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Who Should You Hire?

Marketing podcast with Dan Schawbel

When it comes to hiring business owners want to find people with the skills they need to do the job.

In that regard there are many positions where a set of predetermined skills are generally accepted as the “natural fit.”


photo credit: reutC via photopin cc

If you need a technical position filled you look for someone with coding or math. If you need a sales person you look for that outgoing type and so on.

While an aptitude for the job is an obvious consideration, there are so many other harder to find skills that are perhaps more important.

I had a coworker years ago that was painfully shy, very quite and almost non existent in many discussions. But then, towards the end of a long, drawn out meeting she would say something and the entire room would change.

She would usually start off with, “I don’t know, but seems like we should just . . . ” More times than not, it was the profound solution to what we had all been wrestling with.

On the surface this individual seemed to lack some of the skills many people look for, but what she possessed was an incredible knack of leadership and strategic thinking. These are skills that are hard to teach and even harder to find.

These, what some might call soft skills, are what makes an employee valuable to your organization and they are the skills you need to look for in those you hire.

In Re-Imagine, Tom Peters famously coined the term “hire freaks” to highlight the notion of finding people with the kind of innate skills that bring much more to a situation than the traditional profile of, say, a salesperson or customer service person.

My coworker certainly fit the notion of freak – she was socially awkward, seemingly misplaced and completely full of the kind of insight sorely lacking in most organizations.

You need leaders, people who can make the right decisions on their own, people who can communicate complex ideas in simple ways and people who can build relationships.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visited with Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself, The New Rules For Career Success. Dan has made a name for himself helping his generation (Gen Y) understand how to get ahead in their careers.

At the same time he’s established himself as an expert on the generation for those business leaders seeking to understand how to work with and retain workers under 30. In Promote Yourself, he spends a great deal of time outlining the virtues of soft skills for those who want to get noticed and promoted.

Obviously the book is written for the person looking to boost their career, but employers would be wise to read it for the lessons it contains in hiring people with the right stuff.

Non-traditional behavior of freaks

Want to hire someone with the skills needed to add value in today’s business world. Look for individuals who:

  • Come with customer service backgrounds and a demonstrated desire to create better customer experiences
  • Come with social media strategy backgrounds and get how to engage customers with content
  • Come with an analytics background and revel in the role of playing mad scientist with the reams of data every business can produce and uncover

You must look for, test for and screen for these natural behaviors in the quest to find your best salespeople, service people and project people no matter if you are hiring consultants or plumbers.

11 Your Next Hire

It’s become pretty standard business advice these days to suggest you need to “hire for fit” rather than experience or job skills.

Hire for fit

Torley via Flickr

Most interpret fit to imply fit with the culture of the organization. While I agree that your recruitment should aim to attract people that share your mission, vision and values, it’s also essential to consider how they might fit in the new reality of business.

There is a specific skill set required these days in order to be successful in the world of marketing and business owners need to start finding ways to uncover these skills in the people they recruit.

Most of these skills aren’t taught directly and come more naturally to some than others, but an employee that lacks them, or worse, questions them, is going to contribute significantly less to your organization in the coming years.

While I can define the new skills, you still have to find the ways to unearth them and bring them out in your culture and your employees.

The good news is that these are the same qualities it takes for any business to compete and if you can make these qualities the central theme of your hiring, they will carry over into the central theme of your business in general.

Collaboration bias – Today’s business teams are as fluid as ever. They move from project to project, plug and play with virtual members and draw from around the globe. Work today is basically collaboration on all fronts. If any past experience matters it’s experience that demonstrates ease with contribution and collaboration. Some people thrive on this way of work, some people don’t.

Design character – Creative people just see the world a little differently than most and, when balanced with stated business objectives, this can be a powerful tool. Look for people that demonstrate a feel for design, even though that may not be the primary or even secondary function. Creativity in design easily blends over into creativity in ideas, problem solving and collaboration.

Social knack – Recent college grads take note, social business is not Facebook. Social knack isn’t a tech platform at all. It is a skill that engages your ability to have a great conversation, to know how to find what makes people tick, to present ideas to a group and to innately look for ways to help others get what they want. If your staff possesses these qualities naturally, they can make whatever the tool of the week is pay.

Tech curious – Technology is an incredible game leveling tool in the hands of smart business owners. Blending high tech capabilities with high touch customer experience is the killer play in today’s plugged in world. Employees that are curious about new technology and gadgets as a means to creates a better, deeper and richer customer experience are a must. Hire self-proclaimed nerds and let them fuse the technology with proven processes.

Bundle vision – This is quite likely the hardest quality to identify, (certainly in a 30 minute interview) but it may be one of the most important. Business, technology, tools and trends evolve so quickly these days that every business owner and every staff member needs the ability to appreciate how seemingly disparate parts might come together to make something remarkable. This is perhaps the combination of all of the traits described above and when you find this trait and hone it, it will become one of the most valuable assets your business develops.