The Four Keys to Hiring Exceptional People

I’m constantly interviewing people. You should be too, whether you are a CEO or a manager. Arguably, it is the most important responsibility you have because hiring exceptional people is how you build an exceptional company.

I’m human, so I make mistakes. (Lots of ’em, in fact.) When it comes to hiring, every mistake I’ve ever made has happened when I didn’t follow the four criteria outlined below.

These criteria fit regardless of the area you are hiring people for. They are:

  1. Integrity. Need we go any further? Why would you ever hire someone if they don’t have integrity? Actually, I think we do need to go a little further. Everyone – everyone – is occasionally faced with the dilemma that arises when you’re interviewing a clearly talented individual who seems a bit ethically iffy. Don’t hire them. Ever. No amount of ability makes up for a lack of integrity.
  2. Smart. We want people that are very smart. Who doesn’t, right? Well, it’s surprising how often I see people who only hire those who clearly aren’t as smart as they are. Don’t be intimidated by those who might have something you don’t. Be grateful you can add them to your team.
  3. Passion. I don’t care how smart, and how much integrity an employee has. They will not work out if they are not passionate about what they do. They also won’t work out if they’re not passionate about what you do. When I interview, I always look for people who are committed enough to my cause to have done their research and found out as much as possible about my company.
  4. Company fit. People frequently overlook the importance of cultural fit. Desiring cultural fit does not mean that we want people that are clones of each other. Diversity is vital, but diverse employees better mesh well with each other. Throw a bunch of diverse ingredients that don’t go together into a pot, and you have a horrible meal. Throw the right stuff into that pot, and you’ve got gourmet cuisine. Aim for a five-star group of employees.

Okay, this is a pretty simple, easy to follow criteria, right? So why do so many people struggle with hiring the right people? I believe there are four main reasons:

  1. Prioritization. Hiring needs to be at the top of your priority list. Hiring people who fit all of the above criteria needs to be so important that you never compromise.
  2. Letting HR do the initial interviews. I have seen this mistake repeated over and over again. HR knows how to compare the qualifications on a resume with the basic qualifications for a position. You know what you are looking for. I know it’s time consuming, but you will be much better off if you do all of your own interviewing.
  3. Company is growing too fast. Growth is great because it creates new opportunities and promotions for existing employees. However, a company growing at a rate faster than its ability to hire exceptional employees will become mediocre over time.
  4. It’s tough to find exceptional employees. I’ve spent my whole career in high technology, and it’s always been difficult to find exceptional people. I would bet this is true, from talking with my friends, in most other industries. Nevertheless – and it’s so important that I want to repeat it again – compromising in hiring, rather than finding exceptional employees, is always a ticket to mediocrity (or worse).

Hiring is a subjective art. You’ll make mistakes. Keeping this simple criteria in mind will help you hire outstanding employees.

That’s all for now,