I’m sitting at a desk at my company headquarters. It’s right in front of the kitchen, so the area is busy, with people coming and going all the time. My MacBook Pro is open, and I am sipping a coffee while doing that one last email of the day. A familiar voice behind me says my name; it’s my great friend Bob, a person I respect and admire. He runs Corporate Communications, and just recently, I got him to join an internal PR event I organized in Europe. He sits next to me and says :
How do you hire employees?
His question takes me by surprise, and I reply, “Why do you ask?” His answer leaves me speechless. “Your team rocks.” The answer comes to me spontaneously: “Passion.”
Although I’ve hired many people, it’s the first time someone asks that question. Bob made me think about what they all have in common, and I have no doubts, passion is the first criteria I look for when I interview a candidate.
But ‘passion’ is a very subjective term. How do you define it, identify it, and select for it?
In my experience, passionate people:
- Talk about why they do things, not how
- Share what drives them, what keeps them alive
- Radiate energy and commitment
- Express emotions
- Take risks
- Communicate infectious positivity
Yes, I look for people who know their subject, but they must also be willing to learn and go the extra mile. Passionate people talk about their purpose in life before talking about their qualifications. They are enthusiastic, contagiously positive – they make you feel good! The opposite is a recipe for disaster. The damage a wrong hire can wreak is enormous.
So, as an interviewer, how can you encourage a candidate to show their passion? I always find it very helpful to start by articulating the company’s purpose and articulating my enthusiasm for the job I do. Passionate people react immediately to the concept of meaning because it’s what drives them. If your goal resonates with them, you’ll see it straight away, not just in what they say but also in their body language. This spark and this connection are what I look for in a potential candidate.
Of course, passion is not the only factor. It’s also important to factor in :
- Competency – an appropriate degree of knowledge and skill
- Fit – a match for the team and company culture
- Commitment – readiness to go above and beyond
- Willingness to learn – an appetite to grow and develop
Hiring the wrong person can be a disaster.
It’s not just the work that’s at risk; it’s also the morale of the rest of your team, not to mention your reputation as a manager. Hiring requires full focus, excellent preparation, and lots of time! Many managers don’t invest enough time in such a crucial part of their job.
Approach hiring the way you would approach giving a presentation to your boss or speaking in front of an audience of important people. Preparation and thoughtfulness at every stage of the process are essential.
It begins with the job description and posting. You can’t expect your HR team to support you in finding great candidates if you provide a vague or inaccurate description of what the role will entail.
You can save yourself a lot of frustration by answering these simple questions:
- Have I clearly defined the job specs?
- Have I clearly articulated my requirements to the HR team?
- Back to question 1, then rinse and repeat until you are clear.
Always hire someone better than yourself.
I’ve heard managers say: “Well if they are too clever, I risk losing my job.” Please don’t settle for less, don’t be scared about driving a team of brilliant and dedicated people; be proud of it. Your employees will make you better; they will make you believable and respected as a manager. As long as you believe in your team, they will believe in you. Be genuinely interested in them, coach them to give their best, and offer a clear sense of purpose. The results will be magical.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and hire outstanding teams: energetic, passionate, and always ready to improve themselves. I want to thank them and encourage you to make passion a priority the next time you’re hiring. Because, for a manager, there’s nothing so satisfying as building an outstanding team.