Finding the right person for a critical position is a multistage, multifaceted process, but not one, as Bono sings that has to feel like “climbing the highest mountain.” It all starts with the hiring manager getting very clear and very specific about the qualifications and qualities that will bring value to the team and the company. It can be difficult to distill down exactly what you need, but it’s necessary — not only for writing the all-important job description, but also for knowing what to look for in candidates during the hiring process. In my experience, the three most important things to keep in mind are domain experience + success + chemistry.
1. Domain experience
Candidates often tout their flexibility and ability to learn new things, and there are indeed times when a company knows that some amount of retraining is inevitable. For the most part, when training is a luxury of yore, it’s far better to seek industry-specific experience. If that sounds too picky, just consider how irrelevant next gen sequencing is to the in vivo imaging market—aside from matters of reimbursement, of course. If you can, go for candidates who understand the specific technology/market in which you play.
It is one thing to have had experience in a particular job, and quite another to have consistently met or achieved goals. Look for candidates who can show they’ve knocked it out of the ballpark. Ask candidates to share success stories; expect them to bring ideas about how they can add value to the company or to their group if they are hired. Basically, find the consistent hit-makers like U2, not the one-hit-wonders.
One of the most difficult elements to assess — because it’s completely intangible — is chemistry. On the one hand, Myers-Briggs philosophy would say that a team should have all kinds of different personality types in order to bring a full complement of skills to the table. Some employees should be high-energy and risk-taking, for example, some cautious and methodical. On the other hand, similar kinds of people can often work better together, especially if their working style reflects — or has been honed by — the culture of the company. Either way, think carefully about what type of employee and what working style will be effective in a particular role and on a particular team.
It’s easy as one, two, three.