Sealing the hire with a handshake

Hiring is never an easy endeavor for companies.  And this isn’t a size thing.  Big companies don’t do it any better than small companies.  Established companies don’t do it any better than the newly minted.  It is one of those inexact sciences.  I mean, at first thought, it should be as simple right?  Hire the person with the most skill/experience for the open position, right?  You need to hire a developer to build new awesomeness, and take your product to the next tiers of amazing, then why not hire a developer that can code the equivalent of making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs?  Apologies to those who don’t watch Star Wars…

Anyway, for those of your still around.  Why not hire based solely on talent and experience? Well, because quite frankly, there are other (and arguably more) important considerations when you agree to hire new talent. Are you looking for examples?  How about work ethic, motivation, person hygiene, how they treats others, or how they responds to pressure.  There are many instances of an established team doing great things…until a new hire comes in and rocks the boat.

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencioni tells a fictional tale of a team of executives that aren’t living up to their potential.  The team, a it turns out, needs to learn how to work together.  Throughout the course of the book, the team slowly builds a foundation that they are able to use to be successful.  With each new lesson building on what was learned previously.  The very first trait that they are forced to establish is trust.  Trust is the bottom of the pyramid.  The absence of trust is crushing to a team, and sometimes the easiest way to derail a team that works well together, is to bring in a new element and disrupt the trust and cohesion that the team has built.

I look for 4 H’s when I’m considering hiring someone.  I need someone that will Hit their deadlines.  But I also look for Honesty, Humor, and Humility.  And if sarcasm started with an H, I’d probably look for that too

Being part of the hiring process for both large and small companies, I can tell you that hiring is a much bigger risk for small companies.  Large companies are, in general, looking for butts in seats to do one specific job.  The last large company I worked for, I was an Application Developer, and my job was to sit in my seat, and program the computer.  My personality didn’t matter.  My ambitions didn’t matter.  As long as I could make the computer do what it was supposed to do, and I put in (at least) my 8 hours a day, they were happy with me.

Smaller companies have a little more to worry about. There is more urgency in smaller companies.  You are still being hired for a specific job; however, after you prove yourself, there is a high probability that you’ll inherit multiple other hats.  Having the self-starter initiative benefits a small company much more than the larger organizations, and is another example of when you might not want to hire simply based on best technical fit.

So if technical fit isn’t the best approach, then what is?  Well, I look for 4 H’s in people that I want to hire. I need someone that will Hit their deadlines, but that’s obvious right?  I also look for Honesty, Humor, and Humility.  And if sarcasm started with an H, I’d probably look for that too.  But I digress.  Let’s look at each one of these virtues individually.

Hitting Your Deadlines

This is probably the most obvious of the four, so I won’t spend much time on it.  I recently posted an article about making a case for marketing, and I stand by that article. Marketing is more important than a lot of small and mid-size businesses realize.  But marketing doesn’t do your organization any good if the product is terrible.  You cannot out market bad publicity.  So when you hire, you have to be looking for someone that can hit their deadlines, and provide good quality work.

Honesty

Honesty becomes important when someone needs help.  There are going to be times when everyone needs help.  Whether it be because they need help with a task, or they’ve had a family emergency, or gone on vacation, or they are  sick/hungover/hangry or whatever.  If I am hiring someone onto my team, I feel its my responsibility to have their back. And for that, I need honest feedback about what they can handle and when they need help.  It’s a team game, not an individual sport when we work together.  And it’s that idea of teamwork that leads to the final two H’s.

Humility

You may be a rockstar.  You may be the sole reason we won the work/made the sale.  Yet I. Do. Not. Care.  Your schtick will get old, and I’ll be asking you to leave shortly after the job is over.  Don’t get me wrong, you may have plenty of opportunities available for you.  And I may hate myself for letting you go when we compete in the future.  But you won’t be part of my team.

Hire someone that handles themself with humility.  Someone that will take the blame when something goes wrong, and pass the praise when something goes right.  Your team will be closer, because they’ll have that foundation of trust to build upon.

Humor

Work takes up an overwhelming amount of your time and energy.  It exhausting.  And that’s not including commuting.  And that’s not including having to pick up kids from soccer practice or making dinner when you get home or dedicating at least 15 minutes every night to that business start up you’ve been dreaming about.

Why waste your time working with someone you don’t like?  If you can get along with the people that you work with, then dedicating your time there doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.  So if you narrow the search down to two deserving candidates, hire the person that makes you laugh.  Nobody ever said that you can’t enjoy your work.

So that’s my list.  What are your thoughts?  Is there anything that you look for that I didn’t include?  Do you have a different fool proof plan that you follow when hiring?  I’d love to hear about it, so sound off in the comments.