In his book How Google Works, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that hiring is the most important practice at any company.
I couldn’t agree more.
I founded and ran the cloud-accounting firm Interactive Accounting, and I am now the CEO and cofounder of Practice Ignition, a SaaS company with more than 30 employees. I’ve been through countless interviews and hundreds of employees. I’ve had excellent, good, bad, and dreadful employees. The excellent ones have taken the business to new heights, while the bad ones have actually moved us backward.
I’ve consolidated my learnings into four distinct things that I look for in a new hire. As an employer, you can use the following as a guideline for your own hiring. As someone looking for a meaningful career, you can use these points to improve your attractiveness to prospective employers.
1. Good Cultural Fit
While ability is malleable, cultural fit is not. People who aren’t a good fit end up performing poorly and negatively impact the people around them.
On the flip side, you can get the best out of people who are a good fit. Employees will put in the extra effort if they’re motivated by the atmosphere and culture.
Attitude is the deciding factor when it comes to culture for us. If you come in every day with a positive attitude, ready to tackle the day with some awesome people, you’ll probably fit in great.
I’m after people who are after more than just a paycheck. I want employees who believe in our mission and crave the opportunity to learn and grow with us.
People who don’t fit the team culturally end up leaving anyway. This makes it more costly to hire people without a good cultural fit.
None of these means that I look for people who are all the same. On the contrary, I look for a diverse mix of people. One of the key parts of our company’s cultural identity is that we embrace and celebrate diversity.
2. Exposure to the Software Stack
Software savvy has become one of the most important deciding factors in our hiring. We have 25+ different software subscriptions, so it’s important that our team members know how to use them.
This quality is not limited to developers. It’s equally important across the entire business – marketing, sales, and customer success. Software really has seeped into every aspect of our lives.
I’m not looking for a candidate to have mastery of specific software. Rather, I’m looking at their ability to teach themselves how to use software efficiently and their understanding of how software fits into the big picture. If you’re in sales, I don’t expect you to know every CRM out there, but I do expect you to know how you can leverage a CRM to improve your output.
The importance of being software-savvy is magnified for our business because we have offices around the globe. If you can’t communicate through video chat, email, calendars, and messaging apps there’s no way you’ll be able to succeed here.
3. Experience in Multiple Sectors
Since we’re a growing startup company – not an established enterprise corporation – we don’t have the luxury of hiring specialists for every part of the business. We need to make the most of our budget by hiring “T-shaped” candidates – that is, candidates who have a broad array of skills plus an in-depth specialized skill set in one or two areas.
We’re looking for people who can wear multiple hats. We need a salesperson who can help with operations. We need a marketer who can double as a customer success rep. We need a developer who can sell our product at events if needed.
The best way to find these people is to look for people with experience in multiple sectors. That demonstrates that they aren’t afraid to learn and dive in head first. We don’t expect you to be incredible at everything of course, but you should be willing to try.
4. Talent and Humility
It goes without saying, but we’re looking for talented individuals who are amazing at their job and proud of their work. At the end of the day, it is individual talent that gets the work done and grows the business.
Bonus points if you have data backing up your talent. Tell me if you increased sales by $500,000 at your last company, or if you reduced churn by 50 percent through a smarter email flow. Candidates who quantify their work through results as opposed to hours spent are the kind of people we’re looking for.
Being humble is a necessity as well. You can’t let your ego get in the way of progress, even if you’re super talented. Feel free to make mistakes – as long as you document and learn from them. If you’re too big to admit you’re wrong sometimes, you’re in the wrong place.
Guy Pearson is an Aussie CPA (and some other initials) by background with 15 years’ experience in public practice (eight as a director) and a self-confessed geek as a lover of numbers and technology.