Hiring: What Top Executives Look For

Back in 2011, I moved out to Washington DC without a job. Probably not the smartest idea, but I have no regrets. In fact, when I would tell people my story, I found that I wasn’t the only one. Most of the DC metro area single population at the time, picked up and moved here in search for opportunities. After pushing myself beyond my limits and doing everything I could to find my dream job in the education world, I realized something very important about the persons I was interviewing with: they were looking for something specific, and what they were looking for cannot be defined.

I remember talking to my dad about the job search and he said that hiring decisions are all about the credential, the work experience, and the skills. I argued that he was an engineer, therefore when he was going through the job hunt, his employers were looking for credentials, work experiences and skills. I was going into a social science, something that required more than experience, but required passion, and personality. He disagreed, and continues to disagree. In a competitive market that is changing, there are fields that require different things when making hiring decisions.

The BBC article, Hire Smart: What Three Top Executives Seek, looks at three top executives including:

  • Richard Branson, Founder at Virgin Group
  • Charlene Li, Founder and Partner at Altimeter Group
  • Tony Fernandes, Group CEO at AirAsia

Not to steal the articles thunder, but there are a couple of quotes I found interesting when it comes to making hiring decisions.

“”The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner,” Branson wrote.”

“”The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust,” Li wrote, adding that she would rather know that the company is no longer a fit for someone “months ahead of time so that we can not only plan a transition, but also so that we can support them with referrals and recommendations.””

“”Education is important and skills are useful — but can be taught — he wrote. “Passion, on the other hand, is much harder to instil. Often, you either have it or you don’t. And that can make or break a business,” wrote Fernandes.”

My Takeaways

  • Interviewing for a job is like dating. Not only does a future employee need to have the skills, but they need to have the personality and passion in order to be asked out a second time.
  • Traditional thinking that an employee is going to stay forever is an idea of the past. Employers should look at how their future employee will reach their full capacity given high turnover trends, which can be expected with such a go-go-go and ADHD culture. The generations Y,X, 01s+ get bored fast. Employers should look at what skills they can leverage now, and how they should help employees achieve these goals in short spurts of time and advance them where they can.
  • Being innovative almost trumps credentials. My brother keeps sending me links of people telling their ‘drop out of school’ stories in order to start their own businesses. While I completely disagree with those decisions, it seems like society is becoming more accepting of persons who lack certain skills but who are innovative, imaginative, and have drive and stamina. While I still maintain that education is KEY to success, I understand that there are ‘exceptions’ to the rule. If you want to be the exception, be the exception, and prove it during your interview and when you get that job.