A few weeks back I caught a few minutes of The Today Show and noticed a short segment about a hiring day at the Intrepid in Manhattan, specifically for veterans returning to the civilian work force. It got me thinking about a column I wrote for The Wall Street Journal earlier this year about focusing on the type of person you need to fill a position, rather than just their qualifications and experience.
If you don’t have time to read the column, just know that I’m a big believer in hiring the right “type” of person for a job, and then training that person to do the work following my systems. It’s worked well for me in all of my businesses because I create systems that almost any person could follow and get the job done according to my standards.
Ultimately, we need the right type of people in a job more than we need the right qualifications – brain surgeons notwithstanding. We need the kind of person who will not only fit well on our team, but who will also connect with our customer or client base if required. What good is a super-qualified person who can’t fit into your company culture? You might need someone outgoing, or anal-retentive, or just plain silly. You might need a cheerleader, a peacemaker, or a rock star.
You might need a hero.
What Type of Person Do You Need?
What do we know about heroes? We know they will lay down their lives for our country. We know they can follow orders without complaint, work hard for long hours and under extreme conditions. We know they’re tough. We know they will work well in a team environment. We know they have conviction, and will stand up for their beliefs.
Could you use someone like that in your business? I’m guessing, yes. Would you be willing to train a hero to do the work your open position requires? I certainly hope so.
My friend and business partner Paul Scheiter of Hedgehog Leatherworks tried out my hiring-by-type strategy to great success. Paul was looking for a new craftsperson to help out in his workshop. During the interview process he discovered that out of all of the applicants, those who were on time and prepared for their interviews were all former Boy Scouts. (When Paul told me that Jake, one of the young men who applied, actually showed up in a suit, I cried real tears.)
He thought about it and realized Boy Scouts were a perfect fit for his company. Paul makes leather sheaths for knives for outdoor and survival enthusiasts. Boy Scouts are into the outdoors, have some experience with handcrafting (got to get those badges!), know all about camping, and have strong values and discipline. Now, whenever Paul is looking for a new employee, he posts an ad: “Former Boy Scouts Wanted.” He always ends up with dedicated employees who “get it,” people who are genuinely interested in the work they do and who share values with Paul and his loyal customer base.
Some people need heroes, or Boy Scouts; some people need a different type of person entirely. For example, if you had a building security company and needed to test your systems, you might go looking for groupies and superfans, those people who always seem to get past security to find their favorite movie star, and train those groupies to test the security you’ve established for your clients.
Or, perhaps you need people who are compassionate and selfless in providing care and comfort for your hospice care business. Why not hire nuns, or former nuns? Or, if your customers are coming to your retreat to chill out and detach from the world, why not hire surfers to help with customer service?
When This Strategy Backfires
Years ago I wanted to hire really aggressive salespeople, and I had this idea about how to weed out the non-aggressive people. I asked everyone to interview at 3:00 a.m., thinking the most dedicated applicants would show up, and anyone who didn’t show up just didn’t want the job badly enough.
I ended up with one guy who showed up drunk off his ass (no, it wasn’t me), and a UPS guy who was just getting off work and thought he’d check it out. Turns out, my method had inspired only the most desperate people to show up. The aggressive, dedicated salespeople probably thought I was out of my mind, and so wisely stayed away from a witching-hour interview.
Lesson learned: When hiring by type, don’t play tricks. Just narrow down the attributes you are looking for, and then figure out what sort of group that person might belong to – heroes returning from active duty, former Boy Scouts, groupies, nuns, surfers, or whichever group makes the most sense for your business.
What type of people would you love to hire for your business? What type of people would your customers or clients call heroes?