Discover more from The Manager’s Prism
A Leader’s Hiring Checklist
Discover how great leaders build teams with the right mindset by looking for these 5 key attributes from their hiring checklist.
A dish is delicious when all its ingredients are as per its recipe. They all have to come together in the right amounts to deliver the perfect punch. The chef is the one responsible.
Just like a dish, a team is also made of individuals with different skill sets and attributes and they all need to come together cohesively to deliver great results. Like a chef, the leader of the team is the one responsible.
Great leaders maintain a mental checklist of what they look for in a person. They curate this list from experience and have it ready for reference when they need it. A good leader is always hiring. Even if they don’t have an open position, they are always looking for potential candidates. Leaders will always be hiring, in their minds.
They are subconsciously checking off items from their mental hiring checklist whenever they interact with others.
In this post, let’s explore a few key attributes great leaders look for in individuals.
Evidence Of Exceptional Ability
You may hate or like Elon Musk. However, you can’t deny the fact that he is one of the few who has mastered the art of thinking from first principles. In one of his interviews, when asked about his hiring philosophy, he said:
“What I’m really looking for is evidence of exceptional ability. Did they face really difficult problems and overcome them? And of course you want to make sure if there was some significant accomplishment, were they really responsible or was someone else more responsible. Usually, someone who really had to struggle with a problem, they really understand it and they don’t forget.”
A great leader has a keen eye and is always looking for this evidence of exceptional ability. Evidence can be in any form. An open source side project that showcases your skills, authoring a book that goes deep into the domain, a project from a previous job, etc. Leaders look for one’s command over the domain.
Clarity Of Thought
During the process of hiring, leaders spend more time listening with intent. This is mainly to see how the individual is thinking. Are they able to articulate themselves clearly? Do they know how to lay facts that build on top of another? Are they able to present a clear picture of what is in their minds?
Comfortable With Doing Chores
No matter which domain or organization you are part of, every team has their share of chores. You don’t get to do the fun stuff all the time. You have to do the boring stuff too. They are your chores and you can’t avoid them. Leaders will try to gauge how the individuals take on the boring stuff. It is the consistency of executing your chores that will allow you the opportunity to experiment with the fun and exciting stuff.
Approach To Problem Solving
When interviewing candidates, leaders are trying to see the step by step approach an individual will take to navigate a given question, scenario or problem. Leaders primarily look for whether an individual has understood the problem before trying to solve it. Great leaders know that if one can arrive at understanding clearly what the problem is and are able to define it well, the solution is just a matter of time.
Being Relentlessly Resourceful
Individuals must possess the ability to think strategically and be willing to try new things when things don’t work. They need to be resourceful. They should showcase that they will leave no stone unturned and are flexible to adapt into new roles with a team first attitude. Paul Graham has a beautiful essay titled - Relentlessly Resourceful that drives home this point extremely well.
These are attributes that can’t be taught, but it is up to each one of us to cultivate and grow them within us. They can be learned by observation and introspection. If you are a manager, start incorporating this checklist as part of your own hiring process and hire the the right people with the right mindset.
Advice For Individual Contributors
If the above mentioned checklist is what great leaders use and if you are an individual contributor, you now have a blueprint for what leaders look for. Work on building these qualities by first being honest with your own self. Don’t fool yourself. Build your evidence of exceptional ability, practice thinking clearly, be comfortable doing your professional chores, learn the approach to problem solving and be relentlessly resourceful. Put your best self forward by mastering these qualities.
I would love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!
The Manager’s Prism is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.