How hidden talents can benefit the workplace

Someone once asked me if I ever get tired of interviewing people. I certainly don’t tire of them but some interviews aren’t always as easy as others – especially if the person is nervous or finds it hard to relax and talk openly.

This however, has always been the exciting part of the challenge – breaking the ice – finding a common ground or talking to someone about something they’re completely and utterly passionate about.

I once interviewed a graduate for a marketing role and when asked what their best skills were, they shrugged and replied, “I don’t really like talking about my skills”. I guessed at such an early stage in their career, they weren’t all that used to selling themselves.

So I put the question on hold for a while and asked them about their interests and hobbies. As their eyes lit up I quickly found out they were an accomplished banjo player (as they grinned from ear to ear) and talked with passion and enthusiasm about their love of music. After that, our tête-á-tête went from strength to strength.

I’ve met many people with hidden talents during my career but I only usually found out about them because I was cheeky enough to ask. A few of these include;

a very nice Marketing Manager who most weekends, carved a wave or two on her surfboard;

a Copywriter who (in a former life), turned out to be a national, cowboy gun-slinging champion;

a PR Manager who was backing singer for Westlife and The Lighthouse Family;

and an Art-Director who painted his face in a ghost-like manner and became a Fire Eater by night.

Do you ever think about the people you work with and all the interesting things they do that aren’t part of their job role – the unofficial party organiser, the counsellor, the coach, the joker and the storyteller? We all possess a vast array of skills and talents that we may not utilise in our everyday working lives, yet these skills usually come to the fore when we are doing something else outside of the working environment – usually through a hobby or interest we’re very passionate about.

It begs the question as to whether we separate our business and leisure skills too much? Naturally, most of us strive for a good work/life balance and leisure pursuits are often regarded as a way to de-stress after a long day at the office or studio. Traditionally business has seen leisure time as a time to relax and ‘down tools’– the complete opposite to how we should be in our working day.

Think back to the times you’ve sat in an interview – were you ever asked about the skills you use in your leisure pursuits? “What skills do you use when you play rugby” (for example) “that you could bring to work?”– Not that you’d want to be tackling some poor unsuspecting colleague to the ground at any point but think about the communication skills, team work, ability to react quickly, tactical thinking… and so on.

One tends to be totally absorbed when enjoying a hobby or interest and therefore completely focused. We’re motivated and enthusiastic, goals are pursued and achieved, we become more creative, more confident and self-belief is high. Such personal skills can only enhance a business and therefore surely should be encouraged and nurtured.

So now every time I interview, I always ask about someone’s hobby or interests and what skills they use. You’ll be surprised how much it reveals about someone when talking about their passions – you’ll no doubt find out a whole load more skills that aren’t always evident in a CV.

Author Director "Life's a journey, not a destination."