I’m in a new marketing leadership role, and am quickly building the team.

I prefer to hire proven stars that I’ve worked with before. Their probability of success is higher, and you cheat time by avoiding the laborious recruiting process, while activating someone intimate with your playbook.

When hiring former star colleagues is not possible, I scrutinize potential hires based on 10 criteria, no matter the role.

These criteria do a good job of surfacing truth to make a good decision in the least amount of time:

  1. History of success. Forget the disclaimer that “past performance is no guarantee of future performance.” When it comes to people, past performance and history of success is the absolute best predictor of future performance and success. This is what I first scan for on resumes.
  2. Intelligence. The world is changing, and technical skills become outdated quickly. What really matters is one’s intelligence, the ability to think critically and creatively, and the ability to learn quickly. These qualities empower people to solve complex problems.
  3. Curiosity. You have to be passionate about finding answers to how things work. That passion fuels your mental stamina to focus on complex problems, so you can understand them and find solutions. This is demonstrated by extended, dedicated work in specific subjects, as well as by the questions you ask in an interview.
  4. Decisiveness. Decisiveness tells a lot very quickly. Even small acts of decisiveness leading up to an interview reflects the level of interest you have in the position. Decisiveness also reflects a person’s ability to make decisions independently and then act on them. In addition to watching for small behavioral cues, I ask questions that probe into a candidate’s decisiveness.
  5. Temper. Business can be tough and stretch you to your limits. That requires calm and composure. Sure, interviewing can be strenuous or high stakes. But if you’re anxious or off, it creates uncertainty about your ability to perform in challenging situations. Red flag.
  6. Attitude. Someone’s positive or negative attitude is like oxygen versus poison to an organization. Positive attitudes correlate with personal success, which has a high impact on others.
  7. Skills. Very specific skills matter more in some professions than others, and they matter more with senior hires. However, I usually look at skills as proof that someone’s learned something technical. Those skills may be put to immediate use, or they may not.
  8. Chemistry. Is this candidate someone I’m willing to speak and be with more than my own wife? Will this person be best friends with the team and work well with the larger organization? Do I like this person a lot? That matters.
  9. Luck. I like people who feel they’re lucky and have the wind against their backs. Good things tend to happen to people with good vibes. So much of success is luck, in my opinion. So I ask people to rate their luck, and tell me why.
  10. References. I like speaking with a candidate’s former colleagues, particularly ones the candidate didn’t provide (meaning I found them on my own). Of course, this has to be handled delicately, and you must absolutely avoid current employers. I ask them to rate how willing they are to work with that candidate again. If they want to provide any color, that’s fine. But usually the rating alone tells me everything I need to know.

That’s my recipe for evaluating talent. It works.

What’s your recipe for talent?

This essay also ran in MediaPost.   


Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.