By Jim Sobeck
When you are hiring, what do you look for? Most people generally answer, “experience in my business.” Most hiring managers make the job offer to the person with the most experience, but I know from experience that isn’t the best way to hire.
When I first had to hire people, the main thing I looked for was experience. This caused me to make a lot of bad hires. Many of them had experience but didn’t work out for various reasons — lack of people skills, job hopping, drinking or drug problems, excessive tardiness, couldn’t get along with coworkers, etc.
I was very frustrated with my poor batting average until I went to a seminar on hiring conducted by Bill Lee of Lee Resources of Greenville. Bill talked about the TEC method of hiring: talent, experience and chemistry. If you find someone that has those three things you should hire that person, Bill said.
However, if you can’t find a person that has all three, the first thing you should compromise on is experience. Experience can be gained, but you can’t teach talent or chemistry, Bill said. So, if you can’t find a person that has everything you’re looking for, but you can find a person that has talent and with whom you have great chemistry, hire that person.
I have found this to be very true. We have all come across a waitress, an airline ticket agent or a sales clerk who has a magnetic personality. When you find someone like that, snatch him or her up (unless you are filling a highly technical position) because, especially in sales, people like that do extremely well, much better than people with loads of experience but dour personalities.
At another conference I attended, the keynote speaker was the late Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines. While most airline companies lost money most years, at that time, Southwest never had a losing year. In fact, their market capitalization was more than every other publicly traded airline combined.
Why is that? Well, if you responded that they hedge fuel costs in the futures market, and that shelters them from the wild fluctuations in the price of aviation fuel, you would be partially right. But Herb said the main reason for this exemplary track record is the great people they hire. When they interview for open positions, he said, the main thing they look for is people with great attitudes. They don’t care what their background is; they only care about whether they exhibit a great attitude.
Now, immediately after an interview, when my feelings are fresh in my mind, I rate the candidates on a 1-10 scale in terms of:
- Sense of humor
- Fun to be around
- Enjoyable to interview
- Preparation for interview (had questions and notes written down for interview)
- Good listener or interrupted a lot?
- Concise answers or long rambling ones?
Hiring based on attitude made a huge difference in my success rate with new hires. If you haven’t been hiring for attitude, give it a try and see how it works for you.
Jim Sobeck is CEO of New South Construction Supply, a building products distributor based in Greenville with nine locations in the Carolinas and Georgia. He is the author of ““The Real Business 101: Lessons From the Trenches.”