How to Hire Extraordinary People

Hiring's tough. It's not just filtering through hundreds of applications and blocking out big chunks of your day for interviews -- those are the simple parts. The difficult thing is the nagging feeling that, despite your best efforts, the perfect candidate will somehow fall through the cracks.

This feeling is deepened by screening processes designed for efficiently identifying suitable candidates, rather than isolating the absolute best match. Corporate HR departments have honed the practice of screening applicants down to an efficient, robotic filtration system that simply hasn't worked for me. That's why I decided long ago to steer clear of the "Brita" method of hiring and just trust my gut. Here's what it's told me so far:

Look at the skills, not the titles.
Corporate efficiency has led to a nasty trend of filtering resumes for keywords. This might save time, but it ensures that many of the best candidates will never make it to the interview. Break this mold. Read between the lines to discover the skills behind the titles. Ask candidates how they think their specific skills will benefit your company. Keep the ones who understand how to transfer their skills to any situation. These indicate creative problem solving abilities far more reliably than simply holding a certain position or degree. People with highly transferable skills may be specialists in certain areas, but they're also incredible generalists -- something businesses that want to grow need.

Look for the passion.
It's important to ask yourself with each applicant: "Why does this person want to work here?" Is it because the mission of your company deeply aligns with their values? Is it because you just raised a big round of funding? These things matter. There's nothing wrong with people who see a great opportunity and seize it. But these aren't the people who will live and breath your company's mission, they aren't the passionate ones. Find people who believe the world will be better when your company succeeds. That's an incentive that money can never buy.

Look for the awesome.
It's an intangible, slippery, amorphous distinction, but you'll know awesome when you see it. This is your business, your baby, your dream. You need more than a candidate with incredible experience, you need someone who will help define and defend your company culture. Figure out what this means for you and put it front and center in every interview.

Look for the transparency.
You can tell a lot about a candidate's communication style by the way they approach the application process. Are they forthcoming with references and links to professional networks? Do they speak candidly about past triumphs and failures? Are they quick to respond to emails and phone calls, and do they answer questions directly? Transparent candidates are often the ones that have the same mission as the hiring manager -- figuring out whether they are a good fit for your company.

Look for the hustle.
Some people revel in getting their hands dirty. These are the people that make startups grow wildly. People with hustle also tend to be much more agile -- they're the water that goes around the rock. These are the people you want around when everything goes wrong. They're also the people you want beside you when everything goes right. Every single person hired into our company has the hustling heart of an entrepreneur, and it's made all the difference in the world. So how do you find these people? Look for those who've taken big risks in their lives and careers. People who've pushed the rules and failed hard bring a lot of lessons with them.

Look for the person, not the position.
Sometimes a candidate comes along that's perfect for your company. He's got skills, passion, energy, enviable hustle, and ironclad integrity-- only you don't have anywhere to put him. This has happened with a few of the key members of my team, and it's how I learned that the most important thing is getting the best people around the table.