approach is just another way of showing that you can relate to many people and in many different ways. This shows your flexibility and your value as a potential employee. Definitely something everyone needs to work on. Thanks again!

  • 9. Carina McCabe  |  January 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent reminder.
    It’s no coincidence that gold is referred to in nuggets – nuggets during the interview are absolutely gold in value.

  • 10. Lisa Purtill  |  January 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Great information – people love to talk about themselves, it makes sense that they love to hear about themselves, too. I have had a hard time getting a job – I have the skills, but somehow the connection isn’t there when I have the interview. I will use this TODAY … wish me luck.

  • 11. Lisa Kimbnall  |  January 5, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you there is a great message in this article not only for finding the right candidate, or employer but for building that relationship during the sales process.

  • 12. Brian Meeks  |  January 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I am neither looking for a job or a recruiter preparing someone for an interview, and yet, I loved the article. A well written piece, even if it doesn’t apply to my life, is still a joy.

    p.s. I found this through LinkedIn as well. So I guess posting in groups works.

  • 13. Anne Hydock  |  January 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Michael – thank you for sharing your insights. The strategy behind nuggets is very compelling and valuable. Very helpful information.

  • 14. Tom Pritzkau  |  January 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Michael, I really like your perspective. It is spot on!

    I can train and mentor just about anyone with the right attitude, but I cannot train someone to have the right attitude.

  • 15. shari greer  |  January 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Great article! My husband is the nugget king in our house. He is amazing at remembering things that make others take notice. He is a fund raiser for a major university and he will notice a college ring on an intended donor and will say “Oh, you were the Beavers!! Great win in 68′ … or something like that. It always is the nugget that they remember … and embrace!! I am not a walking book like my husband, but I will empower myself with these nuggets on my next interview!! Thanks.. I needed those nuggets!

  • 16. Dee  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    This explains a lot – I used to do this automatically just as “human relations.” However after seeking work without success I went to a bunch of workshops that centered around the identifying needs and selling that the other candidate displayed who was not eventually selected. Maybe I’ll go back to square one.

  • 17. Robin Jackson  |  January 5, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Great article! This reminds me to continue to connect with people on a personal level. Most people are savvy enough to see beyond the flash and hype. Underneath all of that still lies a person.

  • 18. Matt Mattson  |  January 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Awesome. I’d love to repost on our blog with your permission… Thanks for what you do. -Matt

  • 19. Dani Schade  |  January 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Michael, I agree with your experiences – thanks for the tips to help candidates bring this out in the interviewing process.

  • 20. Corey Egan  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    I just found and joined the Sammy group through LinkedIn and am already glad I did. I’m now in an MBA program at UT Dallas, and your ‘Nuggets’ article was really insightful. I look forward to more.

  • 21. Juan M. Cerda  |  January 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent read, it really brings into perspective how we can get caught up into what I call “Robot Mode”. Real authentic people skills are so important and also so rare to encounter.

    Thank you Michael for the contribution.

  • 22. Karen Mihaila  |  January 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Dear Michael,
    Thanks for the great article. I agree that sincerity and enthusiasm is one of the greatest ice breakers during the interview process. However, during these economic times with the market saturated with talent, it is a person’s resume which initial opens the door. Any suggestions on how to convey those attributes on that monumental piece of paper is greatly appreciated!

    Best Regards,

    Karen Mihaila

  • 23. john nickell  |  January 7, 2010 at 8:43 am


    What a great piece of information and validation that treating people right and acknowledging people beyond their professional existence. I have a former supervisor/personell dir that would make a point of asking about my family and acknowledging one’s birthday. Although he is a few years retired, he still drops an e-mail to say hi on a birthday. Class Act.

  • 24. Colin Garrett  |  January 7, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Excellent article – Attitude is Altitude!

  • 25. Susan Scherer  |  January 7, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for your wonderful insight. As long as a candidate is qualified, It all comes down to the type of person mgmt and other key players at a firm would like to play with in the proverbial sandbox.

  • 26. Danielle Woerner  |  January 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Nicely written, Michael, and useful for all kinds of professional networking situations besides actual job hunting! Happy new year.

  • 27. Don Huff CWRU  |  January 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Great article and thanks for the inspiration you gave me (freshman year at Case) to really learn to play my guitar.
    After I lost a dot Com job in ’03, I was able to re-attach to former colleagues and land a new job because of the “nuggets” that I had been giving out for 25 years BEFORE I needed them.

  • 28. Michelle Alton  |  January 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I’m so happy that the guy that behaves like I normally do has the advantage — at least at one company! The trick in my view, is to get far enough in the process to have the opportunity to “be a nuggetter!”

  • 29. Nick Gendler  |  January 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    A great example of such an important message: people buy people.

  • 30. Alexandra B. Kelemen  |  January 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing. That is your biggest gift to all. A few of us know this and practice this, but you put it out for all to see. You showed your generosity with this article, and I am grateful for it.

  • 31. Vicki Hoevemeyer  |  January 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Great technique, Michael. Without thinking, I have done some of these things, but picked up some additional ideas from your blog. You’ve helped me round out my skills! Thank you.

  • 32. Larry Gault  |  January 7, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    I read the article and everyone’s posts ahead of me. I agree with all of these folks but wanted to make sure that this technique is used in everyday life, either personal or professional. I have found that I can break down barriers almost immediately with someone I’m meeting for the first time by this technique. It is as easy as entering their office, looking around and find a connection. Either by a photo of family, boating, fishing, golf or whatever. I never start a conversation with business but rather our common outside activity. It is amazing how quickly someone feels comfortable just meeting you when you both have a common interest. But you are correct that you have to be sincere. If not you’re just putting up another barrier. Good luck to all.

  • 33. Uttam Kumar  |  January 7, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    It was a indeed a great example of warm relationship that one can develop with others. By warm relationship, I mean one who is friendly, approachable and with whom people can find a common thread of bonding. It has become more important to inculcate this attribute in your personality while networking or meeting new people for the job search. As there is no dearth of qualified people around, this is one way to make a lasting impression on the employers.

  • 34. Nikki  |  January 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. People want to work with people they like, it’s human nature.

  • 35. Thomas R. Donley  |  January 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Well written Michael, and very well said!

  • 36. Tom Shaffer  |  January 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Good stuff and advice. I’m in the middle of a job search after being displaced three times in one year! Thx.


  • 37. Jackie Cabral  |  January 9, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Great information Michael. How would this apply to women as they interview for similar positions, especially those in a male dominated work force? I realize that women can use the same interview skills and techniques as men; however, I’m not convinced that our male colleagues are as eager to work with, spend time around, and go to lunch every day with a “gal.”

  • 38. Doug Cantlay  |  January 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

    As an HR person who has done a lot of recruiting, that is a great story. I’ve seen that play out myself over the years. It isn’t always about how impressive your background is, though the rapport and relationship you can build with people in a short time can really enhance your chances as a candidate – as you said so well. Thanks for putting it into words on ‘paper’ / the internet so that other people can share in it’s value.

  • 39. Patricia Hines  |  January 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Michael —

    I find your blog, Recruiter Musings, one of the best resources on the web for providing solid, actionable information on conducting a job search. Thank you for continuing to provide such great advice.

    Patty Hines

  • 40. jeffvlog  |  January 10, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Wonderful articles … so much so that I posted a link & excerpt from your site on mine for video personnel!


  • 41. mark  |  January 12, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for the info … and inspiration, which is very welcome right now. This is one of those things you know intrinsically but often fail to remember or become shy about pursuing.

    Additional thoughts on how to approach this if you do not have the personal experience this applicant had with many of those at the place where he interviewed?

  • 42. The Hope Chest  |  January 12, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Great post Michael!
    I was just with senior high school students today discussing interview skills. Its too bad I saw this post AFTER!!
    Thanks for the tips and look forward to more.

    Keith Lipke

  • 43. Alexandre Silva  |  January 17, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Excellent article. I got your idea and I agree with that.
    Alexandre Silva

  • 44. Nader Belal  |  January 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Michael: Please permit me to say that your writings in your personal blog are inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

  • 45. Vivek Gopalakrishnan  |  January 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Definitely an inspiring post. Much in line with the rest of the blog itself. But the idea of ‘Nuggets’ is something that is very difficult to convey and explain in words, and one could end up sounding or looking stupid if not done properly. But to touch an inspiring note on this post surely speaks of your merit at this. I would go as far as to say you should probably think about writing a book on a job search. Your style of writing coupled with your real life experiences will be of help to the reader in identifying himself with the book!

  • 46. Jona  |  February 1, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Nice post – this helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thank you for your information.

  • 47. Isabelle  |  February 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  • 48. Angie H. Schulze  |  February 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I am a recruiter with both global and local experience. While meeting the SKA is importantly, paramount to me when interviewing is the interviewee/applicants’s ATTITUDE from the moment he/she enters our building. I welcome input from the receptionist RE: the applicant – was he/she polite, courteous, or rude? My dear Mom used to say: “your attitude will either take you places or break you”. My Mom was right again. Thanks a million, Michael for writing about it beautifully!

  • 49. Lewis Huerta  |  February 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I read your article. You have lots of good advice and tips. “You hit it right on the head.” I’ve heard that a lot from employers; they would rather hire someone who fits it, someone that they can relate to, someone that they can get along with for 8 hrs., in your case “go to lunch with everyday,” than someone who is more qualified for that particular position.

  • 50. charlita paghubasan  |  February 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    i love your article “tips and advice”…..excellent…actually am on the job hunting scheme right now…..

  • 51. lotusl888  |  March 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Great information here, Michael! Thanks for the tips and tricks.

  • 52. Lawrence Waldron  |  May 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Michael;
    I continue to enjoy reading your articles. Just finished rereading “nuggets”.
    Thanks for all the tips.

  • 53. yulianti  |  July 18, 2010 at 7:03 am

    thanks for tips.. that could be so helpfull 😀

  • 54. Michael Piazza  |  December 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I just finished reading your nuggets article. I will be having a telephone
    interview in the very near future. I will be looking for and using nuggets during my telephone interview. Thanks for your help and
    kind consideration.

  • 55. Mamoona  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

    You are just the best, I am not using nuggets here I really mean it 🙂

    Thanks for that great insight!

  • 56. Nandy Colon  |  March 4, 2014 at 11:14 am

    good stuff!

  • 57. sadanand  |  September 24, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Inspiring and wise words. Awesome Mike. Thank you so much


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Unemployment Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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