Hiring advice from a CEO

I’m usually not the smartest person in the room. And, that’s by design.

Nothing matters more as a CEO than making sure that my company has the right goals and that those goals are being met. I can’t do this alone. I need to have people who are smarter than me in specific areas to help me accomplish these goals.

People often suggest the best business advice is to get smart people. My reaction to this advice is often a sarcastic, “why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to stop hiring dumb people.” Obviously, it’s not that easy to get the best talent. But, we have to start by thinking bigger than ourselves.

Ogilvy understood this axiom – “But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

As executives we have the responsibility to find and train the best people available. This is no easy task. Everyone else is trying to steal your best talent. Operating and sales priorities sometimes take precedence. But if we can’t hire and train the next group of professionals that will be accomplishing new objectives tomorrow, then what is the point of completing those objectives today?

Borrowing from Jack Welch’s book, Winning, I have compiled a list of criteria that I use to measure job candidates against. I hope this list helps you gain — and keep — the best talent out there.

1. Are They Passionate?

If your job candidate doesn’t have passion for the role, the industry, and the company, then your interviewing process for this candidate should stop right there. Move on.

2. Do They Have Integrity?

Are they honest? Do they take responsibility for their actions? Can they admit when they are wrong? Can they admit it publicly? Dishonest people will ruin your business. Don’t deal with them.

3. Are They Intelligent?

Not only are they book smart and informed about their subject matter, but do they possess an intense curiosity? A desire to learn more about their subject and about others? Do they blog or read about their interests? Can they teach you something that you’ve never learned before?

4. Are They Mature?

Age can be a starting point, but it will not guarantee maturity. Maturity deals with a candidate’s ability to handle stressful situations. How do they deal with failure? How do they treat people who are “below them” on the social scale? Are they humble in victory? Do they recognize others’ involvement when speaking about their successes?

5. Do They Possess Positive Energy?

This is similar to passion, but passion for a subject does not necessarily guarantee a passion for accomplishment. Candidates must have passion for their jobs from the beginning to the end of the day. They aggressively seek to cause change to create things rather than to stop things. That is the definition of positive change.

6. Can They Energize Others?

This is usually a product of passion and a team-based mindset. But relational savvy plays a strong role in their ability to energize others. Those with relational intelligence understand the importance of putting the needs of others before themselves. Without this, they will not be able to lead effectively.

7. Do They Have Edge?

Candidates must possess the ability to make tough decisions with speed and test those decisions rigorously. Their first decisions may not always be right, but they know how to go for it when the planets align. When they miss the mark, they admit they are wrong, and optimize for the next run at a solution.

8. Do They Possess The Ability to Execute?

Do they get the job done? Those who work with me know that I prefer working sessions over meetings. If the only output we have when we convene is a good discussion, then we have wasted time by the number of the people in the room:

[time of meeting x number of people in “discussion” = total time wasted]

Doers have meetings to present ideas done or get assignments to do the next thing. Otherwise they don’t have time to meet.

Hiring people smarter than you are is one of the best ways to build your company. Don’t let your pride get in the way, and hire people with the above attributes to ensure you have separated the wheat from the chaff.

My executive team – and the rest of my company – is comprised of the best, smartest, and hardest working individuals I have ever met. They actually enjoy spending time with each other outside of work. They actively try to make work a fun and engaging place. All of these things help them collaborate more effectively. I am honored to work with such great people. And if any of you are reading this, I love you all.