Sweet surprises in recent interviews and hiring processes


Sometimes people inadvertently tell you exactly what you need to know.

Connie Boland, former Office Manager for Frank’s Employment, used to say that to our staffing consultants to ease the frustration of an applicant whose choices disappoint us. Someone who schedules and confirms an interview, but doesn’t appear and doesn’t give us the courtesy of cancelling to free our calendar for another person.  Someone who appears for an interview without any obvious preparation.  These and similar situations communicate quite effectively what we need to know about an applicant’s reliability, courtesy, and motivation.

In recent weeks, I have also been reminded that this same insight can be true in the opposite way.  Sometimes people give us a glimpse into their real strengths as a prospective employee, in ways that no one could have planned or anticipated.

Thomas, the forklift operator

Thomas is a perfect example.  He accepted an offer with a client company and appeared right on time for his first day of work.  He presented his ID for the I-9 documentation, completed the W-4 set, and then asked the company representative about when he would qualify for the health insurance benefits.  Unbeknownst to Thomas or to our recruiter heading this search, in the midst of the process the client company had cancelled their group benefits and hadn’t thought to tell us.  That was a deal-breaker for Tony.  He acknowledged immediately that he couldn’t accept the position in good conscious.

That was an impressive decision on Thomas’s part.  He could have kept the job, starting the work for which the employer would have invested considerable time, money, and resources in training him.  He could have kept the job and secretly continued his search.  Instead, he was forthright and that speaks volumes about his character.

But the even sweeter surprise was his second decision that day.  In talking with the other employee, Thomas learned that they were really short-staffed that day.  They didn’t have any employees present who were licensed to operate a forklift and really needed some warehouse product to ship out that day.  So Thomas’s second generous choice was to give up his morning, unpaid, to help them out since he has an active forklift license.  WOW!

I’m happy to report that these sweet surprises in the interviewing and hiring process were part of what I shared with another employer the next week.  This employer offered an even better overall compensation package, which Thomas accepted.  Win, win, and win.

Lacey, the bilingual receptionist

Lacey is another perfect example of a person who demonstrated her strengths in unexpected ways during the interviewing and hiring process.  I interviewed her for a bilingual receptionist position requiring excellent interpersonal skills, strong computer knowledge, and full administrative support experience.  By the end of the interview, I was sure she could be a top candidate for this opportunity.

Before I could make a final decision, however, I needed to have Lacey complete the skill testing needed for that opening.  So she went to one of the testing computers in our reception area to start the process, including several skill assessments that require precise steps and focused concentration.

In the midst of Lacey’s testing session, a stranger walked through the door, looking for directions to another local business about a block away.  Dawn, our receptionist, started to answer.  For no obvious reason, the stranger walked into the testing area and starting speaking to Lacey in Spanish.  She paused her test, listened to this individual, and then translated for Dawn to provide the directions to the other business.  The individual walked away grateful, and Lacey went right back to her timed assessments (which she aced, by the way).  Totally unflappable, even with this interruption in a testing circumstance that is stressful all by itself for many applicants.  WOW!

I’m happy to report that these sweet surprises in the interviewing process were part of what I shared with this employer when I presented Lacey as a candidate.  It’s no surprise that they could easily see this unplanned situation as an excellent example of why she could be a top-notch candidate for their staffing need.  Win, win, and win.

Sometimes there are sweet surprises in hiring processes.  People give us a glimpse of their true strengths as a prospective employee, often in ways that no one could plan or anticipate.  That’s a sweet surprise and a real gift!


by Elyse Williamson

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