This regular Staffing Talk series asks staffing professionals to weigh in on famous job interview scenes from films and TV shows. As you can imagine, most of these scenes are utter trainwrecks. But, oddly enough, the experts still are able to glean real-world advice, tips, and conclusions from them. In this edition, we take a look at the opening scene from the 2000 biopic Erin Brockovich.
Kristin Kinczel, director of physician and client services with Main Street Locums
As recruiters we often become hyper focused on the job description, qualifications, and specific experience a hiring manager is asking for in a candidate, and by doing so we are constantly overlooking the Erin Brockoviches of the world. Don't get me wrong, on a busy, under-pressure-to-find-the-perfect-candidate, limited-time-to-fill day I wouldn't hire Erin to work in my medical practice, either! Seriously, the woman comes to interview for a job in a physician's office wearing a tank top, chewing gum, and displaying a complete lack of knowledge about anything healthcare? No thanks!
But what if we knew before the interview started how EB's story would end? What if we knew how tenacious she was, or her amazing ability to relate to others, her innate talent to multitask, her organizational savvy, her courage, her intelligence, and let's not forget her unbelievable work ethic and desire to get the job done from start to finish while exceeding expectations, and all while taking pride in her work? Wow! Who wouldn't hire her?
That is the diamond-in-the-rough candidate we are all chomping at the bit for. That makes every recruiter look good and brings back repeat business. I want that candidate! Guess what, we as recruiters turn away an Erin every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. Why? Because we're focused on the written job description and forget we are dealing with people.
So how do we take the tank-top-wearing, gum-chomping, heavy-handed-cosmetic-wearing, never-held-down-a-job applicant and turn them into a multi-million-dollar-case-settling Erin Brockovich? You talk with them; you ask a lot of questions; you learn about them; and, if all goes well and the stars and answers align, you coach them.
Imagine the soccer parent that's responsible for the logistics of their children throughout the day with concurrent practice times on opposite ends of town. The kids are never late, the applicant has no clue what's on TV at 3pm, their clothes are always clean, and they always find the time in the day to eat healthy meals. That's a parent who knows how to manage time and utilize resources. In one simple conversation about a candidate's daily management of their life we can learn a lot about their abilities and work ethic. Another parent, similar situation, but knows The View is on at 11, followed by The Price is Right, and 3 hours of House Hunters bemoans always being late and never has clean clothes to wear. Maybe that candidate needs some time management skills and won't fit the bill for a high-pressure position and isn’t one you should pursue.
Now what about the inappropriate clothing, gum chewing, and lack of knowledge? This is the coaching piece. It’s here where rock star recruiters rise to the top. Sure, you're thinking to yourself, doesn't everyone know not to wear tank tops to interviews? Possibly, but how many of those interviews have you held with an applicant? My guess is more than you're willing to admit. If the candidate has been out of work for an extended period of time, is re-entering the workforce after raising a family, or is a fresh out of school, diploma-carrying graduate, then maybe they don't know any better. Maybe they’re looking to you, the expert, to provide some guidance.
I'm not suggesting that you whip out your credit card and take the candidate on a field trip to the mall. But if you feel this person has the potential skills and fortitude for a position, advise them that tank tops are not typically good choices for interviews and perhaps leaving the gum at home would be a better idea.
The point is, some candidates really do need a little coaching on interview etiquette. After all, as recruiters, who knows better than we do?
So the next time you’re about to write off a candidate because of personal appearance and lack of work history, think about Erin Brockovich. Think of the intangible skills she possessed and the great things she accomplished simply because someone was willing to give her a chance.