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July - 2008 - issue > Entrepreneur
The Art of Hiring Great Employees
Gunjan Sinha
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
There are many schools of thought on how to hire great employees for your business or organization. You want to hire employees that make you proud, who deliver to the organization’s success, and are fun to be with while necessitating little or no effort on the part of every one in the team to get along with. Hiring great people is the essence of building a great organization – 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 followed a five step criteria to look for great employees. If you are able to apply these during the interview process, you will more likely be making the right hire for your organization or startup!

Criterion 1: Aptitude
You are looking for basic aptitude in the candidate. All that is good if the person is very smart, or intelligent, or has a number of advanced degrees, but these are not critical for making a successful hire. Degrees and the ability to solve logic puzzles point to a raw aptitude and intelligence. You need to see some of that in the prospective hire, but you have to be careful not to over emphasize 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 that make a successful hire. Aptitude is necessary, but is not an automatic selection criterion.

Criterion 2: Drive
Over the years, I have made lots of hiring mistakes, and one thing common amongst all of them have been when 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 on what you do, and sustains 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 themselves, or simply make the world a better place! Let us emphasize on ‘drive’ as a strong selection criterion over just raw intelligence or aptitude.

Criterion 3: Commitment
Another key trait for successful employees is their commitment to the organization and its mission. 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 makes one pursue things that 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 the 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. Having a good read on these questions will help you hire well for your organization.

Criterion 4: Ethics and Integrity
I cannot underscore the significance of ethics and integrity during the course of an interview. You have to hire people who demonstrate the highest level of integrity and ethics. These are the people who say what they do, and do what they say, and you can count on them for their unwavering 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 the highest level of intellectual honesty. You need employees who demonstrate, and come across with, high ethics and integrity. if you are uncomfortable during the hiring process on this issue, regardless of how good the candidate is, it is safer to pass on the person, than having to deal with it later.

Criterion 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 change the way organizations do small and big things. Their curiosity can be understood during the interview, by probing both on how curious they are about little things around them and how curious they are about the big problems or opportunities that they see around themselves.

To conclude, hiring is an intricate art, the careful mastery of which takes its own time and a certain amount of candid dedication on the part of the HR executives. Those who have imbibed this art can surely hire good talent that help build great organizations.

The author is the Chairman of SiliconIndia.com and MetricStream. An internet pioneer, he was the co-founder and President of WhoWhere? Inc., a Internet directory services company acquired by Lycos in 1998 as well as eGain, an online customer service company. Sinha can be reached at gunjan@metricstream.com

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