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One of my favorite interviews, back when I was still a job seeker, started 5 minutes late. When the recruiting manager came on, he said, “Oh f***, so sorry I’m late. I have been in and out of long meetings all day!” Immediately, all my nerves went away and I stopped quietly reciting the personal introduction I was still trying to memorise. It was at that moment that I just knew that I wanted to join this company so badly. Not so much because of my own struggle with deadlines, but because it was the most human I had ever seen an interviewer or HR person, ever. And this was less than 30 seconds into the interview. All because, he cursed, so freely. He apologized too (not for the cursing, which made it even better). This was all quite new to me at the time.
To be clear, I'm not here to advocate for people to start throwing f-bombs at candidates, but I think there's some humanity in being harmlessly playful, sometimes even “unprofessional” when interviewing candidates. Does it cause more harm than good in your candidate experience? I know colleagues who say “Oh shucks” and it has the same effect, so you could go with that too if you will.
Mini detour: Most of the movies we watch today with our families; the music we listen to, and public leaders we admire or learn from (eg Marvel, Beyonce, Elon Musk, Gary Vee, etc) can curse freely, and we can understand it to be harmless, passionate, artistic, or even inspiring expression, which doesn’t undermine their gifts and intellect. I can’t think of anything short of hypocrisy to justify why we can’t speak this freely in the so-called professional world.
So back to the f-bombs, here are 4 reasons why you should start cursing in your interviews
1. You and your employees already curse inside the company (Cultural fit test)
This, in my view, is the true litmus test. Suppose your company already has a culture where cursing is not frowned upon and even condoned at the highest levels of the company. In that case, you have nothing to lose in sharing that piece of the culture with a prospective employee. In fact, it can be a win-win scenario for you. Worst case, you scare off a candidate, who was going to struggle to fit in the company culture or stay long anyway.
Recruitment is as much about finding the right candidate, as it is about avoiding hiring the ones that would be unhappy and unproductive at your company.
I believe candidate experience is at its most authentic when it mirrors actual employee experience. Assuming, of course, you are giving your employees great experience, which I know you are *wink wink
2. You get to even the power dynamics, and get candidates comfortable
Not only get them comfortable but also show that this is a friendly work environment, which is calming to a probably stressed-out candidate. You need to understand that the candidate is interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them. In fact, your task is harder in a way, because you are being evaluated based on your questions and approach, rather than answers where you can at least advocate for yourself.
3. You get to inspire creativity at the very beginning of your relationship
With comfort, follows a lack of fear (of failure), and ultimately, creativity. People get the liberty to be creative when their safety is guaranteed. The interview process works in a similar way. It is important to foster this mindset in a candidate at the inception of your professional relationship, such that they start with momentum, unafraid to proactively ask questions and take initiative, fail and repeat.
4. You get to be more memorable
What most employers forget is that, candidates can always say no to their offer, and that it is usually the company’s loss. Loss in time spent screening that candidate, opportunity cost, and sometimes they may even have the potential to be as good as your current top performers. So it pays to try and impress the candidate and differentiate yourself from other employers. Great candidates get multiple offers at the same time, so don’t be surprised if a point comes where the personality you showcase when you curse is your tie-breaking offer.
Now obviously, these tips are not for everyone or every type of company or position or even geography. In fact, your company may not actually condone cursing internally. So maybe replace “cursing” with “jokes” if you have some good ones. I think the effect and lesson here is the same.
Maybe you want to test if a candidate can work “under pressure”, whatever that means to you, and you believe the comfort this playfulness provides undermines your ability to measure that accurately. Maybe you just want to keep things clean and purely uncomplicated in any way whatsoever. If that is the case then I understand, and would probably go the same route if I were in your shoes.
If you must take one thing from this article, perhaps it is that candidate experience is at its most authentic when it mirrors employee experience. So do think about different parts of your company culture, big or small, that you could slide in your interview process, to create memorable experiences with your candidates. You really don’t have to "curse".
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