ATTENTION LEADER: Hiring is the Most Important Thing You Do

January 19, 2014 | Posted in Leadership | By

As a leader, you are only as influential and effective as the team that you have around you. Deciding who gets into your department, as well as what they do, and how far they go, is completely up to the leader. For the leader, hiring is the most important thing you will do!

This past weekend I spent 19 hours in the car driving from Dallas, Texas onto Pittsburgh, PA. During this time, I had a lot of time to think and reflect on this past week. One specific experience that came to mind was a great interview I had with a young DBU student named Bree. We were considering Bree for a part-time student worker position in our International Office.

Bree was well-spoken, warm-hearted, and energetic. Bree’s happy attitude and positive character was contagious. I left the interview feeling encouraged to finish the rest of my day. I remember thinking; this is the type of person I want to have on our international team.

As I drove through Memphis, Tennessee I remember thinking about how important it is for a leader to create a good team around them. I remember the words of Dr. Stephen Mansfield, President and CEO of Methodist Health System in Dallas, who said that as a leader, “You are the Keeper of the Culture”.

When you hire great people, and they get into the right place, wonderful things can happen. In contrast, when you do not hire great people, and you don’t get them into the right place, then disaster is possible. So, it’s important that you take time and care through the interview process.


Over the years, there are a couple of important items that I think about when making a hiring decision:

1)    Hire for Character first, Energy second and Competence third.

You may have heard this in different ways and possibly even in the reverse order. I have found that hiring for character first, energy level second and competency third is the best criteria to hire new team members. You can teach a smart, determined, energetic person anything. However, character traits such as honestly, trust, hard work, and empowerment are incredibly difficult to create in another person. It is best that your hires embody strong character traits first and have a strong, positive energy level second.

I am not saying that your hiring decisions should not be competent. In fact, I think the contrary, if you are hiring for your “A-team”, then each person should be extraordinarily competent. However, this should not be your first motivation.

2)    Will this person be a good fit for this position?

As we have discussed in previous blogs, a person’s skills/abilities, personality/behaviors and passions/desires really do come together in a unique way to form who a person is and ultimately points them totheir distinct purpose in life. During the interview process, it is up to you and the interviewee to determine if this position, department and company is a good fit.

As I get more and more experience in the hiring process, I have learned to use a variety of assessment tools such as the Myers-Briggs, DISC profile, Strength Finder and others to help answer the questions about a person’s character, energy and competencies. I have listed many of these assessments tools that I have used in our Finding Purpose section of this website.

With all of these assessments, as well as the interview questions I ask, I am looking to feel confident that this person might be a good fit for the position they are interviewing.

At the end of the day, this is where the “art of leadership” comes in. It’s about using your discernment, based upon the interview questions, assessments and “gut feeling” to make the best hiring decision possible. In the end, if you have a good team, you will see pretty quickly whether the person is a good fit or not.

3)    Will this person make your team better or worse?

This is great question to ask; does bringing this person onto your team make it better or worse? In order to answer this question, it is important to include your team members in the interview process.

During this time, have 1 or 2 of your “star” team members meet with the potential candidate. I suggest this take place at the second or last interview. Sit back and watch the interaction between the job candidate and your team members. Watch the interactions, the energy level, and the progression of conversation. You are looking to see if new ideas, positive conversations and chemistry forms with everyone.

This will not only insure you are potentially hiring a good candidate who will connect with your team, but also further encourages ownership from your current team with the new employee you are bringing on board.

4)    Will this person be encouraged to develop at a personal and professional level by this position?

Part of putting people in the right place is also about seeing to their personal development and professional growth. As you hire, you will want to be sure that your interviewee has the potential to grow and develop in a positive way based on their experience in your department or company.

Remember, in order to thrive at work, people need two things (1) a sense of learning or growing and (2) a feeling of being energized and vital about what they are doing. We all need to make sure our hires can thrive at work and have valuable tasks which will usually lead to opportunities for personal growth and professional development.

During the interview process, I will usually ask questions like “What do you see yourself doing in 10 years from now.” The purpose of this question is to (1) learn where the person sees themselves, and to make sure there is purpose in job they are interviewing for and (2) learn their personal vision and ideas for their future. When people have purpose in their job, or a set of activities that hold consistent value, as well as positive ideas for their future, they tend to be happier and perform to higher levels.

It is all about creating a great team. Great leaders build great teams of people who share the organization’s vision, see value and benefit in the work they do, and possess the energy to carry it out.

Remember, you are the keeper of the culture. So, make the culture great with hiring and developing great people!

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