Sincerely Sara: Help! Do I hire on Passion and Vision or Skill and Experience?

By Sara Gabriella

Las Vegas Informer

we are hiring

Dear Sara,

I’m in management at a small firm, 10 employees. We’re growing and I need to add one or two people to our team. I keep hearing buzz about the benefit of hiring for “talent,” “culture” and “passion” over skill and experience? What does that mean?


–In Need of Hiring Help

Dear In Need,

There is no doubt that one of the biggest debates, in human relations and career recruitment right now is hiring for purpose and passion versus hiring based on resume. While there are valid points on both sides of the discussion, it seems wise to place a strong emphasis on shared vision and talent when hiring for a long-term team member. Your candidate needs to be competent in their position of course, but skills, for the most part, can be learned and strengthened with time, while motivation, teamwork and values can’t be imposed externally.

You can hire a rockstar who may consistently complete his tasks to perfection, but if he is unable to work well with your team, he may end up hindering the productivity of the office by sabotaging the collaboration process and slowing the overall progress. So while her piece of the puzzle is stellar, it won’t mesh well into the big picture; and straight edges stuck to curved ones won’t produce a sleek end product that resembles the photo on the cover of the puzzle box.

Talent and drive are in vogue as hiring criteria right now because in the past they have been overlooked, to the detriment of many companies and organizations. Traditionally, managers conducted interviews as a check list for:  related education, relevant experience, task specific skills—all “resume” based standards. Values, vision and enthusiasm were only secondary considerations, if at all. The outcome is over the years managers have come to realize, and now blog and speak about, their best hires resulting from those that were more motivated and purpose driven over those that were most “qualified” on paper.

You can teach someone a new software or system, but you can’t teach them to care about the core values of your company. Tony Hsieh of retail giant mandates hiring be strongly focused on cultural fit and fires fast when an employee is not inspiring the unique corporate culture he has so painstakingly cultivated. The proof of his hiring wisdom is in the abundant financial success of Zappos— which Hsieh contributes in huge part to culture.

So what does talent and motivation entail? Talent refers to people performing tasks and roles in line with their natural abilities and disposition. If you are hiring someone to work in phone based customer service, it’s much more essential that the candidate be someone that possesses natural empathy and a desire to communicate with people, than someone who is experienced with the phone and software you use to for your CRM (customer retention management) system. You can teach someone how to use your technology or software, but you are not able to make them care about the customer on the other end of the phone line, or teach them how to gauge a person’s emotional response and act accordingly, building trust and rapport and leaving your customer with the sense that your company sincerely cares.

As with natural ability, a candidate either has motivation or lacks it. In order to put your full energy into your performance of a project or task you need to feel emotionally connected, in some way. Without that visceral connection, it will always be just a “job”. And no one can force themselves to be excited about what they do every day, for weeks, and then on for years, if they emotionally check out every time they walk through the office doors.

Of course, you can not overlook a potential hires lack of basic competence, no matter how innate their abilities and authentic their shared sense of purpose. Job excellence for an architect will necessitate the skills and knowledge to draft blueprints and the head of corporate legal needs to be well versed in law, especially as it relates to your industry. But, there are some qualities that you can’t teach and can’t be bought—no matter how talented a leader you are or how robust a compensation package you offer. When it comes to talent and enthusiasm, you need to make sure your candidates already have them to bring to the first day on the job.

Best of luck to you and your growing team!



Sara GabriellaSara Gabriella

Sara is a published writer, marketing professional and TV Host. Her writing career has taken her from corporate copywriting in San Francisco to creating content for top network TV shows in Los Angeles, and finally to online and print media in Las Vegas. Her current columns include a media column “Sara in the City” and her advice column “Sincerely, Sara.”

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