The Value of Being Yourself

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Guest Column

By Taylor Pfaff

Talent Acquisition and D&I Coordinator

Panera LLC


Job seekers often feel pressure to project a certain image during interviews. Every question requires the perfect response, and it must be delivered with complete confidence.

While a hiring manager loves a self-assured, well-prepared candidate, being genuine is equally important. Pretending to be something you are not for the purposes of acing an interview is not the way to lay the foundation of a happy, rewarding career.

Taylor Pfaff, Talent Acquisition and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Panera, looks for the candidate who demonstrates a willingness to absorb information and grow as a team member.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is outgoing, outspoken, and knows all the right answers,” Taylor explains. “But you can tell when you’re dealing with someone who has the intent to learn those answers and wants to devote time to focusing on the goals and values of the company.”

Of course, attitude and willingness cannot be fully ascertained from a single interaction. As it is with many places, hiring is a process at Panera.

“We look at the resume to determine general qualifications, and we schedule phone interviews for every position we’re filling,” Taylor says. “We firmly believe in phone screens here. They allow us to start getting a feel for their personality.”

As for the interview itself, many corporations have adopted the behavioral approach, whereby prospective employees are presented with various work-related scenarios and asked to describe how they have handled such situations in the past. Although Panera incorporates some behavioral elements into their interviews, Taylor prefers more of a hybrid model.

“Most of our questions are performance-based,” Taylor acknowledges. “There are a few behavioral questions throughout the process, but we’re really just trying to find out what the candidate’s done, what they want to do in the future, and how well these align with the job description and our culture.”

Disclosing a disability, whether it’s before the interview or after a candidate has been hired, is a delicate topic that often sparks debate. The chosen strategy varies depending on a number of factors, including the type of disability, the nature of the work, and the individual’s personality. According to Taylor, the best working environment is one built on mutual trust and open communication, and she hopes job seekers are never afraid to present their authentic selves.

“Honestly, if it’s something that isn’t going to affect your performance, then it probably doesn’t need to be disclosed,” Taylor says. “If it is something that might hinder your job performance, my hope is that you would feel comfortable sharing this information so we can make the proper accommodation. Even if you would rather not tell your supervisor or the greater team, you should always feel free to come to HR with these concerns.”

Taylor believes entering the application process with a positive self-image is of utmost importance. Your disability isn’t a hurdle to employment that must be overcome. First and foremost, you are a competitive applicant with a desirable skill set.

“Don’t be discouraged, and don’t sell yourself short,” Taylor urges. “We treat everyone equally. We value everyone as a human being before anything else. Our talent acquisition team does an excellent job of seeing a candidate as a candidate, regardless of any other factors, and I think many other companies are adopting a similar philosophy.”

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