From the lens of a passionate entrepreneur and executive recruiter

By Marie-Hélène Gaudreault
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Over the past 10 years, I have interviewed hundreds of professionals, many of whom have gone on to progressive careers and successful high-level executive roles. I can tell a candidate has potential for this when they venture beyond their pedigree and polished resume in our conversations and share the gritty experiences -  the passion projects, the trials and errors, the lessons learned - that made them who they are today. These high-potential individuals aren’t always entrepreneurs, but they often sound like them.

I had my own entrepreneurial passion project more than 10 years ago. A linguist by training with a penchant for calligraphy, I ventured to create an all-natural, eco-friendly ink. While I am sure I spent more money than I ever made trying to bring it to market, the entire experience was one of the most meaningful in my life and career. It developed in me an aptitude, resiliency and appreciation that has not only driven my own career success, but has helped me identify and secure top-notch candidates for my clients.

So, what can you borrow from entrepreneurs in your next interview?

  1. Demonstrate how you are pursuing your passions - Recruiters want to see passion in a candidate. Passion for a mission, passion for a role, and experiences that demonstrate how you have pursued a passion. Your first questions to a recruiter should help you assess whether a role will energize you, whether an organization’s mission stimulates you and if their values aligns with yours. Let’s get to what really motivates you to see if the role is the right fit.
  2. Being a team player works both ways - Entrepreneurs rely on so many people throughout their journeys. That requires humility - an understanding that nobody is perfect and that a team is necessary to success. We want to hear that you leverage others’ strengths when it is your weakness, that you step in to help when they need you and that you share your wins with a team. 
  3. Don’t be afraid of failure - Entrepreneurs hit walls all the time. They pivot, duck, dodge and find another way through.  Many candidates are afraid to share their losses, whether it was not being able to bring a project across the finish line or losing a job along the way. Don’t be afraid of failure. Be transparent. These are difficult times and it happens to everyone. Instead, show us how this has inspired you, what lessons you have learned and how that makes you stronger now. 
  4. Show your creative side - There’s no question that entrepreneurs take initiative and often venture into new, creative territory as they work through all aspects of running a company from branding to sales and product development. In times of transformation, like we face today, it is important to show initiative in your career. That means not always waiting for permission to execute on a great idea. Tell us how you have been creative, proactive, and adaptable to change.

You don’t have to try to be perfect in an interview situation. In fact, it is often refreshing to learn how candidates have managed through more difficult and challenging times in their lives and careers. Passion, humility, resiliency and creativity may be the learned skills of great entrepreneurs, but these same characteristics help propel people into leadership roles in larger organizations. So don’t hold back - tell us about the entrepreneur in you.

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