How often do you sit and chat to complete strangers?

Most of us when we are on business trips, plane or train, just get our heads down, bring out a combination of the laptop, iPad, iPhone, Tablet, Android phone (and in some case all of the above!), without picking our heads up to engage in conversation or even smile. The only other times where we have the opportunity to chat to strangers, in a business context, is either at a networking event or when, in some manager’s minds, the tedium of interviewing for new staff.

In either of these situations, networking or interviewing, I really enjoy getting to know new people.

So last week, on an early flight to Edinburgh, how refreshing it was to chat to a fellow passenger and during that one hour trip, I learnt a lot about the person in that short space of time. And that’s all it was, a conversation.

I discovered that she was a Materials Engineer; the project she was currently working on; what she had worked on over the last 3 years; how much she loved her job, recognising she had to get a little more work life balance; how she had changed career direction; had gone on to achieve a degree then a PHD as a mature student; started off in Academia before joining her current employer 8 years ago.

She got up every morning at 5 am to make the trip across the M62 to be at her office by 7 a.m. ( if not on a plane). She met her boyfriend at work on a previous project ‘ how else can you meet someone when you are working 14 hour days?’ This wasn’t a complaint by her, more a statement of fact.

We chatted about the usual stuff too, the weather and how challenging weather conditions had affected previous flights we had made.  Nothing too scary!  As we emerged from the clouds we were pleased to see that, although there had been some snow, nothing so bad as to affect our landing. So that was it, we landed and my fellow passenger went on to a connection flight, which was going to take another hour, then she would pick up a car and drive a further hour to her destination.

For all the right reasons, technically, I had interviewed her on that plane journey out of my curiosity to learn more about what she did. Out of that curiosity, I had established at least her background, what motivated her, an area of self development and her drive to achieve.  In addition, she enjoyed the strategic aspect of her job and that she didn’t mind managing people, but it wasn’t her greatest passion. She was self sufficient, happy to go on holiday to far flung places on her own (although now she did take most holidays with her boyfriend), and really quite happy in her own company.  I also deduced from my ‘gut feeling’ that she was a great asset to her business.

As business managers, interviews should be no more complicated than a curious conversation.  A conversation that has some structure, that enables you to assess the abilities of the ‘strangers’ (candidates) you meet and to make a rational recruitment decision. An interview may be the only method that you use to assess if this individual is going to be a real asset to your business, there are other methods but that’s content for another blog.

Should you consider recruitment to be ‘tedious’ and you need a really curious person to get the most information from a ‘stranger’, then engage with a professional to help you make the best possible hiring decisions.