Making New Friends in 2017

Posted by Adam Winstead

‘Tis the season (forgive me, I am still trying to hold on to a shred of holiday spirit) for reflection and growth, for making plans and striving for new things. And as we embark on a new year, one of the areas in the agency where we are consistently evaluating our effectiveness is our approach to recruiting. As the Nashville market changes and new talent arrives on our doorstep from all over the country, it’s important to evaluate how you are screening for skill set and experience. But it’s equally important to stay true to your company’s values. Sacrificing one for the other hardly ever works out very well, just trust me on that one.

In 2016, we saw fantastic growth and a successful year from a recruiting standpoint, but it’s important to remember there is always room for improvement. We’ve been the beneficiary of Nashville’s incredible expansion, making it easier to find strong candidates from all over the United States. But with an influx of applicants comes an increased demand for a more rigorous screening process and a core group of interviewers that are experienced in the art of teasing out a candidate’s mindset, core beliefs and motivations.

There are so many approaches and trends in the world of recruiting. For a while, crazy questions, gimmicks and Kobayashi Maru-esque scenarios (Star Trek reference—check) seemed to get some employers the insight they needed to find great people. At GS&F, we try to pose questions and scenarios to our candidates that ladder up to some of the core values and mindsets of our organization. Forget the gimmicks and just be vulnerable for a bit. Here are a few things that we try and uncover as part of our own hiring process:

1. Compassion.

Do they have a heart? In periods where you HAVE to get a butt in a seat ASAP, this question could easily morph into “Do they have a beating heart?” Or more simply, “Are they breathing?” If so, bring them in. However, we have all felt the crushing blow when a rushed hire doesn’t work out. Instead, we look for someone who really cares, not only for the work but for those around them. Within our walls, you’ll often hear the phrase “hearts-first” as a simple reminder to treat people like people. This is something that can’t be rushed. 

2. Consciousness.

Of course we want them to be awake, but more than that are they self-aware? Do they know how their actions impact the team around them? Are they familiar with their strengths and weaknesses? And I’m not just talking about typical interview answers like being a great communicator or (gasp!) a perfectionist, I mean are they intimately familiar with themselves so they can articulate what drives their behavior. If they struggle in an area, what is the real reason behind it? Is it fear? Arrogance? Inability to be vulnerable? After all, if you’re going to be an expert on anything, it might as well be yourself.

3. Insight.

We often ask candidates if they’ve failed. And by “fail” we mean majorly dropped the ball where there were millions of dollars on the line. Or thought you’d be successful at starting a business, and as it turns out almost lost your home, car or livelihood because of it. This isn’t meant to sound harsh, but rather it’s meant to reveal if someone has been through something that would help them develop a sense of grit, determination and perseverance. Our industry is tough, and we want tough people by our sides. This question is asked in order for us to understand how the experience of failure has impacted a candidate’s life. It is the exception to find someone who really, really comprehends how their failures have shaped their mindset, approach or personality.

All of these qualities take time to develop and require a certain measure of introspection that we appreciate around here. Sure, they may seem simple at face value, but it’s rare to find someone who takes the time to reflect on their life experiences, arrive at fruitful conclusions, and actually put those conclusions to work. Every now and then, though, we come across someone who is wise beyond their years and, on those occasions, you better believe we’re trying our darndest to bring them on board.