Building a business hinges on hiring the right people, meaning you can't mess around during the interview process. You absolutely have to be able to separate skilled people who are just looking for a paycheck from those who honestly will have your back for the long haul.

Sumit Dhawan, CEO of Instart, says it all boils down to what a candidate compliments you on.

What the ideal compliment looks like

Interviewees understand that they're supposed to do some homework and show they know a little about the company. But Dhawan is specific about how they should be doing this. He insists that the right compliments hit two big themes--the candidate's interest in the space that the company is working on and their mission, and what your company is doing to achieve its goals and win against alternatives and competitors.

"Compliments should be specific, driving into the workings of the company and showing they're aware of the industry as a whole, rather than being vague and only scratching the surface of the company," Dhawan says. "Run-of-the-mill, generic compliments that feel rehearsed and could be applied to any company aren't genuine. For example, solely giving congratulations on your funding isn't meaningful, but if they give congratulations paired with a question or insight on how the company will use that funding to grow and 'win' the industry, that's a reflection of a passionate candidate most likely with the right intentions."

As an example, the right candidate might say something like, "I noticed you introduced a new product last week. Compared to the other offerings on the market, the visibility and streamlined workflows you announced seem to be a gamechanger in how your company will dominate the industry."

No know-it-alls? No problem

While candidates should be able to compliment you in truly personal ways that show they grasp how and why you work, they don't have to be encyclopedias.

"It's OK if the interviewee doesn't know every single detail about your company, as long as they ask the right questions, show curiosity and demonstrate a competitive edge for helping your company 'win' the category you're in. For example, if a candidate is honest about not fully comprehending the technology, but asks insightful questions showcasing an interest to learn more, that's a strong sign for real investment in the company. This kind of curiosity is also a sign that they're using the interview to get comfortable with the company and see a long-term vision working there, rather than trying to sell you on themselves."

And Dhawan points out that, because compliments serve more as icebreakers, it's great questions that really show you that a candidate is interested in talking about a topic further. So if you can get an interviewee handing you both insightful compliments and questions, you're in terrific shape.

No matter what position a person is interviewing for, they deserve to have work that gives them a sense of purpose. Compliments done as Dhawan describes are a huge clue that the candidate has investigated and identified why you can give them that, and that they understand the potential that you're offering to them. This dramatically improves the odds they'll be happy with you and pad your bottom line with great productivity and loyalty, so make sure you listen carefully well beyond skill sets and experience.

Published on: Jun 19, 2019
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