Forget “Experts”, I want Remarkable – Hiring For Change

There are as many different types of employees in the marketplace as there are ways to measure them.  Some companies will put them into piles of A Players, B Players, C Players.  There are the smart, the not so smart, the hard workers, the lazy, the “so-so”, etc.

The worst sort of employee one should set out to hire is the mediocre.  Don’t get me wrong, all companies have some mediocre  employees, and even worse.  But with a limited amount of people a manager can add to their team, why ever settle?  One may argue there are worse types than the mediocre.  The reality is that those types should never make it into an organization to begin with, via a set of controls in screening process, followed by the judgment and intuition of an experienced manager.  If somehow, one were to make it through, then a process would generally exist to to deal with those delivering sub-par performance, either by helping them better themselves or ultimately helping them out the door.  My point is, mediocre is never something  anyone should set out to intentionally hire.

Some are “Experts”.  Employees who have tried to learn everything they can about a subject.  Very valuable to any organization.  These employees bring the asset of their knowledge to the table.  Vast amounts of information that cannot be gamed, it had to be digested via multiple feedings, readings, exercises and life experience.  An organization can truly be given an edge by these individuals and they are definitely at an advantage over most of their less learned peers.  Experts are by nature hard workers as no one can become an expert without hard work.

The downside to knowledge?  Is you generally pay more.  It’s in fact all too often what is weighed on the scale in hiring negotiations, but a trait that almost anyone can learn.  It is simply the result of a time/ingest product and given the resources and a reasonable amount of comprehension, it can be overcome by many with dedication and effort.  This is why so many focus on degrees, certification, and other accolades, because it gives them something tangible they can negotiate with.  Some managers take comfort in knowing they are getting a certain minimum level of competency for their wage.  But this is a fallacy, because knowledge and competency do not necessarily correlate.  In fact knowledge can work as a disguise to hide serious issues that may exist.

Trust your Instincts

Intuition is vital.  Our minds process way more inputs than we are conscious of.  Thousands of years of existence have relied on basic intuition and in managers it should be well honed.  Obviously there is only so much information you can gain in an interview, which is why multiple interviews should be the norm.  There is nothing worse a manager can do than make a bad hire.  It’s one of those things that the manager should have complete control over and if they understand the consequences of making a bad hire it should be avoided like the plague.  If I feel even a bit on the fence about hiring someone, I am going to say no.  The people that work on your team are what is going to be what limits you or catapults you in your career.  You can’t accomplish anything without having a good team.  It’s easy to think in terms of “I need to hire this guy, work is piling up and he is available.” or “He seems like he knows some of what I need, we can teach him the rest.”  These are decisions being made about what someone may or may not be able to do, what someone may or may not know.  These fundamentals can be and should be assessed, but weighed on the scale with things of much more importance.

Attitude – Welcome to the chance to work here

Whether or not someone has the right attitude should be an absolute deal breaker in an organization.  Working today is less about being told what to do and someone looking over your shoulder and making sure you did it.  It’s more about being self-managing, and you can’t manage yourself without learning to work with others.  If someone doesn’t have the right attitude, then they must have the wrong  attitude, and that is going to negatively impact business in one way or another.  I am not talking about someone who is grumpy or negative.  Those people once again are easily identified and should never be selected.  But finding someone who’s attitude fits in with the organization.  Much of this is dependent on the values and culture of the organization.  Some things that may resonate in an organization are: staying positive, offering to mentor and help others, fosters teamwork, doesn’t just criticize but also offers solutions.  With a healthy attitude there should be a healthy amount of energy in the room.  Nothing saps energy like negativity.

Attitude may be something you need to help bring out in someone.  Not everyone is an extrovert and is going to show you their attitude upon first meeting them.  This is one more reason why multiple meetings for likely candidates are a good idea as well as some informal conversation up front to get them talking about anything, something off topic but not inappropriate perhaps a common ground in a sport or hobby.  This is building a relationship and too many people try to do this after they hire someone, and I can tell you that doesn’t work out for good averages.  More the reason to develop relationships with as many in your field as you can: friend of foes – you never know who you will be hiring next or who you may end up working for next.

There are other parts of people’s character that are just hard to measure on interviews, but equally important.  I remember when I worked for an ISP and we had tech support technicians.  In some cases, one of the hardest traits to find is the ability for someone just to show up for work!  The last thing anyone needs is someone that doesn’t show up, is inconsistent, has constant personal drama being brought to work, etc.  And who is going to answer negatively to the question “Do you show up for work?”.  No one.  So there are numerous other indicators that have to be looked at to make sound decisions.

Aptitude – From knowing very little to being very good

Many times managers are looking at people coming into an organization and basically evaluating them on things they have achieved in the past.  There is nothing wrong with measuring people this way, as it is one of many measurements that should be taken.  I would argue that achievements and knowledge should not be overly weighed.  The time frame that one made the achievements in would be of more particular importance.  Over a 30 year career?  Or over their first 5 years in the field?  And how stale is that knowledge?  What is more important to many, is not what you know, but what you can learn.  Employees with high aptitude can be highly efficient.  They have that ability to take pieces of disparate information and synthesize it into something totally new, not just read a manual and regurgitate.  These are the kinds of people that will burden others less, as they work hard to figure things out for themselves as they have always done..  They can show up in your organization as the “new guy” and be as good as or better than your “average” employee in almost no time, and be an A player.

Passion – What makes people remarkable

For someone to be remarkable at what they do, they have to love what they do.  In there lies passion.  The objectives of most organizations are very difficult.  You are not sprinting and then resting, you are basically sprinting all the time.  It requires a enormous amount of energy to keep things always moving, never resting, never giving an edge to the competition.  People that are truly passionate will do this with less energy.  In fact, they will feed on the eustress of working a lot because they love what they do.

It takes a lot of searching to find people that are authentically passionate, but I would say it’s worth passing on other opportunities to find someone that is passionate.  Passion can take someone that knows very little about a subject, help elevate them to an expert, allow them to innovate and potentially dominate their competition.  If attitude can be thought of as a vector, then passion is the force applied to that vector.

The ability to meet the minimum should not be a motivation to hire.  Everyone has to start somewhere, but you won’t grow your business by people staying there.  Passion, ambition, fearlessness – these things need to exist.  Any hire made to someone who does not have these qualities, is taken up by someone who doesn’t.


Businesses change a lot, they have to.  Conflict comes with change, and that conflict must be managed.  Employees have to adapt.   Change places less importance on what you know – it may be irrelevant, but what you have learned is important.  Don’t evaluate and hire for what you need today, but hire for change.  If you hire for change, you will be ahead of the competition.  This requires hiring exceptional employees that possess the attitude, aptitude and passion which should absolutely always be the goal.

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