The Four Attributes for Every New Hire (or How To Not Hire Jerk)
When interviewing Product Managers or Technical Architects, we rank candidates on three attributes: technical skill, general mental ability, leadership and personality.
We look for candidates who are great in product management or technical architecting. To find these people, we look more closely at how they analyze and resolve problems rather than how their various credentials or certifications read. We want people who won’t get stuck in trying to figure out the right answer, but instead, will go down multiple levels, outline multiple possible options and then recommend a practical solution. At the same time, if they are not checking all the boxes of technical areas, we would still like to consider them if they are bright, curious and willing to learn as within weeks of the hire they will close the gap, and have a much greater chance of adding value to the organization. We take the same approach for the industry experience. If you want to renew and re-energize your team, it’s smart not to hire people from the same industry. You’ve got to untrain them and then retrain them.
General Mental Ability
We look for bright, smart, intelligent people who demonstrate thinking skills and learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the run. It’s the ability to pull together contrasting pieces of information. People who are going to reinvent the work rather than someone who’s going to do what everybody else has been doing. We deep dive during the interview process to assess how they think, how they tackle and solved problems during a project, what impact did they make in the previous project and have they built a great team or set up a process for the organization? Their responses help us to understand how the candidate resolves problems and how they have learnt from their experiences.
We expect that over a program or project’s life cycle, different skills will be needed at different phases or periods, so various people will need to step into lead roles, contribute, and just as important roll off from the project once the need for their specific skills has passed. We don’t look for leaders who like to be heroes: who use “I” far more than “we” and focus more on what they have accomplished, rather than the team. An effective leader has willingness to step in and lead as well as step back and stop leading as soon as the crisis is over.
We look for professionals with personality traits like collaboration (working well with others), leadership (caring about a cause bigger than themselves), having fun (don’t take themselves too seriously), humility (acknowledgement to others for their contributions and desire to learn and improve), ownership ((work to completion acting like an owner), curiosity (comfort with ambiguity), and previous non-linear or interesting career path. All these traits are critical for a cultural fit of the organization.
One of the most important personality trait that personally stand out to me and which I like to focus is humility. Humility is the first filter in the interview process. Without humility, it’s difficult to learn and re-learn. Forward-looking companies reinvent. They don’t replicate someone else’s strategies. To be disruptive, a team must put aside preconceived notions and assumptions about doing things the “right way” and start designing new ways and keep open minds about the way forward. The first step to learning is accepting that we don’t know everything and that’s why humility becomes such an important attributes for all of our successful hires.
All four attributes, technical skills, general mental ability, leadership and personality are important for hiring the right person. If we have to make a choice, always hire for personality over skill set. Skills can be taught, but a personality is set in stone.