Tuesday, 05 March 2024 04:32

Want to hire good employees? Look for 4 positive work traits

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Hiring the wrong person is costly on every front: money, time, energy, and the well-being of your employees. Even if you hire the right people 90% of the time, one in ten new hires being the right people can create a ton of disastrous misalignment--especially at the senior level.

Brad Jacobs is a CEO and serial entrepreneur who has founded and led seven billion-dollar companies. In his book, How To Make a Few Billion Dollars, Jacobs explains the characteristics he looks for when hiring into world-class organizations, and what all leaders should look for when building their own teams.

"When I hire key people, I'm trying to achieve a two-part goal: accomplish big things and have fun doing it," Jacobs says. "There's nothing contradictory about this when you have the right people in place--and if you can do it at scale, you'll have an organization that can pursue big goals."

Jacobs explains that CEOs tend to get credit for the accomplishments of the teams they lead, but in reality, the most important thing a CEO does is recruit superlative people who have a specific combination of impressive traits, in addition to mastery over the skills required for their role. The four qualities Jacobs requires of each new hire, no matter their role, include:


Intelligence is a must-have, especially in multidimensional, evolving industries. Intelligent people look at problems as opportunities for improvement and are likelier to possess the creativity required to solve complex problems. Additionally, truly smart people are humble and open to learning from others. Rigid thinkers, at any level of intelligence, are less valuable to the team because they're mired in their own points of view. You want people who can think dialectically, which means they can think from multiple perspectives and reconcile streams of information that seem to flow in different directions.


Hungry people have tenacity and are motivated by big projects that require whatever it takes to succeed. They're resilient and don't give up when problems emerge. "My companies have always looked to hire people who actively enjoy an intense, results-oriented workplace culture, and aren't merely resigned to working hard," Jacobs says. "They want to work with us because we're giving them the chance to run hard at ambitious goals and reap significant rewards. One way I try to 'hire for hunger' is by assessing whether a potential employee has what it takes to thrive in a lean workplace. Slightly understaffed teams are generally more focused and spend less time doing redundant busywork. Those who have the right kind of hunger can do well in a high-performing environment."


The success of any company depends on its people doing what they say they'll do. The whole machine works better when a company's culture is defined by teamwork, which takes trust. Hiring trustworthy people makes it easy for those around them to focus on their jobs instead of constantly looking over their shoulders. It only takes one integrity-impaired person to disrupt a workplace, so it's far more efficient to filter that person out in the hiring process. "Most reputations for integrity come from the cumulative effect of someone doing what they say they'll do, and being straightforward in how they speak," Jacobs says. "These are the kinds of cues we look for as someone moves through the hiring process."


For Jacobs, it's a big deal that the people on his teams like one another. Work becomes more fun and more productive when it's with people who "bring up the vibe." Jacobs says that requiring collegiality from his teams is partly good business and it's partly selfish. "I want to make sure that the people around me are healthy influences in every sense of the word," Jacobs says. 

When hiring is done right, the effect on individual employees is powerful-- everywhere they turn, there's a teammate who makes them feel better about who they are and what they're doing. Everyone is happier, more energized, and the entire organization is more productive.



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