Hiring and Firing – Thoughts as I Prepare to Speak

Hiring great people – next week I will be speaking to business leaders in Chicago on the subject of hiring great people, along with a few words on when to call it quits.  While preparing, I was going through hundreds of interviews I have conducted with college graduates, sales people, technical people, and those I interview now through my mentor program.  So much of an interviewer’s time is spent on analyzing skills (which are important), yet most of the firing I see, happens as a result of character flaws.

The skill set is important, but when I think of the superstars I’ve hired, (and perhaps some of you are reading this right now,) it was a character trait that drove them to excellence, whether they had the skills or not.  One hiring decision comes to mind; a person who had very little in the way of technical expertise, but a strong determination to learn and excel.  I hired him as an entry level SE, but within a year (just 12 months) his billable revenues exceeded every other engineer on the team (and the clients he was serving were extremely happy).  His appetite for learning was so great, he pursued the certifications, learned how to sell and manage, and went on to run a very successful technology company after working with me for over five years.

I remember another hire I was involved with.  He started out as an entry level technician, but he was ready to do whatever was required to find new business, with aspirations of becoming a great seller.  He was eager to learn and to master the art of selling.  While his eagerness lacked some of the skills and understanding, he was willing to read the books, listen to instruction, attend some classes, and practice he presentation skills. Today he closes most of the business his company sells.  I can honestly say, he is an excellent sales person, and it didn’t take him years to master selling.

On the other hand, I think of many who road upon their certifications, but refused to work as team members.  Some didn’t show up to meet their commitments, others were slack with their sales efforts, and many just couldn’t work alongside their peers.  In the case of great character, there is always a chance to help that person get what they need or move to a position they can master, if their current job isn’t a fit.  But with those who just can’t get along; can’t acknowledge authority, or who are just too lazy to get moving in the morning, their just isn’t much hope.  Character isn’t something you are just born with.  It might have a lot to do with your upbringing, but it’s never too late to start building character.  For a list of essential character traits to look for in your next hire – check out the section on character in my latest book, From Vendor to Adviser.  The adviser must have great character if they are to win.

© 2012, David Stelzl


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