When I work with CEOs to drive profit and growth, people always become an important part of the equation because every high-performing company needs to be customer-focused, people-centric, and profit-powered. Ahhh, people. Our greatest asset when they’re great… our biggest headache when we end up hiring the wrong ones.

I used to think I was pretty good at making good hiring choices back in my corporate days.  However, after years of making some bad hires as an entrepreneur, light dawned and I finally found the secret.

I’ve fallen into the classic trap that I’ve watched my clients diving into all the time. They hire for skills and experience that closely approximate the job they want the person to do. Been there, done that. And often, the results weren’t pretty. So, I’ll share with you what I’ve shared with them.

Looking Good on Paper Doesn’t Make for a Good Hiring Practice

I recall reading a LinkedIn post about how to hire a virtual assistant… and the list of what that person should do was impressive.  What a surprise, that person was a professional virtual assistant!  I hired her because it was clear from that post that she was the best ideal candidate EVER.  Oooh boy, did I live to regret it.  I spent the next year pushing rocks uphill, waiting for the avatar in the LinkedIn post to come to life and actually deliver a proactive plan, a set of deliverables, anything to make my life easy and worth what I was paying. Nada. We parted ways.

By the way, that was about round 3 of my search for a great VA.  An earlier hire started using my LinkedIn account to post her own content and promote her business; another one really wanted to be an executive assistant, booking my (at the time non-existent) travel. We parted ways.

In all those disasters, I followed conventional hiring practices: 

  • Find a resume that wows you with experience and accomplishments.
  • Conduct an interview full of great get-to-know-you questions and insightful “what would you do in this situation” behavioral interview probes.
  • Be wildly impressed and make an offer.

Then… Along Came Tiana

A fellow speaker and author suggested we collaborate to find someone who “understood our needs” and share them on a part-time basis.  It just so happened that his daughter had a friend, and the rest was history.

I couldn’t conduct a conventional interview… because Tiana was a freshly-minted BA with a degree in languages, who spoke fluent Spanish, and had up until that point, earned the money to go through school waiting tables.  NOT an ideal profile for what I had in mind!

But what Tiana brought to the table was invaluable: high energy, clear enthusiasm, sheer grit, a willingness to learn independently, a strong work ethic, and above all, a “can do” attitude.  I specified only one deliverable: that she manage ME, instead of me managing HER.

In the past 4 years, Tiana has wowed me weekly. She has figured out whatever needed figuring out, whether by watching YouTube videos or asking her friends.  She is structured, organized, a planner, and on top of every little thing.  She’s an entrepreneur at heart and has reached out to find some very lucrative speaking gigs for me, delivering a great ROI.  She’s ambitious and knows how to spot additional ways to add value, to the extent that I’ve spontaneously provided bonuses, and doesn’t quibble when fees are increased.

More than that, Tiana has become a brand unto herself.  Colleagues who’ve heard me wax poetic about the value she brings to my business often exclaim, “I want a Tiana!”

Ask Yourself These 2 Questions:

  • How many of YOUR employees do you find yourself talking to your friends and family about in a highly positive and enthusiastic way, instead of grumbling about why they don’t get it?
  • How many of your employees are a joy to mentor, requiring little coaching and absolutely no coaxing?

It should be 100%.

Your Next Steps 

Be gutsy enough to go out on a limb and hire what you can’t possibly train for: potential, enthusiasm, work ethic, the ability to learn and adapt, ambition, and a can-do attitude.  All the other “been-there-done-that” stuff on the resume is simply a bonus.

I’ve never regret hiring on sheer chutzpah. Give it a try. (And oh, I’ve SO dug myself into a hole because Tiana reads and posts my blogs…be kind, Tiana!)

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it.  Connect with Anne on Twitter and LinkedIn.