Interviewing the Recruiter: What Whole Foods’ Director of Recruiting Looks for in Interviews

Every role is unique—developers and marketers require distinct skill sets, and even the most talented designer is highly unlikely to be the best choice to run your finance team. However, there are probably one or two qualities that you look for in every candidate you interview. Across the board, these are the characteristics or traits that define the people who are most successful, and who will thrive, at your organization.

At least that’s what Andres Traslavina believes, in his work as the Director of Global Recruiting at Whole Foods Market. With 20 years of recruiting experience under his belt, Andres has worked at startups and as a recruiting consultant for Fortune 500 companies. He regularly shares his insights through international publications and conferences, and we had the opportunity to hear him live onstage at Greenhouse OPEN 2018.

We recently caught up with Andres to ask, “What are the most impressive interview responses you’ve heard?”

“The most impressive answers that I find during interviews are when people talk about their strengths as well as their areas for improvement.”

Andres explains that “self-awareness and emotional intelligence” are highly valued characteristics at Whole Foods Market. It turns out that these two qualities go hand in hand, so let’s explore them in a bit more detail.

Understanding emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to understand your own emotions as well as the emotions of others and to use this knowledge to guide your decisions.

The Whole Foods Market team is not alone in valuing emotional intelligence. In fact, EQ has been linked to success (and failure) on the job—23% of employees who don’t meet expectations during their first 18 months on the job fail because of low EQ. Other studies link high EQ to leadership abilities, health, happiness, and employability.

How can you take EQ into account when designing your interview process? Quoting research from Daniel Goleman, HubSpot recommends thinking about EQ in five main categories:

  • self-awareness - the ability to understand your effect on others, play to your strengths, and admit your weaknesses
  • self-management - being able to control your impulses and avoid acting rashly
  • motivation - having the innate passion to challenge yourself and remain optimistic when the going gets tough
  • empathy - not just listening to those around you but really trying to understand their point of view
  • social communication - the ability to manage relationships and productively express your emotions)

When it comes to assessing candidates on these qualities, be sure to ask behavioral questions that prompt them to reflect on how they handled specific difficult situations. Listen for thoughtful answers that show how the candidate reflects on their own emotions and on the emotions of those around them.

When creating your questions and listening to candidates’ answers, don’t just focus on the past—think about the types of challenges they’re likely to face in the role they’re seeking. In an article on assessing the emotional intelligence of candidates, Harvard Business Review recommends considering this question: “How have they shown the necessary competencies in situations similar to those they will face in the new job?”

With a structured approach to hiring, Talent teams can ensure they’ve designed an interview process that assesses candidates on soft skills like emotional intelligence in addition to the technical skills and experience they’ll need to succeed in their role.

Want some help designing your interview process to assess emotional intelligence and other essential traits? Download a copy of the Structured Hiring 101 eBook to learn how!

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Interview Planning