With more than 18 years experience working in the Atlanta creative industry, Vitamin T veteran Nancy Rabern relies heavily on what she calls her “gut instinct” to help her make the best decisions when it comes to helping our clients hire.
Check out her advice on how to use your belly to find your next great hire!
“Just trust your gut” is something I say to my colleagues (and to myself) several times a week. Though it’s hard to describe exactly, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s that little tickly feeling in your stomach telling you to “hold your horses for just one second.”
Whenever it happens to me, that’s when I stop and reassess a situation. “What is it about this person or incident that’s made me pause?” In an interview sometimes it’s a reaction to the way a person responded to a question. Or the tone they used or pause they made. It can even be a reaction to what I didn’t hear.
Using your gut to work through an interview is a subtle art, but with practice, you can get really good at it.
Here are my six tips for using your gut instincts for an interview. I’ll list them here and cover in more depth below.
- “Couch” first impressions
- Ask general questions first
- Be open-minded
- Listen quietly
- When you get a gut feeling, ask questions
1. “Couch” first impressions
An NYU survey revealed that we make eleven critical decisions and form an impression of someone within the first seven seconds of meeting them. But when you’re interviewing someone, it’s best not to rely on those first impressions. (I’ve started many interviews thinking the person isn’t right for XYZ job, only to be completely swayed in the opposite direction by the end of the interview based on what I learned.) This is especially true when candidates are nervous and don’t put their best foot forward when speaking to recruiters or hiring managers. Once the interview is over, then go back to your first impression and see if it is still accurate.
2. Ask general questions first
Since nervousness is likely and can impact performance, if you’re going to trust your gut, you’ll need to start the interview with some general questions to make the person feel comfortable. That way you can ensure, as the candidate relaxes and the interview continues, that you’re reacting to the person, not their nerves. I like to ask what part of the city they have driven in from or what’s got them on the job market.
3. Be open-minded
You also need to be aware that not everyone will respond the way you’d expect them to (that would make for a pretty boring world). So it’s important to be open-minded enough to consider someone else’s situation. That is, separate the opinions that you’ve brought in with you from legitimate concerns you get during the interview.
Example 1: It’s not uncommon for a candidate to get stuck in traffic on the way to an interview with me. Initially, my thought is that they should have planned better as the traffic in Atlanta is a well-known disaster. That being said, perhaps they came from their current position and couldn’t afford to take additional time off for the interview. Or perhaps, they did budget an extra 20 minutes, but even with the traffic that just wasn’t enough.
Example 2: It is also not uncommon for candidates not to bring a hard copy of their resume if they have sent it to me via email. Though I was trained early on to ALWAYS bring several copies of my resume, many digital talent don’t like to use paper at all, if possible. I’ve had to reframe my expectations.
4. Listen quietly
The trick to trusting your gut is to listen quietly and to push a little harder on the areas that give your gut a little tickle. In an interview situation, a good rule of thumb is to talk 30% of the time and LISTEN for the other 70%. It’s also important (and difficult) to avoid interrupting candidates as they answer questions. A simple interruption could cause them to lose the best thought they’ve had all day - and often makes candidates seem nervous or confused. So be sure to turn on those listening skills.
5. When you get a gut feeling, ask questions
For Vitamin T agents working through our temp-to-perm process, where creative talent and clients work together for a 3-month trial before making a commitment, this “gut check” is absolutely essential. Our goal is to make the perfect match.
Even though temp-to-perm is an opportunity for the employer and candidate to try each other out (so to speak), it’s our job to ask lots of questions to identify the “soft skills” that make a candidate the perfect cultural fit, not just a skill fit. We know our clients, their business, their culture and what’s important to them, and there’s a visceral feeling I get when I’m talking to a candidate as to whether or not they are going to fit within a company’s culture. And when those questions turn up more questions, keep asking!
Gut checking takes practice and of course, there have been times when I’ve been off the mark. So make it easy on yourself and set a goal to practice asking two general questions and listening more during for your next interview. Then assess afterwards and see how you did. It’s a great idea to have someone sit in on your interview who can give you candid feedback on your performance.
And if you follow my advice, I’m sure you’ll find that a tickly feeling can be something that helps you find your next great hire!
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