Attitude, enthusiasm, and good manners.
Lots of people are smart. Lots of people have gone to the right schools and have worked in the right jobs. Lots of people know how to answer when you ask how many tennis balls fit into a phone booth or why railroads tracks are often built next to rivers (two favorite consulting interview questions I actually got years ago, meant to test analytic ability).
Attitude, to me, is a combination of humility, perseverance and a willingness to learn. So many smart people are taught that (a)They have all the answers; (b)They’ve been asking the right questions. The difference-makers understand that they’re good at a bunch of things and that they (everyone, really) have an awful lot to learn, often from the most surprising places.
Enthusiasm is about the energy you bring to tasks, big or small, about willingness to start things and see them through to the end. Plus it’s generally a lot more fun to be around enthusiastic people since their enthusiasm is contagious – so the spillover effects for the whole team are huge.
And good manners is a great proxy for being brought up right, for treating everyone around you with respect, for caring about the important things more than what’s on the surface. So much of life is about relationships, and someone who walks through the world with a respect that comes from a deep and genuine place will build those relationships successfully.
Sure, this isn’t the complete list of traits, but if any of them is missing, it’s probably a non-starter.
3 thoughts on “What do you look for when you hire?”
How do you determine these qualities in a short span? Wouldn’t your own instinct play a critical role in the process?
I actually feel like these qualities come across quite readily in a conversation – plus the correspondence before and after – if you’re looking for them.
I agree with Sasha that enthusiasm and good manners are easy to observe (e.g., What’s their demeanor? Do they show up on time — or early? Do they write you a thank you note for meeting?). I think attitude can be harder to discern, but you can assess it with questions such as, “Tell me about a project you ran that didn’t go well. What went wrong? What could you have done differently?” (And listen for whether they naturally reflect on their areas for improvement, what they have learned, and what they can still learn.)