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How to Tell if Your Candidate “Gets” It


By Steve Margalit

Hiring managers routinely screen resumes and conduct interviews with candidates to determine if they possess the qualifications and core competencies required for open positions. Employers evaluate applicants’ technical skills, leadership qualities, certifications, degrees, and achievements to see how closely they match open positions. But do these markers tell the whole story? Is it possible to select the best person for the job based only on a checklist of certain criteria?

Of course, it’s essential that candidates possess required skills and qualifications, but if you want to hire someone who will make a meaningful impact to your organization, you must go beyond  credentials and ask yourself one question about the candidate: Do they get it?

Do they get how important their role is to their organization? Do they get how they contribute to the success of their company?

Most candidates are prepared to tell you about their responsibilities, but do they know why they are performing them? Many candidates can rattle off a list of accomplishments, but do they understand why they are significant?

They Get It

The candidate who understands the connection between their role and the company’s goals is generally the best choice for the position.


You’re screening applicants for the role of Compliance Manager. A candidate with the same job title comes into your office to interview for the position. When you ask what she does at her current company, she says:

“I manage a team that conducts internal compliance audits.”

Factual. Concise. But also uninspiring. Didn’t you already know that this is exactly what a Compliance Manager does? The definition is literally in the title itself. A “manager” of “compliance.”

Now, had the candidate said, “I reduce the company’s risk by leading a first-rate compliance team,” or “I minimize regulatory scrutiny by protecting the company’s reputation,” or even “I keep the company out of trouble,” then you’d be correct to assume that the candidate “gets” it.

That’s the candidate you want. The one who understands why her role exists. In the case of the Compliance Manager, you want someone who knows that her role is to keep the company out of trouble – not to simply perform audits. You don’t want someone who merely manages a compliance team; you want someone who knows why this critical function is so important.

Not convinced yet? Let’s continue the interview. You ask the candidate to cite an accomplishment, she says:

“My team completed 78 compliance audits in the past six months.”

Whoop-de-doo. She completed a whole bunch of audits. 78 of them, in fact. When a candidate cites this type of accomplishment, you know that she is simply following her job description. She doesn’t get it.

But if she said, “I identified and corrected a major regulatory violation, which helped the company avoid a six-figure fine and partial shut-down,” then congratulations! You’re sitting across the desk from someone who gets it.

When the candidate gets it, you’re all on the same page. You want someone who is not merely following a job description, but someone who is playing an important role in achieving a core objective of the company.

We Get It

With dozens of offices and hundreds of recruiters across the nation, FPC has been helping companies find candidates who get it for more than 60 years. We service more than 40 different industries and disciplines, and have the expertise and network to find the perfect fit for your next job opening. Contact your local office today and learn how we can help you build a top-tier workforce.

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