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What you should really ask to win the best candidate for your job

Since our early days in school, we are constantly and relentlessly encouraged to score straight no matter what our strengths or inclinations are

We live in a society where competition is fierce and in our quest, as recruiters, to find the best candidate to fill a position, we tend to apply that same straight As philosophy, so that, despite the strong skills shown by potential candidates, we tend to put too much emphasis on their weak spots, frequently focusing our attention solely on those weaknesses.

Sara Sperling and Stuart Crabb are early Facebook HR execs, who have since founded Oxegen Consulting. According to them, we should move away from focusing on weaknesses, and concentrate all our efforts on identifying not only what things candidates are good at, but also what they’re emotionally invested in.

So, instead of asking candidates about their failures and flaws and how they overcome their weaknesses, we should concentrate our efforts in understanding what it is that excites candidates so much that they get lost in what they are doing. By doing this. we would be able to decode each candidate’s strengths, as well as the powerful and emotional connection attached to them.

In fact, this is the strategy that Sara and Stuart applied when they were at Facebook, investing the company’s resources in pushing people to improve their strengths, with the aim of unlocking each employee’s full potentials in the workplace.

Sara and Stuart have some good examples of this in practice. By asking interviewees what it is they got lost in when they were working, the pair were able to gain insights from the responses into what each person may excel at. For example, if a person replies that they can become immersed for hours in the detail of a coding project, they may well develop into an expert coder. If another person answers that they get really excited by brainstorming, and throwing creative ideas up on a whiteboard, then they may be suited to a role in a product management team.

Shifting the emphasis from the obsession with weaknesses to the positive energy of employees’ strengths is one of the secrets of Facebook’s success story, according to the pair.

By allowing candidates to let go of the emotional baggage connected to their skills and professional experience, recruiters can have a much better chance of spotting the incredible array of talents that come naturally to each candidate. In turn, this allows companies to unlock the real potential of their employees and work out how this potential can be harnessed and developed within the organisation.

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One comment

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