Imagine this scenario: Your company is hiring a new salesperson. You want a proven force, someone to come in and start converting leads from day one. It’s a tall task but not at all impossible and something many companies do every day.
You get a resume they love. Someone who has worked at increasingly large and better known companies. He had success early on and perhaps a little less success as he moved up. But that hardly seems a concern: His last position was managing sales for a brand everyone in his industry looks up to. Surely, he’s a shoo-in to come in and succeed as a new hire and bring a ton of knowledge from the larger brands to help your team.
You make him a big offer to match his resume, and he joins with much anticipation.
You can probably guess what happens next. He never lives up to the hype. The processes he brings with him just don’t fit your company. Culturally, something is off. He scuffles for a while, never hitting the goals you’d hoped for and moves elsewhere. It feels like a tremendous missed opportunity.
What happened? How do companies hire someone they expect to be a rockstar, who ends up a disappointing performer?
Focus on the Person
When making a hiring decision, especially as a startup, it’s easy to get caught up in the externalities — the companies you aspire to be like, some huge sales numbers, extraneous skills or a ton of experience. But those things don’t tell you why YOU need to hire THIS person right NOW.
I’ve learned to focus on the person 100 percent of the time. Loads of experience can result in someone being set in their ways. Huge past numbers might result in outlandish expectations of a new role, and might not have even been the result of their own work.
A more important criterion is to find people who have “it” no matter where they worked. Someone who’s flexible and moldable, who can adjust to a new situation. I ask myself: What is good putty? Who isn’t so stuck in their ways that they can adjust on the fly and achieve success now, with me?
It goes without saying that certain criteria like age and experience can be mandatory for leadership positions, and that can depend on the culture of a business. But I’ve had much more success trying to identify great people and helping them get to the next level.