How Do I Find Great People?

Part of what I do for clients from time to time is to help them hire.

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(Photo credit: bpsusf)

I’ll often help write the job specs and do preliminary interviews for them.  One thing they sometimes ask me is what I’m looking for in a candidate.  I’ve written before about how I think “smart” and “curious” are must-haves but there are other more subtle things I’m after as well.

One thing I don’t focus on too much is the technical stuff.  Unless I’m intending to grill them on the minutia of using a particular thing (everything from Excel to ad operations systems to code writing), I won’t get much of that in an interview anyway.  The bigger point is that whatever it is can be taught.  So what am I after?

I want them to tell me how they made something complex into something simple.  I want to hear how they avoided doing something by making something else more efficient.  Can they make one report wipe out two or three others without losing any information?  Can they turn a 20 minute sales pitch into a 3 minute piece of elegance?

I want to test their confidence in their own knowledge.  I might ask them a question and try to talk them off their answer.  How firm are they in their beliefs and is that firmness irrational stubbornness or is it confidence that is open to new ideas?

Do they listen?  Do their questions and answers demonstrate that they have been listening while we’re together?

I might ask them for examples of when they had to convince others that their solution to something was wrong even when a bunch of people were agreed it was right.  I love when they tell me that they argued against using some new tool because they spotted a flaw and turned around a bunch of people heading in a wrong direction.

Finally, I look for people who look for solutions.  For people who don’t have “can’t” in their problem-solving vocabulary.  Can they grasp problems at their core and not get focused on any one solution since many roads lead to the same place?

That’s my general list.  What’s yours?

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