What to Look For When Hiring


I was listening to a startup school podcast the other day and Pete Koomen, the founder of Optimize.ly was on. There was a discussion about early hiring that stuck with me.

Pete talked about a few of his early hires being unorthodox, in the sense that their background wasn’t what you expected — yet they crushed it.

When he went about building a sales function, he hired a sales guy with what looked like the perfect background. But, it just didn’t really work out.

After that, he hired a guy based on a referral from an investor. It was a lacrosse buddy of the investor and that person was running a struggling mattress company with little tech experience. They took a risk and put him on a 12 week contract.

That risk paid off. The new hire had something perhaps as, or more important than experience. He was willing to learn and was incredibly determined. Slowly he started crushing it and today he runs their European operations.

Their highest grossing sales person today? A retired ballet dancer.

Now, I’m not saying that the best people to hire are the most unorthodox. There are times when experience absolutely needs to be there and other times when it’s more appropriate to take a risk.

The point is, there are certain qualities to look for in people that can count for more than experience. Or put another way, if someone with experience doesn’t have these things, someone that does and lacks experience normally always outperforms.

What are they?

Being resourceful. A good problem solver. Being determined. Perseverance. Not having an ego. Ability to persuade and influence others. Being likeable. A very high work ethic.

Honestly, these type of people are a bit like gold dust. Maybe one in a hundred?

But when you find one, it can transform your business. In the early days, hiring a few of these can literally make it or break it. In fact, hiring none of them probably will break it.

It’s worth thinking about this as you hire. Don’t be drawn in by experience alone. Look for these other qualities. Ask questions that try and shine a light on this type of stuff. Put people on trials and look at how they work and get on with others.

Lastly, whilst we’re on the subject of hiring. This might be the best article out there — How to hire by Sam Altman.


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