Recently, I was helping a candidate prepare for a final job interview with one of our client companies. The process was very thorough and competitive over three months. I had spent a considerable amount of time with this particular candidate. We were down to two finalists.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I thanked him for how much time and energy he poured into this process. I expressed my gratitude and hope for his candidacy, but reminded him that the toughest part of my job is delivering difficult news 99% of the time as only one person is selected. With honest sincerity, he responded, “Yeah, but you help make dreams come true!”
One week later I received a phone call from our client company. They were thrilled about both finalist interviews and would have hired both candidates in an ideal world. They shared with me their decision. The news? Unfortunately, for the candidate I shared above, we were not going to make his dreams come true with this career opportunity. He was not selected.
As you can imagine, this was bittersweet news to share with this candidate. What made this most difficult was we invested so much time together – as we do with most of our candidates during our executive search assignments. I got to know him professionally, and now personally from this experience. I had a 360-degree view. Quite simply, I knew his story.
In our retained executive search practice, I often tell candidates during the interview process, it is my job to understand and share their story with our clients companies. In most cases, this happens across multiple conversations and visits over several weeks and even months.
So, what goes into a candidate’s story? Yes, I desire to understand relevant work experience, competencies, qualifications and skills for the position. I desire to understand alignment of core values, mission and culture fit with the organization. I desire to understand leadership experience, people management skills and the ability to work well with others on a team. I desire to understand alignment with compensation expectations, travel requirements and any special work accommodations. I desire to understand career journey, aspirations, motivations and why they believe they are the right candidate for this position.
But deep down, I desire most to make sure the candidate knows that they matter and their story matters. As I remind myself daily, seek first to understand rather than be understood.
In our work, yes, only one candidate is selected and hired. And, yes, we do deliver difficult news 99% of the time. However, as I shared with this particular candidate, I will remember you and your story. And believe me, the next time an opportunity arises, I will do my best to help make your career dreams come true.