A case for the non-obvious hire

A case for the non-obvious hire

Early in my career, I was searching for a hands-on IT pro to support a migration from a single desktop to a fully-networked, SAP-enabled location. The HR director led the search, and we interviewed several candidates. We had a difference of opinion on the final two. He wanted the candidate with the traditional resume. I landed at the commercial bank teller with self-taught IT skills. Through sheer force of will, the bank teller joined the team.

Over the next two years, he did everything we asked and more, including building a skilled staff. He was passionate, collaborative, exacting, resilient, flexible, and capable. I fought for three richly-deserved raises in an 18-month period, and he was grateful.

I eventually told him that I had run up against the compensation wall and could do no more in that area. I recommended he update his resume and get it into circulation. I offered to be a reference. Doing anything else would limit his potential and, because he was a loyal guy, he would have stayed too long. He quickly found a role with SAP in South America and ended up starting his own company.

People like him are a privilege to lead.

In a world of bots and algorithms dominating the candidate screening process, this bank teller with promising, but unproven, IT skills would be unlikely to clear the first filter. Artificial intelligence would have missed his passion and potential. Natural intelligence caught it.

Artificial intelligence would have missed his passion and potential. Natural intelligence caught it.

We were fortunate to find this needle in a haystack in rural southern Illinois. It taught me to look beyond the obvious to solve a problem. It reminded me that we all get breaks along the way, often unexpectedly and beyond any reasonable expectation. Someone noticed us and cared enough to engage and help.

Savvy leaders challenge the selection process to make sure the best candidates do not end up on the editing room floor. They administer assessments, knowing they are a better indicator of potential success than interviews. However, they also make sure a diverse group of people make it to the test in the first place.

Other things to consider:

1. Ponder the mindset and potential of a non-obvious candidate who has the guts to apply for a position for which they have more passion than past.

2. Evaluate whether that person will show up every day with a chip on their shoulder, eager to give you their best.

3. Consider the people you know that followed a serpentine path to their current role. Maybe you are in that category. You killed it, but what if nobody gave you a chance to display your talents?

4. Expand the position description and recruiting to cast a wider net focused on critical reasoning, blue-collar work ethic, and shared values. Come up with your list that helps fill in the gaps in your team makeup.

5. You may delegate the hiring work to HR and minimize your effort in the recruiting, but the candidates who are sourced and hired will either help the organization win or hold it, and you, back. How involved are you? How involved should you be? How involved will you be?

Recruit for heart. Recruit for guts. Recruit for attitude. Provide the training and coaching to develop aptitude. As you do, you are building a better team. Get out of the way and watch them run.