There isn’t really a science to finding the right people for your business. It’s a process with wins and pitfalls, like most others. Finding the balance between demonstrated skill and work experience, and desirable character and personality traits, is at the heart of finding and hiring the best people for your business. Small business, in particular, relies on hiring the right people to succeed. While determining the transferability of a candidate’s skills and experience is a measurable task, it only yields an incomplete picture of the kind of person you may be hiring. Anthony K. Tjan, leadership author and CEO of the venture capital firm Cue Ball, which specializes in people potential, recognizes the value in accounting for a candidate’s credentials, but believes that they miss “the ‘softer’ and more nuanced intrinsic (qualities) that are far more defining of a person’s character.” He summates with a familiar concept: “You can teach skills; character and attitude, not so much.” Identifying character is an entirely intuitive process, especially with only a limited interaction with a person. Tjan, through a career of trying to find the perfect blend of elements for great people results, believes the process is founded on “one-on-one contact, attentive listening, and careful observations.” These 10 questions can help you cue your intuition when gathering information on a potential candidate:
1. What is the talk-to-listen ratio? Confidence and self-expression are great, but if this ratio is greater than 60%, it’s important to ask why. Is it just nerves, or a symptom of a larger issue?
2. Is this an energy-giver or -taker? We’ve all been in the company of those who carry a negative energy about them, and those whose air is positive and optimistic. The best way to get energy is to give it.
3. Is this person likely to “act” or “react” to a task? Certain people will become defensive and critical when given a new task; others immediately begin problem-solving. It’s obvious which is preferred.
4. Does this person feel authentic or obsequious? A candidate who is able to just be his or herself will win out over a flatterer in the long run, it’s just a matter of recognizing the difference in real-time.
5. What’s the spouse like? An interesting, and perhaps unexpected approach to hiring. As Tjan articulates, “We are known by the company we keep.”
6. How does this person treat someone she doesn’t know? Observing how a potential candidate treats a person he or she barely knows can yield great insight into the kind of person he or she is.
7. Is there an element of struggle in the person’s history? From Tjan’s own research, he found that “early failures and hardships shape one’s character as much or more than early successes.”
8. What has this person been reading? Reading is a great way of sparking new ideas, framing concepts, and altering perspectives. The most interesting people are often dedicated and varied readers.
9. Would you ever want to go on a long car ride with this person? Could you see yourself spending a long, uninterrupted time with this person? If so, why? And if not, why not?
10. Do you believe that this person is self-aware? Self-awareness is the most important pre-requisite to great leadership, Tjan believes. “It is usually a more difficult question to answer than the rest,” he says,
“But look for humility, and congruence between what the person thinks, says, and does.” These questions are a framework by which to become a better judge of character, which can only help to elevate your business in unforeseen ways.