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Rockstars Wanted? 6 Things To Look for In Your Next Hire


Hiring a new employee is more expensive than you think.

According to a 2010 study from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at the University of California-Berkeley, the average cost of a new hire is $4,000, plus salary and benefits.

It’s worth noting that IRLE’s study came out shortly after the formal end of the worst recession in two generations, when labor was a fair bit cheaper and easier to come by than today. In the white-collar world, the cost of making a quality hire is far more than $4,000.

Smart business owners rightly hesitate to put a price tag on talent. If you’re serious about hiring only the best, and you’re not willing to compromise in your quest to find hall-of-fame-quality rockstars, you shouldn’t worry much about what it costs to onboard them.

You shouldn’t — but you will.

You can reduce those costs, at least marginally, if you know what to look for ahead of time. No matter the position you’re hiring for, your next rockstar should have most or all of these six soft attributes.

1. Resilience.

Also known as “grace under pressure.”

Whether you’re expecting to throw your new hire straight into the fire or planning a gentler ramp-up, they’re going to find themselves in hot water sooner or later. How will they react?

You won’t know for sure until that day comes, of course. But you can lengthen the odds of a catastrophic meltdown by screening candidates for resiliency. Grill references on applicants’ prior crunch time experiences; ask applicants themselves what they’ve learned from pressure-induced errors and what they’re doing to avoid future mistakes.

2. Determination and Drive.

According to serial entrepreneur and investor Kris Duggan, who specializes in coaching non-traditional entrepreneurs without enviable pedigrees, determination and creativity are the two most important attributes of future stars.

It’s probably no coincidence that neither is “teachable” in the traditional sense. You’re either driven or you’re not. Spend enough time with an applicant and it should be fairly clear which is which.

3. Coachability.

No one steps into a job knowing everything there is to know. One key difference between good and great hires is humility and coachability: an openness to instruction. Sales leadership expert Ken F. Davis advises asking applicants to describe their process for synthesizing feedback and to state their values, with some variation of “continued improvement” standing in for coachability.

4. Proficiency.

Are they good at what they say they’re good at? Much as you’d like, you can’t hire a senior-level employee with an entry-level resume. On-the-job training has its limits, even when pickings are slim.

5. Personability.

Is the candidate friendly? Engaging? Tolerable to be around? For hiring managers, the “beer test” — “would I like to have a beer with this person?” — is problematic for all sorts of reasons, but that’s not to say you should sleep on the sentiment. Be wary of those who argue personality isn’t important. “Star performers” who consistently alienate coworkers and clients are anything but.

6. Effective Communication.

In a culture defined by tweets, snaps, and ‘grams, effective written communication is an increasingly rare skill. Ditto for fluent verbal communication. Candidates who manage to combine both skills in the same package are keepers.

Who’s Your Star Hire?

Your ideal next hire might not possess all these attributes in spades. They’re sure to bring their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses to the table, though — hopefully more of the former than the latter.

As you work your way through promising candidates, remember that the best hires aren’t always obvious from the jump. Keep your eyes peeled for unassuming candidates who keep their heads down and demonstrate a preternatural knack for coming out on top.