AGL 016: Hiring the right people; 3 tips from Richard Branson, and some from me.

As I’ve said before, I’m reading Richard Branson’s book, The Virgin Way.  This book is full of amazing nuggets of greatness.  There’s a whole section on hiring the right people, which, is where these three rules come from.  I’ll be adding in some of my own tips at the end.

Don’t Delegate, Do it yourself.

Hiring is important.  So much so that you can’t always trust others to hire the right people.  I’ve found that many times when interviewing someone, I just get a “feeling” whether they will fit in or not.  Our company has full-time recruiters to help us find amazing talent.  They do a fantastic job, but sometimes they find candidates that check all of the boxes.  They’ve got the skills, experience and have a great personality…but something just doesn’t feel right to me.  That’s why its important for me to be there and to do the final hiring.  I’m not alone on this either.  Larry Page, CEO at Google, and Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin, also stay close to the pulse.  So much so that Larry Page is still involved in the hiring of all senior level positions at Google.

Prioritize Character over (experience/skills) Resume.

If you focus too much on past experiences, you’ll end up with a team of clones.  Focus more on character, work ethic, integrity, and personality.  Having a diverse background in your team will help your team be more creative and innovative in the long run. Many times its hard to fully understand the character of someone during a short interview, but some of the tips that I do is to ask situational questions, not at all related to the job.  For example, I’ll ask things like, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done… wow me?” or “What’s the most ‘out of character’ thing you’ve ever done?”  “If you could never fail, what would you do?”

The important part here is to focus on the soft skills, because a new hire without the soft skills can kill a team.

Beware of candidates who want to be “set free.”

Richard talks about how “you can take the person out of the cage, but you can’t take the cage out of the person.”  Some people require a structured environment, and you’re trying some of the leadership things I talk about, such as Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, then they might not be the right fit for you, even though they really think they want to be free.  I’ve got 2 dogs, Lilly and Apollo.  They are crated most of the time while we’re gone.  When we return, they immediately want out of their crate, however, at the first signs of a thunderstorm, they want back in it as quickly as possible.  The crate is a place of safety and comfort.  The cage of structure at work can be the same for people that need that order.  If you can’t/won’t provide that structure, then those people probably aren’t a good fit for you.

Other tips…

For me, its important that the hire fits in with my team. Team fit is the most important thing for me, followed shortly by character, personality, hobbies then skills. Yes skills come at the end of the important list.  With the right work ethic, defined by their character, the necessary skills can be obtained rather quickly. I also try to follow the Spanx’s CEO, Sara Blakely’s advice “The smartest thing I ever did in the early going was to hire my weaknesses.”

Be sure to listen to the podcast above to hear the questions that I like to ask the most…

To read more from Richard Branson on hiring, check out this article on Inc.

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