Leaders as Strong Recruiters

Date:   Thursday , December 09, 2010

Much is talked about various leadership traits, but the one which is often overlooked in the management books, is the role of leadership in attracting strong talent. Strong CEOs, business leaders and entrepreneurs are powerful recruiters. They spend disproportionate amount of their time attracting the best of the very best for their organizations.

There are many schools of thoughts on how to hire great employees for your business or organization. You want to hire employees that make you proud, who deliver to the organizations success, ones who take little or no effort on part of every one in the team, and are fun to be with. Hiring great people is the essence of building a great organizational culture one employee at a time.

So, how does one hire right? How do you go through the interview process to find employees who you want to hire and the ones who you want to reject? Over the years, I have recommended 5 Step criteria for entrepreneurs and leaders to look for great employees. If you are able to assess these 5 elements during the interview process, you will more likely be making the right hire for your organization or startup, thereby giving your leadership a shine!

Criteria #1: Aptitude
You are looking for basic aptitude in the candidate. If the person is very smart, or intelligent or has number of advanced degrees, all that is good, but not critical for making a successful hire. Degrees and abilities to solve logic puzzles all point to raw aptitude and intelligence. You need to see some of that in the prospective hire, but you want to be careful not to over emphasize the aptitude in your hiring decision process. A number of entrepreneurs and managers get impressed by strong aptitude alone, and forget to look into other critical elements of what makes a successful hire. You need basic aptitude, more than that is a bonus, but not an automatic selection criterion.

Criteria #2: Drive
Over the years I have made lots of hiring mistakes, and common amongst all of them have been that those candidates lacked basic self-motivated drive to excel and win in the marketplace. Drive is an internal motivator, which inspires you to win in the world, leaves your mark and legacy. It guides you during difficult times to persevere. You need employees who are self driven. So, your hiring process must be designed to identify people and candidates who are strongly self-driven. Folks who are on a mission to change their careers, make an impact in the organization, prove himself or herself or simply make world a better place! Let us emphasize drive as a strong selection criterion over just raw intelligence or aptitude.

Criteria #3:
Commitment

Another key trait for successful employees is their commitment to the organization and commitment to the mission of the organization. You have to look for committed people, people who are committed through their careers, who have shown resilience and commitment in their personal and professional lives. Commitment requires one to pursue things which one truly and genuinely believes in. So during the interview process, as a hiring manager, you have to look for candidates who exhibit such traits. Are they likely to stay committed during tough times? Are they more likely to bail out when going is not good? Do you believe that they can get committed to the mission of your organization or startup? These are very important elements of your interview and hiring process. Getting a good read on these questions will help you hire well for your organization.

Criteria #4:
Ethics and Integrity
I cannot underscore the significance of ethics and integrity, during an interview process. You want to hire people who demonstrate highest level of integrity and ethics. These are the people who say what they do, they do what they say, and you can count on them for their unwaivered integrity and ethics. They are less likely to play games in the organization, get into office politics or negatively impact the culture of your organization. Instead, through their integrity and ethics, these individuals will demonstrate highest level of intellectual honesty. You want employees who demonstrate and come across with high ethics and integrity. If during the hiring process, if you are uncomfortable on this issue, regardless of how good the candidate is, it is safer to pass on them, than have to deal it with later.

Criteria #5:
Journey of Life-long learning
I look for employees who are curious, as if they are still in high school, folks who, regardless of their age, title and accomplishments, are curious enough to live a journey of life-long learning. I care less about the degrees they hold, I care more about their curiosity and the ease with which they can get into new areas of exploration to find the truth. Curiosity is a trait, which turns ordinary contributors into true innovators; folks who will change the way organizations do little things and big things. Their curiosity can be understood during the interview process; by probing both on how curious are they about little things around them, and how curious they are about the big problems or opportunities that they see around themselves.

As you think about your own leadership strengths or the leadership traits in your own organization, it is always good to audit how strong is your hiring and interviewing instincts, and how it can be honed as a process over time. If you hire well, it automatically creates strong leadership and an environment which leads to high performance organizations.