Labor can account for upwards of 70% of total business costs when you add everything up—salary, benefits, etc. The process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring can take a toll on a company. For these reasons, it’s important when you hire to get the right person for the job.
I spent 25 years working in finance prior to starting a new career in the non-profit sector. Throughout my years of working internationally, I’ve interviewed and hired hundreds of applicants from all different cultures with unique skill sets and I’ve learned a few things about what to look for when building teams.
You Don’t Need a Large Team, Just the Right Team
I’ve been lucky in business and I’ve been able to surround myself with good people. When I first arrived as the CEO of the non-profit organization I currently lead, there were things needing to be fixed.
First of all, there were problems with how the needs of the communities it was designed to serve were being met. Additionally, it wasn’t fully leveraging technology, had experienced quite a bit of turnover at the top and its payroll was high, especially so for a charity entrusted with disbursement of resources gifted by the general public so as to meet a societal need.
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work right away on fixing problems. That included taking a hard look at the organization’s positions and the people who filled them. I’m proud to say that we were able to streamline our staff by over two-thirds, taking it down to a lean but efficient team. In short, today we have far less people, but they are the right people.
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Look for Character First
Don’t get me wrong. Skills and education are important. But the number one thing I look for in a candidate is character. Everything else is malleable. The ability to look your candidate in the eye across the table and recognize true character, behavior and morals is essential to successful hiring.
People get enamored by a candidate who interviews well and has an amazing resume. But then, when it doesn’t work out, they wonder why it didn’t work. It comes down to the core of who that person is. There are things you just can’t test in an interview. You need to know who they are and how they treat people.
For me, I observe the way someone treats the people around her or him–bosses, peers, subordinates, strangers. If someone treats everyone at an organization and its environment in ways indicative of respect and recognition of value, it shows true character. In business and in life, how you treat people is the most important thing. In my eyes, it far outranks the value of even an Ivy League education.
Build a Diverse Team
I really can’t stress this point enough. To be successful, it’s essential to build a diverse team. When you bring a team together with varied representation, with members of different genders, ages and ethnicities, you are ensuring that your team has a wide variety of mindsets, worldviews and ideas.
In business, government and the “third sector” of non-profit work, the communities and customers we serve are often a very diverse group. How can we hope to serve them well if we don’t have internal representation that similarly reflects non-homogenous viewpoints and experiences?
Many businesses shy away from diversity, but it’s a huge mistake. One of the reasons I have such a successful small team who can accomplish more than many larger ones is because we have voices that represent different interests. We have a better understanding of what our community needs from us.
Hiring a team of people who genuinely care about other people and have a passion for the work they do is always going to trump a top degree and an amazing resume. Is it possible to find talent with both? Absolutely. But if you look for character first, you’ll always make the right hire.