Do You Know What You Don’t Want?

Talent is a hot topic in 2015. Organizations are urged to recruit and hire “stars”; the brightest and most skilled talent. Stars make big things happen and will help them successfully compete. The tendency in recruiting and hiring thus focuses on identifying what characteristics are desired in applicants. In other words, hire for the star qualities you want. Makes sense, right?

But what about those characteristics you don’t want to hire into your organization?

Wharton School of Business Professor Adam Grant cites data that a bad hire costs an organization THREE times as much as hiring the right candidate! Hiring a star with characteristics out of sync with an organization can cause serious damage to culture, morale, and productivity. Grant asserts that “a lot of selection is actually more about screening out than it is screening in.” So hiring must be both for what you want, and what you don’t want.

Here are three ways to help you figure this out:

  • Identify what you don’t want! Gather members of your team, collectively discuss scenarios of “ideal candidates” that possess star qualities- but also qualities that are less than ideal. Would they be a good hire? What flaws are manageable and what are deal breakers? It should generate lots of conversation!
  • Assess applicants holistically and not just focus on their star qualities. Star qualities may blind you to other characteristics that are not so beneficial.
  • Be realistic. No one is perfect, so finding an idealized perfect employee is a fantasy! Identifying a balanced combination of characteristics that make a good hire is an attainable goal.

In this era of talent hyperbole, be cautious. Your best hire may not be a star. Instead, it might be the less talented applicant with a “growth mindset” capable of long-term positive contributions to the workplace.

Questions? You can contact me at 800.884.1328 or email

(More on the “growth mindset” from the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” in an upcoming blog!)