I try to stay “outside the box”, especially when I recruit and hire. I have seen many companies and managers fall into the pattern of hiring exactly the same skill set and industry experience that they always have. In some cases even people they have worked with previously, but were not happy with.
I’m told the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. I have never seen the wisdom in this approach, probably due to the fact that I have never fit a particular mold. I have been told by recruiter friends that reading my resume is like drinking from a fire hose. I took on high risk positions in depressed industries (yes, I lived through the first few semiconductor recessions at chip companies and did well), worked hard and got 30 years of experience in 10.
While some degree of industry or technical experience may be required in some cases, personal traits, knowledge, past experience, and the desire to achieve is just as or more important. Diversity of skill set and knowledge is even more important in a group environment, as long as you can manage the talent appropriately.
Going back to Mike for our previous examples when he needed to hire a shipping and receiving manager for the company’s three divisions, he looked far outside the box. He wanted someone that was responsible, mature, and could not only direct others in getting the work done, but also would roll up their sleeves and get the work done themselves when needed. We ended up hiring a retired Drill Sergeant. Our shipping and receiving area had never been so well organized, punctual, and without mishaps.
Our new Shipping Manager such a tremendous work and personal ethics he refused a pizza delivery from a shipping company and had it sent to my office, lest he accept a gift form a vendor. I sent the pizza right back to him and the staff and told them to enjoy. He had no direct responsibility in negotiations with the carriers, so he had no conflict.
I once had to very rapidly assemble a full team. I needed a Public Relations person for a legal information company. I interviewed many candidates with legal backgrounds, former legal librarians, people with publishing experience, and many others. The person I found and liked had no legal background, but he was a former Chief of Staff for a U.S. Congressman, had worked in the field in numerous political campaigns and had worked on legislation (which once passed can become law). It was a great fit, a personable individual, knowledge of the law, familiar with “start-up” environments from his days as a field political campaigner, and used to working on deadlines with limited resources. Three companies removed, we still talk frequently.
When I had to recruit a group for the field dealing with Universities and BAR associations I wanted a mix of talents. We hired attorneys, former association staff members, and a reference librarian. Their Director insured they communicated and shared experiences, successes and failures constantly. The Director and the staff helped one another and the “whole was greater than the parts” due to their diversity of experience and rapid success the group had. We were so successful that we became a target for our competitors trying to recruit my staff away – what better compliment could be paid than competitors trying to steal you staff because they did not know how to compete – the rules had changed.
Spend some quality time thinking about what you need, the skills, and the abilities when hiring. To achieve more than your competitors, you may need to go outside the box and change the rules.