hiring

As the old saying goes, you’re only as good as the people around you. For CEOs, it’s vital to build a high-quality, hard-working support staff. From top managers and human resources on down, business leaders that keep their hands in hiring can help mold the best possible group to carry out their vision.

Here’s a look at how CEOs can tackle the challenging — yet potentially rewarding — art of hiring.

Be involved

How involved should CEOs be in hiring? Some will want to be knee-deep in the process, some might just want to stay informed. Lisa Falzone, CEO of Revel Systems, explains how she handles it a story for Entrepreneur.

“I opt for an active role in our hiring process, which includes interviewing all candidates, because it ensures an open line of communication between HR and myself,” she says. “It also helps managers understand what the company needs as far as culture is concerned — I can communicate to them what sort of candidates we are looking for, and who would be the best fit. Although this style may not be for all CEOs (and, indeed, company size also plays a major role), I find that having the opportunity to meet each and every candidate helps build a lasting and well-qualified team, which in turn leads to a stronger foundation for the company.”

Start over on the job description

When an employee leaves a company, the hiring process usually begins with dusting off the old job description. There may have been changes to the role or to the business itself that requires some updating or tweaking. In a story for vistage.com, Drew Fortin recommends scrapping that altogether, and rethinking and rebuilding the job description.

“Before posting a job description, think beyond the briefcase (skills and experience) and focus on the traits you’d want someone in that role to be hardwired with,” he says. “We’re talking about the behavior and cognitive ability needed to succeed in the role AND in your organization. Then, write a job ad from scratch in the voice and personality of the person you are looking to hire. … You will find that candidates will naturally weed themselves out if the description doesn’t resonate with them.”

Think different

CEOs might be inclined to hire people who appear to be like-minded in many ways. But it can be wise to think outside of that box. It’s still possible to seek high-achieving, hard-working employees when hiring someone who doesn’t fit the typical mold. Henry Ward, CEO of eShares, examined this in a story for medium.com. As he explains, these employees can help expand the business culture.

“Hiring similar means we value repeatability and efficiency over creativity and leverage,” Ward says. “Hiring different brings new skills, paradigms, and ideas which are the sparks and tinder of leverage. They expand our Venn diagram rather than contract it. I can’t stress this enough. You will naturally want to hire people you ‘connect’ with. Fight your instincts. Hire different.”

Look for learners

CEOs will naturally want to hire people with expertise. Just as important is a desire to keep learning and growing. As Ward acknowledges, there is a need to be “an expert at something,” but he notes that “the velocity of change at eShares is so high that static expertise quickly becomes obsolete.”

“To survive and grow we must be a learning organization,” he writes. “And that means we need people who are awesome at learning. As Paul Graham says, ‘When experts are wrong it is often because they are experts on an earlier version of the world.’ The clearest signal of a learner is curiosity. Curious people, by definition, love to learn. While experts talk about what they know, the curious talk about what they don’t know. When you interview, verify expertise by discovering strengths. And then look for curiosity.”

Promote the culture

The environment, communication and overall morale of an office come into play when talking about a business’ culture. A good working culture can be a primary reason why employees don’t want to leave, and a major boost in getting people on board. As Falzone writes, having a full understanding of the culture can pay off in the hiring process.

“As an executive, having that clear idea of your company’s culture should help you build a team that’s in-line with your vision,” she says. “Once you’ve decided on your particular company’s culture and values, make them known to all current and prospective hires. We include our values on our website, giving potential hires the opportunity to evaluate for themselves whether or not they may be a good match. And, one of the first steps in our hiring process is for job candidates to complete a set of ‘culture’ questions which determine whether or not they’re a good fit.”

Avoid the ego

High performers can have high opinions of themselves. A CEO should be able to get a feel for a candidate’s ego through the interview process. If there are signals of a significant ego, consider that a potential red flag. As Ward writes in his Medium piece, “Confidence and ego are opposites.”

“Modesty and humility are traits of the strong,” he says. “Ego and arrogance is a disease of the weak and insecure. The truly confident don’t need people to know they are great. They are happy to know it themselves. And the truly great use their greatness to make those around them greater.”

The bottom line for Ward: “Always pass on ego. Always.”

Avoid ‘a bunch of sheep’

It may be unlikely for CEOs to actively seek a job candidate to disagree with them. But as this Fast Company story examines, there are benefits to having employees that aren’t afraid to challenge the boss. “The initial act of founding a company is an expression of nonconformity,” the story says. “They must eventually convince others to join them, internalize that vision, and will it into reality. But isn’t it counterintuitive to bring other originals — who may buck their ideas — into the fold?”

Author and Wharton professor Adam Grant is featured in the story: “It’s true that every leader needs followers. We can’t all be nonconformists at every moment, but conformity is dangerous — especially for an entity in formation. If you don’t hire originals, you run the risk of people disagreeing but not voicing their dissent. You want people who choose to follow because they genuinely believe in ideas, not because they’re afraid to be punished if they don’t. For startups, there’s so much pivoting that’s required that if you have a bunch of sheep, you’re in bad shape.”

Shoot for the stars

Here’s a big quote from a big-time businessman, Mark Zuckerberg: “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person. I think this rule has served me pretty well.”

The Facebook founder targets top performers, and he welcomes the best. Granted, the billionaire has reached such a lofty status that he doesn’t necessarily have the worries of most business leaders. But his ability to acknowledge talents other than his own has merit. Here’s how Nicole Fallon describes it in a story for Business News Daily: “Zuckerberg’s approach to hiring shows that he’s humble enough to listen to and take advice from his employees, regardless of their rank. As a boss, it’s your job to not only guide your staff, but also identify those who can one day lead alongside you, or even fill your role as you move up. Seeking out employees with a knack for leadership and sound judgment can only help you as your team grows in the future.”