Hiring for Passion

job-interview“Most of the time,” my friend said, “it’s not in the resume. It’s in the eyes.”

As a recruiter for a multinational professional services firm for the past decade, she had more experience than I’d have in three lifetimes, so I listened as she outlined her rather unorthodox hiring strategy.

“Hiring to fill vacancies is easy,” she said. “In fact, you can fill the same opening every year or more. There are usually lots of really well-qualified people looking for work. The problem is, they never stop looking: Without commitment, they come and go. They’re constantly ‘trading up’ for a better job, more benefits, a choicer location, and a bigger paycheck.” These folks account for the vast majority of job-seekers, she said.

I thought that view a bit jaded, perhaps. Over time, both employee and employer finger-point, accusing the other of just using the relationship for their own benefit.

“What you need to look for is passion for the industry and the unwavering pursuit of a realistic dream,” she told me. “People are more creative when they are passionate about their work, and everyone in an organization – from the shuttle driver to the general manager – ought to be creative.”

That creativity manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes, it is driven by interest, satisfaction, or a sense of personal challenge. Often, the candidate’s outside interests are telling: Is he a stamp-collector or a freestyle snowboarder? Is she a backyard gardener, or is she experimenting with cultivars? Not every risk-taker and adrenaline junkie will bring their creativity to the job, but these are nonetheless admirable traits.

People who look for multiple solutions to a problem, then implement the best rather than the easiest show actionable passion. These are the people you want on your team.

And, speaking of teams, these people don’t aspire to lead teams. They aspire to contribute. They understand that leadership is given, rather than something you take. Build the team, support the team, and leadership will be conveyed naturally.

Hiring the right people cannot be restricted to scoring a resume and a one-hour interview. Put time into the process and become familiar with potential hires as thoroughly as possible. Identifying and cultivating great potential starts before a position is available. Look for the fire in their eyes as they talk about the work, and listen for a deep desire to do something that hasn’t been done before.


Scott H. Lewis is managing director for Ukraine and the CIS for Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. He is the author of “60 Seconds to ‘Wow!’,” a book on presentation skills. An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.

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