What makes you passionate?

This is one the question I always asked when I interviewed for new consultants during the University hiring process at Accenture.  While many of them had graduate degrees and MBA’s this single question often threw candidates off.

Clearly this wasn’t my intent.

My objective was to unearth the things that made them passionate in their lives. Things that got them excited and captured their imaginations.

What I was looking for was the intangible excitement that passion can drive.

I believe it’s also one of the things in life you can’t teach someone.  Either you’re passionate about something or you’re not! There is no middle ground on this topic.

Not that I wasn’t looking for a specific answer, cos’ there is no right or wrong when you discover someone’s passion.   What I was looking for was the light in the candidates eyes when they spoke about their passion.

You know the one – where you can feel the electricity coursing through the person as they tell you about what they love to do most.

Unfortunately for many candidates this concept was beyond them and often asked me to repeat my question.  It became very clear based on the response who would be my preferred candidate…

I was seeking energy, excitement and ultimately moldability!

Harnessing someone’s energy and passion through coaching and opportunities is much easier when these traits are already present.  My experience has shown me over the years that these folks are the ones that will do more than just color by numbers and do what they’re told.

They’ll take initiative and take chances to constantly improve and delivery their best work.  These are the people that will back themself in with self belief and do whatever it takes to get the job done to the best of their abilities.

These are my people!

Don’t worry we still hired some of the other folks because you need a balance of pragmatic team members who aren’t the same as you to provide some sort of equilibrium to the team structure.

This simple question told me a lot about each candidate.  Not only by the answer they gave but also by their body language and energy level…

Now some of you might think this approach is simplistic and naive.

Especially given that the word “passion” when connected to work seems to be out of fashion.  I guess that’s what happens when the pendulum swings too far the other way and the concept of passion is seen as not being serious in the world of business.

Now remember that all of the candidates that I interviewed had an advanced degree or honours undergraduate.  Many of them with incredible grade point averages, spoke multiple languages, and had a list of accomplishments as long as my arm, but I was looking for the intangible “spark”.

That little something that potentially, if coached and supported in the right manner could propel them and their career.

For me energy and passion go hand in hand.

They signify something special, and something that is impossible to teach, but if harnessed in the right way can be incredible.

I know this is likely not the script that the majority of hiring managers follow, but for me it’s been a successful blueprint in hiring over the years.  It also enables me to get to know the candidate outside their resume.

Often we look at employees as just that, and not as work colleagues with a life outside of work.  A life that is often rich and diverse, yet we only see such a slight sliver of during our interaction.

Building a relationship beyond the day to day work and connecting on another plane is important to understand what motivates and interests your colleagues.  It also unearths talents, skills and capabilities that we often don’t see in the workplace.

As an example, a couple of years ago I worked with a project manager who to the outside world was just that.  A competent and hard working project manager.

However, what I soon discovered after joining the company was that he was passionate about film making and had directed a number of short films, in fact one of his films was showcased at the Berlin Film Festival, and another at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Tapping into his creativity on more that just project management changed the game in terms of broadening his role.

However to discover these hidden interests, we need to spend the time talking.  As always, at some point I always throw in the simple question – what makes you passionate?   Such a range of topics and interests, and from this I always learn something new.

It also allows me build a broader relationship other than just work related which is great for both of us.

If you were hiring and you could ask one question what would yours have been?

Until next week