Many of us have had the opportunity to hire and manage countless people during our tenure in personnel management. But the hard truth is that many of us can count on two hands how many true “quality hires” we’ve made. Some of us can name them off the top of our head.
A quality hire is an intangible asset. The underlying question is: “How do we know who a quality hire is until we start working with them?” What is the true value of “intellectual curiosity”? This is the true measuring stick of risk versus reward.
There is no real matrix in place for measuring this intangible trait. There are, however, common denominators in what we’ve seen and how we recognize these diamonds in the rough. The Averity leadership team reached out to over twenty executives in various industries and got their version of what a “quality hire” really means for them. Here are the findings, and they won’t surprise you. People hire people, not acronyms, buzzwords, or resumes.
- Quality hires are well-spoken and clear communicators. They listen, then answer. They don’t just wait to talk and interrupt other people.
- They know how to communicate to the team what and why they’re doing certain things. Even the best rock stars will alienate their team if they have the attitude of “just accept it, I’m the best.”
- Do they ask a lot of questions about culture and work environment?
- They not only have communication skills, but are active collaborators who can gel with the existing engineering team.
- Quality hires are open-minded, communicate clearly, and can express complex matters in easy-to-understand language.
- They have humility. They are excellent at what they do, but they “know what they don’t know.” They’re okay with saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” They’re open to coaching and actively solicit feedback to help improve their performance.
- They have a clear explanation for why they are looking for a new position and what they are currently dissatisfied within their current situation.
- Demonstrated curiosity: Are they curious as to how things can be done differently and better? They must be willing and able to dig into the why behind things.
- They are dynamic, passionate people with initiative and creativity who are also cool with a “go-along-get-along” work culture.
- They remember that they’re here to make technology serve the business, not just indulge in technology for its own sake.
- They can face the unknown and uncertainties and tackle them head-on. They don’t point fingers.
- A quality hire is all about personality, how well the candidate will work with the rest of the team. The skillset is needed, of course, but skills can be taught.
- They demonstrate ambition, an excitement for learning, and understanding.
- They bring a positive attitude and get along well with co-workers—both on the tech team and in the rest of the business.
- Generally being a good human—it’s a factor that is often sacrificed for other attributes.
- They have leadership ability/capability while also being a cultural fit for the organization.
- They are not only good at their job, but they’re someone I would want to grab a beer with after work.
Experience and skill set:
- Look for an example where they spearheaded something in the office. This could be anything technical-related, but it could also be organizing happy hours or the monthly potluck.
- Get the candidate to highlight the achievements they’ve made in each relevant area and to share “proof points” of those achievements. That means they should be telling you stories about situations they’ve worked through to successful outcomes. All resumes list job responsibilities, but it’s the achievements that are most important for you to evaluate. Ask yourself, “Is this ‘story’ the candidate is telling relevant to their success at my company?” You won’t get to hear the candidate’s story if you don’t dig in and ask. These questions are definitely softballs, but you absolutely should not skimp on throwing them.
- Find out what they are most proud of in their career.
- Quality hires are those who respect the roles of their supervisors and leadership in the company, but don’t shy away from offering their opinion and expertise when needed. Just because someone carries a VP or CTO title doesn’t mean they’re right all the time.
- They have a history of stability and tenure. Will they stay with you long enough for you to recoup the risk you are taking and the investment you are making in them, or do they run for the hills when they don’t get their way and the going gets tough?
- It used to be that I looked strictly for subject matter expertise, for someone who could advise on a subject and tactically execute. This is no longer the case. Lately I’ve found that most of the candidates have strong expertise in their subject matter, but the best ones are also well-rounded and well-versed.
- They are good writers. Good writing means structured thoughts and plans, the discipline needed to get those thoughts into a format that is complete and self-contained, and ideally the understanding and capacity to tailor their message to the audience.
What they are NOT:
- They’re not resistant to alternative ideas and feedback or rigid in their approach.
- They don’t badmouth the code, the product, or the team without offering alternative approaches.
- They’re not quick to pass blame or offer excuses.
- They’re not impatient with their colleagues or the company.
- If they’re only interested in money and compensation then it’s a complete turnoff.
- The one big negative qualifier I learned a while ago is that no matter how good on paper the candidate is—and even if they are smart and say all the right technical things—I always pass if I feel like something is off. It’s important to trust my gut.
Soft skills are the most important dimension in a quality hire. The few people who have had most or all of these characteristics typically get things done, work well with others, make smart decisions, are willing and able to change and get better at whatever they do. At the end of it all, you won’t know the ultimate quality of the candidate until they’ve been hired, but people hire people; skills can be taught. You didn’t hire the resume, you hired the PERSON!