Hiring people is one of my favorite things about running a company. It usually means that your business is growing and every new recruit has the potential to accelerate that growth, but getting the right person each time is critical. That’s why I still review job descriptions, read resumés and meet candidates for nearly every new position we fill.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about our recruitment process and the kind of people we should look for. Though I don’t agree with everything in it, this recent article asking whether MBA graduates are good for innovative companies raises a question about the value of college education.
Why do employers often seem to prioritize educational qualifications over other achievements with job ads stating that degrees are mandatory and Ivy League graduates are preferred?
As an Arizona State alum – Go Sun Devils! – I probably wouldn’t make the cut for many of the roles I see advertised. ASU doesn’t rank among the top 100 schools in the country, but it has been rated as the nation’s Most Innovative School, ahead of Stanford and MIT. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of school where innovative businesses should be scouring for talent?
ASU’s charter states that the school is “measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed”. I’ve adopted a similar attitude for hiring. Qualifications are useful but not essential. Direct experience in the role or our industry is great, but not all-important.
Instead, when I scan resumés, I look for any of the following five traits that will show me a person who might be right for my business.
When Nik, hint’s director of performance marketing, was still in high school, he started a marketing agency for musicians and artists, with clients like Pitbull and Jay Sean. He later joined an innovative AI-marketing startup before leaving to start another agency, where his clients included my company. I liked working with Nik so much that I eventually persuaded him to join our team.
If someone has started their own business, I’m immediately interested. Whether it was a success is almost irrelevant. Being a founder tells me that this is someone with the ideas, belief, and drive I’m looking for.
2. Winding career path
After a summer internship at NBC’s Today Show, Shelby was sure that TV news was for her. But a stint as a producer for a local station in central California made her realize that TV wasn’t her calling, so she joined a public relations agency. Now she’s found a happy medium between the worlds of journalism and publicity as a content writer at hint.
People often worry that changing roles a lot makes them look indecisive and unfocused, but I often see someone who isn’t willing to settle for second best and will keep searching until they find a career that truly fulfills them.
3. Passion pursuer
Brian has a Masters in Accounting, which makes him a great candidate for a role as VP Controller. But when I saw his resumé, Brian’s post-grad qualification didn’t excite me nearly as much as a significant career decision he made. After almost six years at PWC, he had left to join a sustainable food business.
Moving from a big corporation to be part of a startup is a sign of someone who prioritizes their passion above financial rewards and security. It also suggests a person is keen to make a significant impact on a business and not just be one of 200,000 employees.
4. Risk taker
Claire’s BA in Business from the University of East London was good preparation for her first accounting roles, but what was much more interesting for me was that she had moved to new countries and cities on multiple occasions. It showed me that Claire was a risk taker and good at adapting to new situations. She’s now in her ninth year as my company’s accounting manager.
People often underestimate how hard it is to uproot your life and move somewhere new, but it’s something I’ve experienced a number of times so I know that someone who can overcome the challenges of moving is worth meeting.
Kylie first came to my business as an intern. I liked that she was a member of her school’s philanthropy committee that focused on campus activities, community service and promoting friendships. Because we shared similar values, Kylie was a great fit for the company and joined fulltime after graduation. Seven years later, she is now one of our regional sales managers.
At startups, you have to judge potential new hires on how they would get along with the other people on your small team. But nor do you want a monoculture of very similar people. Exploring a candidate’s values is a great way to look beyond qualifications and experience to find people with diverse backgrounds who will also fit in with your company’s culture.
Now find that spark
These are the types of people I’m looking for whenever I make a hiring decision for my business, but it’s still just a way of filtering people to find the few you invite for an interview. That face-to-face meeting is where you spark a connection with someone. It’s where the real decision is made!
Who will create that spark is almost impossible to predict from a resumé? That’s why it’s so important to look beyond basic qualifications and experience to ensure you’ve given you and your business the chance to hire its next star performer.