Want to Hire Rock Stars? Here is What to Look for

I get asked a lot about what I look for in either a great technical hire or a great customer success hire.  Interestingly enough the technical skill level of hire while important is in my opinion secondary.   Yes, you want to hire people who already know what they are doing and show that competency in the role.   Possessing the right knowledge and background will help them be productive sooner, and you will get company value quicker.  But quick value is less critical then long-term sustained success and growth.  Ideally, you want someone who can both do the job quickly and can grow, but sometimes that is not an option.

Some of the best teams I have worked with in the past share the same qualities. They see problems they can fix, feel empowered to fix them, self-organize around a solution and solve those problems without a costly prolonged debate or by having to wait for management approval.

So what do you need to hire to build this kind of team?

  1.  Problem Solving Skills & the Ability to Think Critically:  Let’s be honest, in our industry, no one has a job where everything is well defined, and you do the same thing day in and day out.  Every day there is a new challenge.  Every day you are going to find a new problem that you have never seen before.  Your current education and skills are defined by your experiences if you never experienced something before how will you react?  This is, in my opinion, the most critical skill for both customer service manager’s (CSM) and technical engineers.  CSM’s will be faced with customer issues that are unique and require those problem-solving skills.  You need your CSM team empowered to make decisions and solve those customer problems without escalations.   The same thing applies in support and consulting roles.  Customers like to push the limits of technology and often run into unique and challenging issues.  You need customer facing people with the skills to solve these quickly.   If you have excellent problem-solving skills and can learn from your mistakes, you can quickly make up for any gap in book knowledge.
  2. Cultural Fit: There are a ton of books and blogs that talk about the importance of hiring for culture.   This is 100% true!  But I want to point out, you won’t be able to 100% maintain the same culture forever.  Every person you hire as an organization will change your culture.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Its the job of the hiring manager and the executive team to steer the culture towards the good.   Hiring a person or two who does not fit the culture can be toxic and have an immense impact on the company.
  3. Empathy and Teamwork:   You want people who work well as a team, help others, and work for shared success.   You want them to work with each other to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and compliment each other.
  4. Natural Teachers:  If you have people on your team who can not only solve new problems but can teach others how they solved ( other employees and the community as a whole), you have struck gold.  Sharing knowledge is part of a strong team, but being an effective educator while sharing that knowledge is more effective.
  5. Open, Honest, and Fearless: After 12 years working in Open Source, I can tell you that I am a firm believer in open culture.  You want employee’s who are not afraid to voice ideas, debate with the team and management, and of course always be thinking about how to make themselves, the company, and our customers better.  Of course, there is a fine line between being both rude and belligerent and having open constructive discussions and disagreements.  Being on the right side of this line is awesome.Now there are probably other skills that may jump onto this list depending on the job, but I find that these to be the most consistent traits and skills across different positions.

Categories: Organizational Insight

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