A great mentor of mine was right when it came to hiring talent: “You have to break the eggs to make an omelet.”

When hiring senior managers and people for critical leadership roles, I hire for character and potential. Damn the competency model.

Sorry H.R.

In many situations, I don’t care whether someone has done the job or not. People can learn “things/disciplines” faster than they can learn to be critical thinkers, solid decision-makers, and incredible team builders.

Yep, I just shot the “past performance in the role is the best indicator of future success” crowd and dogma right in the collective rear-end. Heck, most of what we face in our industries and markets we’ve never seen before.

If you are hiring talent, don’t get caught up in looking for people who have done it before. Look for individuals capable of succeeding at exploring and discovering on a series of disconnected adventures.

And while I’m a huge fan of hiring industry jumpers (surprisingly rare), sometimes, you need to go deep into industry operations experience even if it is far afield from the functional requirements of the role.

Quit hiring clones! (That word is extremely close to “clowns.”)

I make mistakes—probably more than the overly careful, competency model/like-kind focused hirer. I own the mistakes, and I fix them. Fast. And yes, there are costs associated with those misfires. However, my successes have proven big, really big. I’m talking company or industry changing big.

When hiring, I want people who have struggled, screwed up and lived to fight another day. Click To TweetWhen faced with two solid candidates—one impressively pedigreed with great experience and one from a no-name college and a series of ups and downs, I selected the latter. The resilience, adaptability, and character displayed by this candidate blew me away. Her ability to face practically any adversity and find a way forward was something I desperately wanted for my team. She was a game changer for our firm!

If you were born on second base and hit a single, I’m typically not interested. When hiring, I want people who have struggled, screwed up and lived to fight another day.

If you’ve been in this industry forever with all three of my competitors, I don’t want you. Nothing is less interesting to me than recycling my competitor’s old, bad ideas.

When seeking a new product manager to take us to a vertical, I latched upon an individual who had little experience in either product management or with my technology. However, he knew the operations side of this industry cold. He had run stores and worked in different roles in the supply chain. I knew that we could help him develop as a product manager while teaching him about our solutions. What I could not do or did not have the time to do was hire a product manager and wait the few years it took to learn the operations of our targeted customers. The VP of H.R. went into the interview thinking I was crazy and came out and uttered some of my favorite words, “I see why you want him.”

I like professionals who like some athletes bring innate skills to every position and game they play. One of the best hires I’ve ever latched on to has excelled at five different roles at three different companies in entirely different industries. No one relying on a competency model or “he’s been there done that” approach would have hired him.

Health Warning:

Fair warning, you cannot go rogue as a hiring manager without political capital and a track-record. However, you can work within the system drawing your executives, team members and h.r./recruiting professionals into the process. People are remarkably amenable to flexing rules and adapting their approaches for what they believe are solid reasons, particularly when they are involved in the process. Yes, you are influencing them, but everything about human interaction in business is based on influence.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The world is moving too fast, and our firms, careers, and jobs are on the line in real-time. Your ability to draw upon the right talent at the right time for a series of unknown and unexpected missions is essential to your survival and success. Don’t let the old rules hold you back.

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Related post:

How Smart Managers Build Bridges with H.R. and Finance