What's the most important thing you should hire for and be looking for in people you interview?
For me, the answer is "fit" -- will they fit well in your culture, with your current team, and with the company as it grows and changes?
I just spent a year on a committee working to hire a new leader for a high-profile role, and in the end, the critical factor that led us to choose one candidate over another was how well we thought the person would fit in our environment. Yes, job skills and experience are important, and we had several others who really excelled in those areas, but at the end of the day, we chose the person who we felt would "fit" the best in our culture and help to lead people where we want them to go.
Others may disagree with this, but in my mind, fit really trumps all. If the candidate fit isn't good, nothing else really matters.
That's why it was interesting to watch this video and hear Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO, and co-founder of The Blackstone Group. talk to the Stanford Graduate School of Business about hiring "phenomenal people."
This video is from 2014, and it gets into Schwarzman's leadership philosophy (starts at 24:10) and whether leaders should be "touchy-feely" (starts at 26:00). Plus, it gives the chairman of "one of the world's leading investment groups" a lot of opportunity to discuss the start-up challenges and growing pains he went through back in the mid-1980s when Blackstone was started.
The section where he talks about his hiring philosophy starts at 39:49 of the video, and it is in response to a question that asked, "At Blackstone, how do you ensure you have the right people for the right seats?" Here's a little bit of what Schwarzman said:
Hiring is a wonderful exercise. It's really fun. What's you're trying to do is match people's capabilities with who they really are.
I don't know how to interview anybody. They walk in and sit down and you look at them ... (and) you start a conversation. And what you're trying to do is to figure out how flexible their minds are. How emotionally stable they are, how they will do under stress? Are they self reliant? What's their ability to express themselves? ... There are all kinds of things that people will tell you, and you're trying to burrow into their head and predict future behavior...."
Why "fit" is so terribly important
Although that's pretty interesting, particularly his notion that job candidates shouldn't be fearful when they sit down to talk to him (maybe it's been a while since he was in their shoes), he went on to talk about "fit" and why he believes it is so terribly important when it comes to hiring:
You'll find that you don't do well unless you're hiring people who are consistent with your values. You've gotta know yourself, and you've gotta stick to those kind of people. ... You have to have people you think can really adapt, really have a gift, really are nice, really can communicate, and you have to imagine them under big stress. How will they behave? Will they be honest?"
This is a longer video than I have been featuring here in Talent Insider (it's about 58 minutes long), and you can certainly jump to the 40 minute mark and just hear what Stephen Schwarzman has to say about hiring. But, he does have a lot more that on leadership and building a business that is pretty insightful as well, so you will get a lot out of this should you decide to listen to the entire, hour-long presentation.
One thing to keep in mind, though -- both the moderator and Schwarzman have an extremely passive speaking style that may make it hard to stay engaged. It's a sit-down Q&A session that people like Jack Welch and Richard Branson favor instead of doing a traditional speech or lecture, and although it can work for some situations, it doesn't serve this discussion very well.