"Stop Looking for Unicorns" - Hiring The Right People For Your Team banner image

"Stop Looking for Unicorns" - Hiring The Right People For Your Team

Hiring someone from your team is not unlike the dating world.

Pretend you are a manager, and you’ve just received approval to add someone to your growing team. Maybe it seems as though you have infinite possibilities. Maybe you are feeling bold; you know you work for a great company, and it will attract a multitude of fantastic candidates. Maybe it’s a little intimidating; where do you begin? Maybe you think you have a “type,” but perhaps you need to expand your horizons a bit.

The success of your team - and ultimately your company - is dependant on the people you hire. You might have an excellent product or service, and financially you might be thriving. However, hiring even just one bad person can taint the entire team’s productivity and success.

While there is no magic formula to ensuring you nail this every single time, there are a number of critical factors that can aid you in stacking the decks in your favor. Hint: put culture fit and passion to join your mission at the top of the list.

The business world has long discussed the desire to find the mystical unicorn as a metaphor for identifying exceptionally hard to find talent. No wonder hiring managers aren’t having success; unicorns don’t exist. Instead, look for sea otters.*

My advice is to seek out people who have the “magical” combination of skill balanced with a phenomenal attitude (e.g. they genuinely believe in the mission of your company and are passionate about what you deliver), aptitude (the ability to learn, grow and develop), and culture fit. Note: by culture fit, I don’t mean, “Hey, I’d have a beer with this guy. He’s cool.” I mean they believe and embody the unique values of your company.

Many companies list these as part of their articulated core values. For me, they are barriers to entry. In others words, skills can be taught, but a curious nature is most often completely intrinsic. In today’s world, it’s not the resume a candidate enters a company with that is going to fuel success -  it’s their inherent desire to learn and ask questions that’s going to fuel impact.

As a candidate, partner these traits with the willingness to be flexible in your approach to new roles and you are quickly making yourself both stand out and be incredibly valuable. Why? The world around us is changing at lightening speed. While there might be some comfort in trying to control your world and have all the answers, you’ll quickly find yourself an endangered species.

For hiring managers: if you have any interest in hiring people who will scale and grow with your team, these attributes are imperative.  

Look for people who are passionate. About anything. Asking “Tell me about something you passion about?” is a simple barometer for how potential employees will approach their work. When they can’t come up with an answer, it’s a huge red flag for me. Passion helps people focus. It inspires creativity and innovation. It drives engagement. Generally speaking, it is the secret sauce of most people. Bonus: by asking this, you get the benefit of really getting to know a candidate and their motivators better in an interview process; a key necessity in being a strong manager.

The days of “posting and praying” are over. Meaning, writing a standard issue job description, posting it and hoping you get a bevy of qualified candidates is highly unlikely to net you the candidate of your dreams. Sure, your company’s recruiting team is responsible for finding good talent for you to consider, but think of them like a dating service. They might present you with options, but you ultimately have to do the hard work yourself to determine if there is really a good match. Rather than rely on others to find your perfect addition, put in some effort yourself. Go to where the type of person you are searching for congregates. Meet ups. Conferences. Asking through your own network. Get involved, and reap the rewards. Perhaps you meet people along the way that you don’t have a role for yet, but are great to stay in touch with for potential future spots. In other words, always be on the hunt for phenomenal people. Rarely in life do these people randomly cross our paths; we have to search out those we really want.  

Identifying and recruiting exceptional talent should be a top priority to every hiring manager. If you really just on what looks to be a stellar resume, you missing a large part of the equation. Just as long-term relationships rarely begin with Tinder, (no disrespect to this site -  it’s just intended to point to the surface level attributes of relying on what’s on a resume) great hires typically come from investing the time in truly understanding the key drivers and essence of each person.

*Why sea otters instead of unicorns? Because they are rare (and currently endangered), but if you look hard enough and create the right environment, you can find and nurture them. Don’t fancy sea otters?  Replace the unicorn with any rarely seen animal. Every company should be chock full of amazing talent; these people should be thriving, rather than exceptionally difficult to find and attract.

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.