by Julia Opaleski
Associate Practice Leader at Charles Aris Executive Search
As an executive recruiter, my focus is people. I learn about them, hear their stories and give my opinion on whether or not they’re a technical and cultural fit for my client. I look at a lot of résumés and combinations of experiences, but one thing that typically doesn’t read from a résumé is emotional intelligence (EQ).
Here’s a real-life example:
As I was pulling up a résumé to prepare for an interview, I raised an eyebrow. It was difficult to not form opinions right away with a résumé that contained multiple short stints and a few gaps in years, indicating the candidate had been unemployed a few times and probably made some questionable decisions. I dialed into the interview assuming there would most likely be too many issues to move this candidate forward to speak with my client.
However, as the interview unfolded, I was pleasantly surprised. The candidate was thoughtful, structured and able to walk me through their experience in a way to better understand their journey. I left the interview not only more excited about their experience, but most importantly, their humility and self-awareness.
This candidate had made a few poor career moves leading to quick transitions and some months of unemployment. The individual had unsuccessful times in their career that would’ve been easy to gloss over, sweep under the rug or even fail to disclose to me – leading me to make my own assumptions and be highly skeptical about the gaps to assume the worst. However, what really caught my attention was the way this candidate spoke about the lessons learned from these challenges and how they were used to build upon them as their career unfolded.
In the corporate world today, we’re seeing more and more of this kind of résumé: Take the risk, explore alternatives, join the start-up and be able to articulate your story in an open, honest and candid way.
If a recruiter like me reaches out to you about a career opportunity, here are a few best practices to consider:
Be transparent and proactive: When walking through your background, don’t wait to be asked about something that will clearly need to be explained. If there was a move or short stint on your résumé that you don’t directly address, it will allow the person you’re speaking with to make their own assumptions. Practice your three- to five-minute executive summary, focusing on your transitions and motivation for change; dive into the reasons for your transitions as they help paint the picture of you in its entirety.
Be forthcoming and show humility and honesty: Tell your story holistically, whether good or bad. Don’t shy away from being transparent about your role or about the situation not being right for you or the organization. An individual who has enough humility to admit their past mistakes and demonstrate what was learned from the situation can show well to hiring authorities. Put it all on the table, reflect on it and demonstrate how it impacted your personal and professional growth.
Be thoughtful and self-aware: Telling your story is a piece of the EQ puzzle, but it’s only scratching the surface. Demonstrating thoughtful self-awareness is critical to an innovative, high-growth organization and something you’ll be assessed on from all different angles. I once had a client tell me their favorite interview question: “Tell me your biggest weakness.” It’s a great way to test EQ and humility. For example, if someone defaults to “I work too hard” instead of being transparent and reflective, that would be noted. Don’t hold cards too close to your chest — always be yourself.
If you take away one thing from this piece, let it be this: Be transparent! Facing things at the beginning is only going to save you, your recruiter and the hiring team from tough conversations further down the line. Remember, we’re here to help so don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter you’re working with their advice on how to frame things — the entire hiring process only works if you’re honest with us from the beginning.
For more insights from our recruiting experts, visit our hiring resources webpage.