10 Attributes Of An Extraordinary Hire

I’m in a new marketing leadership role, and am quickly building the team.

I prefer to hire proven stars that I’ve worked with before. Their probability of success is higher, and you cheat time by avoiding the laborious recruiting process, while activating someone intimate with your playbook.

When hiring former star colleagues is not possible, I scrutinize potential hires based on 10 criteria, no matter the role. These criteria do a good job of surfacing truth to make a good decision in the least amount of time:

  1. History of success. Forget the disclaimer that “past performance is no guarantee of future performance.”  When it comes to people, past performance and history of success is the absolute best predictor of future performance and success. This is what I first scan for on resumes.
  2. Intelligence. The world is changing, and technical skills become outdated quickly. What really matters is one’s intelligence, the ability to think critically and creatively, and the ability to learn quickly. These qualities empower people to solve complex problems.
  3. Curiosity. You have to be passionate about finding answers to how things work. That passion fuels your mental stamina to focus on complex problems, so you can understand them and find solutions. This is demonstrated by extended, dedicated work in specific subjects, as well as by the questions you ask in an interview.
  4. Decisiveness. Decisiveness tells a lot very quickly. Even small acts of decisiveness leading up to an interview reflects the level of interest you have in the position. Decisiveness also reflects a person’s ability to make decisions independently and then act on them. In addition to watching for small behavioral cues, I ask questions that probe into a candidate’s decisiveness.
  5. Temper. Business can be tough and stretch you to your limits. That requires calm and composure. Sure, interviewing can be strenuous or high stakes. But if you’re anxious or off, it creates uncertainty about your ability to perform in challenging situations. Red flag.
  6. Attitude. Someone’s positive or negative attitude is like oxygen versus poison to an organization. Positive attitudes correlate with personal success, which has a high impact on others.
  7. Skills. Very specific skills matter more in some professions than others, and they matter more with senior hires. However, I usually look at skills as proof that someone’s learned something technical. Those skills may be put to immediate use, or they may not.
  8. Chemistry. Is this candidate someone I’m willing to speak and be with more than my own wife? Will this person be best friends with the team and work well with the larger organization? Do I like this person a lot? That matters.
  9. Luck. I like people who feel they’re lucky and have the wind against their backs. Good things tend to happen to people with good vibes. So much of success is luck, in my opinion. So I ask people to rate their luck, and tell me why.
  10. References. I like speaking with a candidate’s former colleagues, particularly ones the candidate didn’t provide (meaning I found them on my own). I ask them to rate how willing they are to work with that candidate again. If they want to provide any color, that’s fine. But usually the rating alone tells me everything I need to know.



That’s my recipe for evaluating talent. It works.

What’s your recipe for talent?

4 comments about "10 Attributes Of An Extraordinary Hire".
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  1. Colin Cupp from Mochi Media, October 15, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.

    I loved the first 9 criteria on your list...and then I read #10 and was pretty disappointed you were giving this type of advice.

    This scenario happened to me a few years back, where a former colleague of mine was contacted without my knowledge...and both myself and my former colleague found it to be really unsettling. What if this person had ties to my current organization? This puts the candidate in a very vulnerable position.

    I firmly believe interviewers should be honest and forthcoming, particularly when it comes to people they might contact in your network. When they are not, THAT is a big red flag.

  2. David Greenwald from i2i Placement, October 15, 2013 at 2:29 p.m.

    I agree Colin, but here's the problem... sites like LinkedIn have lowered the walls and bearers on contacts and relationships and thus have made it much easier for people to reach out to each other at this level. This leads to the ability for anyone to contact just about anybody about anyone and consideration/thinking as you mention goes out the window as a result. That said, your point is well taken but I'm afraid that there is really nothing you or anyone can do about it other than think before they act and preface the reason for the call to someone with a sincere request for confidentiality with regard to the reason and content of the call. Then just hope that the person you called either agrees to speak in confidence or tells you that they are not comfortable with the conversation. What else can someone do? As a recruiter, I make candidates aware that this scenario and ability exists so they are at least knowledgeable of this tactic The back channel is real and readily available to anyone at any time, how do you suggest we avoid this situation other than this?

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network, October 15, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.

    I have to agree with Colin Cupp. #10 is very scary, and full of possible drawbacks. If the former colleague was not listed by the potential hire, there was probably a good reason. And if that contact has reason to sabotage the potential hire, does the interviewer honestly think that they are expert at reading between the lines? Unless the job involves actual security clearance issues, going outside the box when contacting past colleagues is way too close to an invasion of privacy for my taste. If I discovered that a potential employer did that, I'd give them the quickest "Thanks, but no thanks" they'd ever heard. Unless it was the NSA, State Department, the FBI or the like. In that case, it would be all "Yes sir, no sir. Is there anything else you'd like to know, sir?"

  4. Max Kalehoff from MAK, October 17, 2013 at 8:11 a.m.

    Of course #10 has to be handle with extreme discretion - and sometimes it may not be appropriate. That goes without saying. But we now live in a hyper-connected world of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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