"First who, then what.
It matters who you have on the bus."
-- Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

An organization filled with honest, motivated, connected, eager, learning, experimenting, ethical and driven people will always defeat the one that merely has talent.   -   Every time.
- Seth Godin, Sept 18, 2013

All economic activity...requires products of nature; human resources; and capital... The business must be able to attract all three and to put them to productive use. A business that cannot attract the people and the capital it needs will not last long. - Peter Drucker

Four Hiring Principles

I started hiring people when I was in college. Back then, I assumed everyone had the same work ethic that I did and that skill was all that you had to look for in a candidate.

Not so.

It turns out that there are people who only want a paycheck and are willing to do as little as they can to collect it. I understood this theoretically, but it took a while to truly understand that there really were people who prefer to put substantial effort into not working.

When you go to hire an employee, you need to look for four separate characteristics in a candidate:

Skill - People need to have the right skills to do the work. This is the obvious one that I thought was sufficient.

Drive - Employees need to want to do the work. If they are not self-motivated to do good work, you can't make them. I assumed everyone wanted to work hard like me. When I was a young engineer at the US DOT Transportation Systems Center, one of the techs who had been working at that building since the days when it was the NASA Electronics Research Center actually told me to slow down otherwise our boss would expect us to work fast all the time. He was talking about my walking pace in the hallways.

Culture Fit - This also surprised me. Not everyone can adapt to culture, so you have to look for people who will fit in and get along with their work peers. Otherwise, no one likes them or likes to work with them, and their ideas and requests are all handled inefficiently.

Mental Health - Only recently have I realized the need to look for this in a candidate. People can have the right skills, want to work, fit the culture, but have some mental issue that periodically erupts, rendering them a liability. I'm not talking about being a little quirky. I mean unstable enough that people start to filter their comments and reactions out of fear of a big work interruption. This slows down communication and trust and dilutes a positive work environment.

Trust is a key element here. You need to be able to trust an employee enough to be able to speak frankly and honestly with them and not be parsing your own words for fear of setting them off.

It can be really hard to figure all of this out when interviewing a job candidate, and sometimes you hire someone and they just don't work out, which brings us to firing.

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