3 things I look for when I hire

At some point, I’ll be moving on to a new customer which means setting up a new team that I’ll eventually leave behind or refreshing the one they currently have.  Being able to create and ultimately unplug from self-reliant teams is what makes my career enjoyable and keeps my phone ringing.  This also means that I’ll be hiring soon – a process I love for the simple matter that I will meet new people.

If two people have the same skill-set, here’s how I select the next guy or lady.

1.  I will always try to hire somebody who I think is better than me in every way.  When you hire someone, you’re not hiring a guy to boss around.  You’re hiring someone to get something done so you can look like a superstar to your customer/employer.  In fact, the better she is, the less you’ll have to deal with her so you can work on tuning up your weaker guys.  But more important than just finding someone who can get stuff done right now, I want to hire someone I can groom to be a future supplier, customer or even partner.  Every hiring decision is potentially career changing for me because I’m hiring folks I may be allies with down the road.  A good friend of mine said “If you keep hiring folks who are better than you and they hire folks who are better than them, you’ll have a company of giants.”  He totally got that from somewhere else but I’m giving it him.

He also said something about Russian dolls but these are much cooler

He also said something about Russian dolls but these are much cooler.

Insecure managers hire folks they think they can drive, direct and dump business plans on.  Good managers hire folks who can drive and direct themselves and just do it rather than PowerPoint it.

2. I will always try to hire somebody who is impatient for success.  I am biased.  I tend to hire folks who are younger than me because I like the idea of working with folks on the upswing.  I value attitude and drive over years experience.  Skills you can always teach.  Attitude and drive you can’t.  I like folks who know their own value and will leave if that value is not recognized and compensated.  This keeps me on my toes as a leader and forces the bar higher for everybody else.  I like folks who don’t wait for others to bestow them trinkets like titles and salary bumps and go get it elsewhere if it doesn’t happen fast enough.  If I develop guys that all my competitors want, I’ve done something right.  In most cases, the rapid success great people attain have little to do with me.  They drive hard for themselves and they are harder on themselves than I ever will be.  I was just smart enough to find them.  These are the folks I want to work with.  These are the folks that force me as a leader to move fast and keep pace.  These are folks that make me better and these are the folks I’d like to partner with later.  As a leader, if you are forced to keep identified weak links instead of constantly refreshing the line with new blood and fresh ideas, you need to leave.

3.  I will always try to hire somebody I know because I know job interviews are mostly  B.S.  I want drive, authenticity and impatience; not some person who just recites my blog back to me in an interview.  The only way I’ll know if a guy is the real deal is if I’ve worked with him or if somebody I completely respect knows him.  Otherwise, it’s a gamble no matter what the guy’s juiced-up resume states.

I will always ask, “What do you think my biggest fear is?”  I’ll wait for you to fumble a bit.  Then I’ll tell you.  “My biggest fear is that you’re full of _____.  How do I know you’re not just spewing a whole lot of what you think I want to hear and three months later become clock-watching B-player?”

And to be frank, the only way I’ll know you’re an A-Player is if another A-Player tells me you are.

One thing I always say is treat every expense as if it was your own money. Even if you work for someone, treat every salary dollar of every person you hire as if it was coming out of yours.  This forces you to think like a business owner who has one shot to get it right, not someone who doesn’t have to foot the bill if you got it wrong.