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Hire The Person, Not The Resume


"? [get] the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats (and the wrong people off the bus) and then [figure] out where to drive it." - Jim Collins - Good To Great

"Hire the best staff you can find, develop them as much as you can, and hand off everything you possibly can to them." - John C. Maxwell - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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Here's a simple tip - hire the person, not the resume.

Confronting negative behaviors is an important skill for leaders to develop. But there's a step beyond that for building a high performance team. You hire the right person.

The subject of hiring the right person comes up frequently in my work with various clients. It comes up when they need to fill a position. It comes up when they realize they have the wrong person in a position. Sometimes it comes up as a question in a training session. Sometimes it comes up in a private conversation. But it almost always comes up.

The most common mistake that I see people make - one that I have made myself - is ranking the person's technical skills ahead of their "soft" skills. I agree that technical skills are important. I don't want to hire a CPA who knows nothing about accounting, and I don't want to hire a nurse who knows nothing about nursing. So, I am not suggesting that you ignore a person's resume. I am suggesting that their experience and training (i.e. - their resume) serves primarily to qualify them for your time investment to interview them. It gets them in the door, but it shouldn't give them the job.

Consider this situation.

You hire a person with outstanding technical skills. They know everything about the industry, the legal environment, and many other technical aspects of their position - but the rest of your staff cannot stand to work with them. This "technical expert" demands special attention, resists every change, speaks negatively about management and other team members, pushes the limit on workplace rules, etc.

Are they worth the trouble? Does the positive contribution from their "technical expert" status justify the damage they do to overall team performance? In most of the situations I've been involved in, the answer is no.

In the above scenario, I created a situation where the person under consideration is truly a "technical expert". Among the best, technically, in their field. But, what about the more common situation? The situation where the person is good technically, but they're not necessarily among the best in the industry. Now, how does their behavior with other people balance against their technical skills? It only gets worse.

I assume that you will only consider hiring people with at least the basic technical skills to do the job. So, faced with a choice between two candidates:

1) Great "attitude" and acceptable technical skills (for this article, my definition of attitude includes work ethic, drive, initiative, ability to work with others, and other "soft" or difficult to measure skills), and

2) Outstanding technical skills and a poor attitude

I choose number one. I find it easier to help people strengthen their technical skills than to improve their attitude.

What if you have difficulty finding a person with the right attitude? I suggest you keep looking until you find them. It is better to work short-handed for a short time than to work with a problem employee for a long time. As Jim Collins states in his landmark study Good To Great - "When in doubt, don't hire - keep looking."

Copyright 2005, Guy Harris

You may use this article for electronic distribution if you will include all contact information with live links back to the author. Notification of use is not required, but I would appreciate it. Please contact the author prior to use in printed media.

About the Author:

Guy Harris is the Chief Relationship Officer with Principle Driven Consulting. He helps entrepreneurs, business managers, and other organizational leaders build trust, reduce conflict, and improve team performance. Learn more at http://www.principledriven.com

Guy co-authored "The Behavior Bucks System TM" to help parents reduce stress and conflict with their children. Learn more about this book at http://www.behaviorbucks.com


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