The Secret to Breakout Hires

The best people I hired didn't fit a mold--that's what made them so great.

I've written about my worst hire, an experience I hope I'll never forget. But what about the best ones? What can I remember and learn from those? The truth is that they were hired for different reasons in various ways but, taken together, offer some guiding principles. Here's what they all had in common.

Openness to new experiences. Several of my best hires had never done what they were being hired for. They had experience and expertise that was relevant but the new job would clearly stretch and challenge them. They weren't, therefore, obvious shoo-ins but wanted to learn new skills. In retrospect I can see that their eagerness to experiment and take risks was what made them great. Energy. All my best hires had stamina and enthusiasm. That didn't make them sloppy or slapdash; it did ensure that when the going got rough (which it regularly did), they hunkered down and did the work. Other people argued for them. Some of my best hires weren't my first choices. I was made to hire them because others advocated for them so fiercely. That they could inspire this kind of enthusiasm spoke volumes. They weren't safe bets. They didn't have spectacular resumes, the kind of track record that suggested they had always done what the world expected them to do. In many cases, their resumes had big gaps and weird shifts. These people had carved their own paths. They were extremists. Work for them was not just a job, it was an existential form of self-expression. This goes way beyond engagement. Doing a great job was what made them feel alive.

Thinking about these brilliant men and women is the only thing that makes me wish I still ran a business. I gave them a job; they gave me a reason to come to work.

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