January 29, 2019

Character is THE Credential Needed in Hiring Top Talent

Hiring top talent helps your staff, your department and your business to grow and exceed expectations. Knowing the ever important building blocks of great recruits and what it takes to excel in important positions is key. 

For years now I have watched, learned and even developed recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes that help businesses sustain growth.  Although the process for finding great people can be a long, drawn out, seemingly never-ending process it can be the difference needed to separate you from the competition. 

For many companies finding top talent begins with reviewing hundreds of resumes looking for specific titles, credentials or a brand name education.  Doing this before any interaction is essentially diluting the pool of several quality recruits and game-changing talent.  Yes! This is diluting your talent pool! 

First, they're searching for the wrong criteria or at least looking at the wrong criteria first.  

Second, everybody’s recruiting the same people; probably 5-10% of the overall pool.  It makes no sense. 

Lastly, when you search in such a small pool with the wrong criteria you often end up paying the wrong people the wrong, often expensive, price. What's the result? 

You're potentially creating internal dysfunction with the wrong employees, a revolving door of high employee turnover and a bad brand reputation to your clients and future customers.

Hiring Wrong

Have you ever hired cocky, egotistical, selfish John Doe, with an MBA from a brand name school and wonderful credentials, who could care less about your team because every other competitor wants him (remember the small pool everyone recruits from)?  You know, the one who later left your company for the “better” opportunity that popped up. Or the guy you terminated because he “just didn’t pan out”.  Are you one of these businesses? 

Maybe you’ve experienced it from the employee perspective and observed first hand the spin of your company door.  As you watched employee turnover rise then you probably also noticed how it negatively affected your business on the front line from morale, chemistry and even loss of customers. Why is it that, with all the training seminars, certifications, and the other means of education, I still hear how difficult it is to find “good people”?  

Companies provide all kinds of opportunities to add another couple of letters beside your name, but it often seems like a wasted investment. I’m not saying don’t educate your staff.  Training and development is a huge component of success, but prior to that, you must ensure your new hires have one very important thing.  But first, let me show you some of the frequent mistakes made during recruit and developing new staff. 

If I work in the fitness industry and I’m educating a Personal Trainer about Exercise Science…Is that going to help him succeed?  Many of you are saying, “of course, it will make him more knowledgeable!”  Duh, knowledge is power.  Right? 

I disagree (stay with me here).

Although it’s useful information, it’s not the main skill set or responsibility of the trainer.  What will the trainer do if he doesn’t have the opportunity to apply his newly acquired knowledge?  What if he struggles to gain clients because all he talks about is what he knows?  As the saying goes, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

What if his clients don’t come consistently because he doesn’t know how to engage them and keep them motivated?  Are the educational classes on Biomechanics going to help him with the personality traits he needs to change human behavior?  The most important skill a trainer must have! 

One more...what if he has trouble applying the knowledge or he can’t keep clients because he can’t get results?  Why would this happen?  

Because it’s not knowledge that’s power, it’s the application of knowledge that’s powerful. 

Think about it…how come many star athletes fail as coaches?  They know the game better than anyone, they experienced it first hand.  It’s not the knowledge.  

Or try this one…how many really smart people do you know?  How many of them are powerful?  Probably a small percentage. So if it’s not the credentials you look for in a recruit, what should you look for to find the future standouts you need?

What Should You Look For When Hiring?

Warren Buffet would bet on character more than credentials.  At a recent speaking event, Buffet spoke to a group of MBA students on valuable things that go untaught in business schools.  During the speech, Buffet posed the following question: “If you could own 10% of the future earnings of any one of your classmates, whose stock would you buy?

Buffet believes you wouldn’t pick the classmate with the highest grades, or the smartest person, as anyone in class would be smart enough for a quality investment (ie, the small pool again).  Instead, he feels you’d choose the classmate with personal qualities you most admire: the person who is most generous, honest, and authentic.  The one everyone wants to work with, the one you’re all attracted to. 

He then flipped the mindset of the room by asking, “if you’re going to short someone’s future, how would you make that choice?”  Like previously, it wouldn’t necessarily be the student with the lowest GPA or the worst test scores, you’d likely pick the person whose attributes were most unattractive – the one with the lack of integrity, the bloated ego, disregard for ethics and/or others’ feelings, and a non-team player.  So if it’s not credentials, what is it? 


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Character is higher then intellect.  A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”  

It’s that great soul I look for when I’m turning around a business.  

In business today, the only consistent is change.  People with character are consistent through change and selecting a person who owns the values and skills that work in any environment is not only more effective, but much cheaper then a brand name MBA recruit. 

During my recruiting process, I have selected both character and credentials and I can tell you through the years my preference has swayed to one side.  Now during interviews, I often have this Jon Luther quote near by, “Character is more to be praised than outstanding talent.  Most talents are to some extent a gift.  Good character, by contrast, is not given to us.  We have to build it piece by piece by thought, choice, courage, and determination.” 

I use this as a reminder of all the amazing things my previous recruits and new hires did to help me rebuild, start, and grow very successful businesses.  Keep that in mind when you’re recruiting new talent, sifting through hundreds of resumes and interviewing someone to fill a key role. What will you look for?  Brand names?  Titles?  If you look for credentials, look for THE credential.  Character.

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