Wes Ashworth refrains from calling it an interview.

As Vice President of Executive Search at Lee Group Search, Ashworth specializes in matching the right talent with the right company.

He’s certainly not looking to stump you – if you are on the other end of the line or the interview setting.

“I don’t want it to feel like an interrogation,” said Ashworth, who often spends an hour or more getting to know the candidate on the other end of the phone.

“My focus is on setting a tone right away that I care about the individual and care to get to know them and their current situation — what’s important to them and what they’re looking for in an ideal job. I make it more about them than about a specific opportunity.”

That, in effect, is the true magic to interviewing when looking to hire top talent for a company.

We sat down with Ashworth to dig into his interviewing secrets and how it leads him to matching the right people in the right jobs for the right companies.

Be authentic. Be genuine. Be real.

That pays off for the candidate. That pays off for the company.

“After a conversation, you can uncover that a person has the same core values as a company,” Ashworth said. “They are hard-wired to fit within the company culture. They care about the right things. They have the right personality and leadership traits. Maybe they didn’t have all the right things on a resume, but you’re able to bring it out of them. Then you’re able to make that introduction to that company based on all of those factors, and the resume is an afterthought.”

Tell me why.

Connection stems from conversation. Ashworth isn’t seeking a resume rehash when asking about a former professional experience. His innate curiosity and genuine interest in others help him flush out a person’s passion.

“I love to ask people, ‘Why?’ ” he said. “I ask a lot of why questions. Why did you go to the school that you attended? Why did you major in what you majored in? Why did you choose to go into manufacturing? It’s cool to understand somebody’s true why.”

Make it about the person, Ashworth said, not the job.

Go beyond “yes” and “no.”

Open-ended questions work best. Ashworth will often ask candidates to envision their dream job and why a particular scenario would be fulfilling.

Asking a candidate to verbalize those types of details can be enlightening to both parties. “Sometimes people don’t know what they want,” he said. “It takes that discovery process to figure it out.”

Many recruiters focus only on aligning the job in front of them with the candidate on the phone. Even if Ashworth doesn’t see an immediate fit, he can often direct a candidate to an even better opportunity.

“Either way, I want to learn what you’re looking for and what’s important to you,” he said. “Sometimes it might be two or three years down the road, and I’ll reach back out to someone for what I think would be a perfect fit. Then it all lines up at that point.”

Don’t assume.

Making assumptions is never a good idea. Gaps in employment history and short stints at multiple companies don’t have to be a negative.

“Take the time to find out why,” Ashworth said. “Come about it from a good place.”

Knowing the story behind job hopping can help Ashworth explain to a prospective employer circumstances that don’t come to light with a cursory look at a resume. Many times, job changes are completely justified and have nothing to do with the candidate’s performance.

Build trust.

Establishing trust is a must. Talk less and be an active listener.

“You want someone to really open up and go about it in a really genuine way,” Ashworth said. “Developing trust and rapport lets them really share who they are.”

Set the tone from the first hello. Formality can be off-putting. Ashworth might ask about someone’s weekend to initiate the conversation — he isn’t afraid to share his own details to find a common ground. That can include talking about his daughter with another girl dad or revealing his love of fishing to a fellow angler.

A creative ask.

Ask an offbeat question to learn something unique. “Where do you go to get your oil changed?” Ashworth might say to an engineer.

“It’s great to hear that they do it themselves,” he said.

Let the candidate shine. Ashworth presents questions that allow for that. What’s your favorite accomplishment? Tell me about a time you made a difference. What would your peers say about you? Those kinds of questions encourage a candidate to talk about specific examples and strengths.

Why it matters.

Finding the ideal fit for company and candidate is why Ashworth invests so much time into the interview process.

“At the end of the day, you’re not selling a widget,” Ashworth said. “You’re connecting people.”

If you are a business owner or hiring manager and think you might need help, contact Lee Group Search.

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