From Super Tuesday to the NCAA tournament, March reminds everyone how hard it is to pick a winner, and that includes the many companies that have recently completed their annual talent review and planning. Here are key characteristics you can focus on to ensure that your next hire is the right one:

Non-traditional skills

Are you hiring for today’s opening or the skills and values that will shape your company for years to come? Ask yourself how likely you are to include a candidate in your succession plans, and don’t be afraid to break the mold in the way you evaluate talent. The skills and experiences you’ve needed in past hires may differ from those required to lead you into the future.

Learning agility

Dwight D. Eisenhower famously stated, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Today’s leaders are charged with building and implementing strategies to tackle evolving, VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) problems. Base your hiring decision on the “why” and the “how” of a candidate’s achievements, not only the “what.” Our firm has counseled hundreds of hiring organizations from start-ups to Fortune 20 corporations and, in our experience, success is less about what a candidate has achieved than about what that means s/he can achieve for you.

Diversity –properly defined

In an ever-changing global society, diversity transcends what we look like. Winning organizations expand their definition of diversity to include a broad mix of industries, cultures, experiences and thought processes. Be certain to include a broad enough population of prospective candidates and also to consider how your team’s conscious and unconscious biases are affecting decisions.

Sheer determination

Your decision may ultimately come down to the classic “skill vs. will” dilemma. Does the candidate with the ideal skills lack the hunger to win for you today and in the future? A phenomenal talent who lacks motivation will be detrimental to your team’s success, regardless of skill level. After taking over as head coach of the NFL’s last-place San Francisco 49ers in 1979, Bill Walsh led the team to a Super Bowl championship in just two years, with a focus on selecting talent that fit his culture and standards of performance over pure talent. His rationale: “When you know that your peers –others in the organization –demand and expect a lot out of you and you, in turn, out of them, that’s when the sky’s the limit.” In your next interview, consider asking candidates why they elected their career path, why your company and opportunity are of interest to them and why they are the right candidate for you and your organization.

The ballots and brackets may seem like madness, but building your business bench doesn’t have to be. By focusing on a few key characteristics, you’ll have a sound way to choose winners who will position your organization for future success.

By Michael Lazar


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