One of my prouder childhood achievements was beating the 30-second BigMac “challenge” as a 9-year old in desperate need of a promotional “Hamburglar” glass.
Dad took me into the local McDonald’s, I took a few calming breaths, then wove a tapestry of hamburger ingredients so seamlessly that it was if I was on autopilot…“twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun…” 4.3 seconds, gents. I can’t even explain it to you, I was just in the zone.
Or something like that.
That’s a long preamble to my original thought when drafting this post–the concept of “special sauce.” Back in the day, the Big Mac’s claim to fame was the Special Sauce. They even kept the recipe “secret” to add to the illusion that this was a key differentiator no one else could replicate. It took me years to get the right combination of Thousand Island and Ketchup to crack the code.
But I digress.
It’s an interesting time in the recruiting world, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from the candidate and recruiting perspective. On the majority of the positions I manage, there are at least a handful of very strong candidates.
So now, “Special sauce” is the gist of my favorite line of interviewing. And here’s why:
– Ask someone about their greatest “strengths,” and you can count on the grocery list of rehearsed answers to which we’ve become accustomed. “I’m a people person.” “I’m a multi-tasker.” Blecch.
– Ask someone about their “special sauce” and you get a much more personal, original, and spontaneous response.
Is this ground-breaking? Nah, it’s trivial in the great scheme of things. But trivial is sometimes the medicine for a stale interview. Knock down a wall of formality, get conversational, lose the script and have a little fun.
Btw, my special sauce? Easy. Give me 10 minutes and I can make anybody laugh.
What about you?
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.