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Like many people, I tend to use targeted humor when addressing challenging topics.  Regardless of the audience, this approach helps me in communicating a difficult point without creating any sort of tension or negative emotion.

So whenever I have a deeply personal and sensitive item to discuss with my wife, my opening line tends to be “You know what your problem is?”

What’s funniest about this, is that the issue tends to be about something I did wrong and has nothing to do with her at all.  My ice-breaker actually helps put me at ease and allows me to communicate more freely.

So I’m using this approach to put me at ease in writing about recruiting and hiring topics.  I’ve titled this first post “You know what your problem is – You don’t think enough.”  If you take any offense to this, you are not thinking about what I just wrote.

Let’s begin with a quick exercise: grab a pen and paper and jot down three words or attributes that distinctly define you in a business context.  These are descriptors that, if blindly shared with your colleagues without context, would clearly identify you as an individual. This should be easy, right?  Don’t read on until you have written three words/attributes.

My guess is that somewhere on your list you have included one or more of the following – “team player”, “problem solver”, “get things done”, “strategist / analytical”, “integrity”, and “highly motivated”.  If you included these, or similar attributes, ask yourself if they are genuinely unique and differentiated qualities.  I challenge you on this because the overwhelming majority of people I ask this question to provide responses similar to the above.  The underlying point here is that most candidates haven’t thoroughly considered their true selves and what sets them apart from their peers.

You may react by thinking that no one has ever asked you that interview question and therefore it is not important to explore the item.  I completely disagree.  There are three primary reasons I believe it’s crucial to delve into this matter: 1) being prepared is integral to interviews, leaving no room for unexpected questions; 2) long-term employment is based, in part, on a strong alignment between the identities, values and goals of individual and company and 3) interviews involve showcasing both commonalities and disparities between you and other candidates – essentially, what unique qualities can you bring to the table.

Hire Thought – defining your three words/attributes can be challenging.  Talk with friends, colleagues, trusted advisors, etc to get their perspective on how they would describe you.  Be honest with yourself about the words – neither overly arrogant or overly humble.  These are matter-of-fact, unapologetic descriptors of you.  Getting a strong handle on these words is foundational before starting any recruitment process. Get started by thinking.

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