frank's blog

Why I Hire People, Not Skills – great insight by David Cancel

Posted in blog, ideas, quality by aldorf on July 21, 2012

Companies change. Products evolve. Approaches get thrown out the window. The centrifugal force alone of that kind of rapid development is enough to throw anyone off center. Throughout my experience, one guiding rule on team building in fast-moving companies has emerged: hire people, not skills.

It can be tempting when you’re first growing to hire someone specifically to fill a gap in your company’s skillset. If you hire someone for skills alone, however, they may lose balance as the company grows, when those skills are no longer as central or get placed into a different context. Each time I have built a team, personal traits – not professional skills – have been what propelled the company forward.

So, what traits matter? The answer is going to vary by company and founder, but I look for the following:

Cultural Fit (45%)

Fit is arguably the most important of any qualification. Start-ups can be very hard, and they become impossible if you don’t love the people around you. Getting the culture right is critical. No matter how stellar a candidate’s skills are, if they don’t fit well with your team, it won’t work out for anyone involved. Be careful here though: fit should not signal conformity. You do not need 12 identical personalities. You need a mix of people with differing perspectives but shared values. You need at team that is cohesive because of its differences.

Scrappiness and Drive (35%)

At Performable, we include scrappiness in the job description. We seek out people who have toppled challenges with very limited resources. This is not just about being lean. It is about the character of the team. The four most powerful words coming from a new hire are: “I’ll figure it out.” Find someone who you can trust to say that and follow through on it, and you’ve found a true asset.

This kind of drive is different than traditional ambition. Ambitious people will succeed at any task laid before them. They will personally excel, quickly rising from manager to director to vice president. A scrappy person who is driven does not rely on titles or defined responsibilities. He or she will push the company forward even when no one’s looking. Driven people move through the responsibilities on their lists, but also keep a constant eye on how the company as a whole can do things smarter and better.

Intelligence and Experience (15% and 5%, respectively)

Intelligence and experience are valuable, but a scrappy person who fits well on the team can learn fast. In a start-up, jobs are always changing. So when you think about intelligence and experience, make sure you are thinking about it in terms of a genuine hunger to learn and level of life-experience that enables the candidate to easily adapt and evolve.

Discovering these traits in candidates may come down to a gut feeling for many, but some of it can be illuminated by carefully posed questions and by getting a candidate outside of the typical interview set-up. Whenever possible change the setting, meet candidates outside of the office, at events or out for coffee. Get them talking rather than answering. Find out what it is that makes them tick.

Website of David Cancel

About Finding Happiness at Work – Paul Isakson

Posted in ideas, inspiration by aldorf on April 26, 2011

Advice by Paul Isakson for figuring out the right agency for your next role.

This past Friday, Rob shared a good piece of advice for those considering joining a new agency. In particular, I like how he phrased this bit:

“… as much as working for one of the ‘cool agencies’ might sound great, it’s never as good as having a boss who will take you to places you didn’t even know existed.”

Having spent a good amount of time either talking to, or working with, several agencies over the last 18 months and recently taking on a new role, I have a similar point of view.

My recommended approach looks something like the above diagram—which is how I evaluated places to potentially join as I talked to them. The tricky thing here is that you have know yourself pretty well for this to truly work.

In other words, it won’t be easy. You’re going to have to do some deeper thinking and soul searching to determine your purpose and clearly understand what you value and believe.

Or, maybe you know that stuff already. In that case, it won’t be so hard.

As an aside, I think this is what the best recruiters in our industry do for us and for the agencies with whom they are trying to fill roles. But back to the point…

What this really comes down to is the people (at both the agency and the clients)—especially the agency’s leadership and the team(s) that you’ll work with every day. It’s the people that make a job either enjoyable or miserable. That doesn’t change no matter how “cool” the agency or brands you’re working for and/or on.

If you want to be happy in your work life, chose to work with and for great people.


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