Wednesday, April 13, 2016

An Indescribable Trait that Makes the Best Employees

I was talking with a group of people representing four different organizations last week. The conversation was sparked by one of them saying that they had a theory about hiring people that had worked in the restaurant business. They liked hiring them because they knew how to hustle and how to treat people right. (I, of course, like this theory since my first job was serving tables.)

That led us to talking about what we look for when hiring employees. What followed was really interesting. One of the people there said the best way he can describe what he looks for is "spirit." He is looking to fill a job right now, they had 112 applicants and they have narrowed the search down to 2. The reason they ended up on these two? Spirit.

Another person said that what they are looking for is "legitimacy." Will others look at this person when they are working with them and think they are legitimate? Do they bring a presence that is legit?

Yet another said he wanted someone with emotional intelligence. Someone who could recognize how others around them are feeling and react appropriately.

The thing that I have always looked for is twofold. The first I call the "normal person" concept. I just want a normal person. I don't want to work with someone and after they are done talking to me think to myself "what the hell are you talking about?" I need them to be a normal person. Tina Fey shed some light on my principle in her book Bossy Pants. She said that when she was hiring writers for SNL that she would ask herself if she would want to be stuck in a break room with them at 3:00 in the morning eating dinner together. If she answered yes, they would likely be a good hire.

I don't want to be stuck at work with people I don't want to have lunch with. I prefer to have normal people around me. Is that too much to ask?

The second part of my preference is zest or infectiousness. Do they have that thing that really makes me want to be around them? I've never known exactly how to describe it, but I know it when I see it.

I thought it was really interesting that each of us in our group last week were essentially looking for a very similar and hard-to-describe quality. There is an emotional quality inside people that we know translates into successful employees.

We each had a different word for it, zest, spirit, emotional intelligence, legitimacy.

There are lots of other traits that employees need to be successful. (Problem solving, pattern recognition, attention to detail, etc.) but that zest or spirit really puts people over the top.

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