A New Way to Look at Recruiting Talented Candidates

So often recruiters look at candidates as a collection of skills such as the ability to be a Microsoft Office ace or a Creative Suite pro. It’s hard not to in the age of the applicant tracking system, which focuses so much on keywords! However, while these skills are important, they aren’t the full measure of a candidate’s true potential. Most practical skills like database management and program knowledge can be taught (and passionate candidates love learning!) Recruiting talented candidates tends to involve deeper research than the first impression the resume presents you with.

Chances are, your LinkedIn timeline has shown you a post about 10 things that don’t require talent. If you haven’t seen the viral piece of content, the points it covers are:

  • Being on Time
  • Work Ethic
  • Effort
  • Body Language
  • Energy
  • Attitude
  • Passion
  • Being Coachable
  • Doing Extra
  • Being Prepared

While you can’t exactly test candidates on these areas, careful observation and questioning can give you a hint as to whether they possess the qualities. Here are a few tips for finding out if your candidate has what it takes.

Being on Time

Did they show up late to the interview? Did they call to say they were stuck in traffic? Of course, there are genuine reasons for being late (an accident for instance), but really, if the candidate left early enough they should arrive on time for their first meeting. They know it’s their first impression. If they are late and don’t have a good reason, chances are the behavior won’t improve from there on out. If timeliness matters to you in your industry (and in most cases it does) do not hire a person who doesn’t make time to be on time.

Work Ethic / Effort / Doing Extra

These three things are harder to figure out in an interview itself, but are clear when you check references. After you think you’ve found a winner, ask their references targeted questions about their work ethic, their efforts in the office and whether they like to go above and beyond the call of duty. Personal and professional references can be good resources for this. No one knows a candidate better than their friends!

*Pro-tip: one way to see if a candidate goes above and beyond is to see if they list volunteer work on their resume. Volunteer work is truly the measure of giving back, giving more and often, it’s a point of passion for great candidates!

Body Language

Body language is something that can be hard to judge as many candidates are nervous during interviews. However, there are common themes to look out for that are likely very real parts of their personality. Nerves make people fidget a bit, but overall signals don’t lie.

For instance, Forbes put together a great slideshow on the subject of body language mistakes that candidates make in interviews. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Leaning back / slouching – signals laziness / arrogance
  • Leaning in – shows aggression
  • Pointing – is a sign of aggression
  • Crossed arms – highlights that a candidate may be defensive

They recommend candidates aim for a neutral body position, hold eye contact with the recruiter (to establish a connection and trust) and keep their arms open and at their sides. Overall, you should look for candidates who demonstrate that kind of body language.


We all have off days, but generally, when candidates come in for an interview, they should be excited and awake. After all, the interview is their time to shine and is only an hour or so, which means it is completely reasonable to expect an alert interviewee. If your candidate is already dead tired and yawning before they’re hired, chances are they aren’t going to be ready for the challenges you have in store for them.


Attitude can be hard to get out of a candidate, which is why we recommend asking hypothetical questions about real, challenging situations they would deal with as your next hire. If they respond in a positive “I can do that!” way, they are probably a problem-solver, which is the attitude we all strive to hire for. Hypothetical situations tend to separate the rehearsed candidates who do research online from the real deal talent that can think on their feet.


This one is simple. Ask them what makes them passionate about their work. Truly passionate people love talking about things that excite them. A neutral response to “what makes you passionate about healthcare / the energy industry / etc?” is most likely a red flag.

Being Coachable

While you can’t fully assess coachability in an interview, you can ask candidates about learning experiences they have had and supervisors who have molded them. Those sorts of questions could provide insight as to whether they take direction or learn well from others.

Being Prepared

If you encounter a candidate who does any of the following, it’s very possible that you should pass on hiring them:

  • Shows up without an extra copy of their resume
  • Hasn’t researched your company or fully read the job description
  • Gives one-word answers
  • Has no questions to ask of you at the close of the interview

In the age of Google, most employees know that the first test in an interview is to come prepared and those four items are big no-nos.


Hiring is complex, which is why we are constantly trying to make it easier. Subscribe to receive our blogs for regular recruiting tips!

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