The psychology of hiring great people

Tom Patterson · July 19, 2008 · Short URL:

'A talent' is attracted to 'A talent'

I think at the highest level everybody looks for three things when trying to employ talent to their companies. People typically look for people who are:

  • Intelligent
  • Motivated
  • Highly Functional in a Group Environment

Startups have their advantages and disadvantages when trying to entice talented people to come work for them. Young organizations can provide intense challenges, more accountability, and a reduced bureaucracy among other things... A lot of times they can not provide things that more established organizations can such as higher than market pay, job security, a brand name, and a plethora of resources. 

So how do you bring the best of the best into your organization?   Well, it always starts with the CEO and the Founding Team.

"A talent" is attracted to "A talent". It is difficult typically to attract what you are not.

So think wisely of who you choose to partner with to found a company and what their personal characteristics are.

While we all can't change our IQ, keep in mind that intelligence is measured in different ways and not necessarily in how well you did on the SAT's.

I've met some incredible emotionally intelligent people, and they could truly sell corn to a corn farmer.

My advice to everyone is to accentuate what you are good at to prospective candidates but do not boast. Talk about the things you enjoy doing which should be correlated to what you do well. And remember to work at being the person that you want to hire. If you to hire someone that is highly motivated then you in turn must be willing to lead by example and make the personal sacrifices required in a startup.

And we all can do a better job of sharing, trusting and working together with other people. So my punch-line is that when you grow as an individual, you increase the likelihood of attracting the right type of people.  Buy your founding team into growing as people and let it be a principle of the organization.

So how in a few interviews do you determine who is a good fit for your organization?  Most organizations look to the resumes and see how a person responds to hard interview questions to measure intelligence.  We typically get an additional assessment based on the candidate's ability to drill deeply and adeptly into a subject matter.  I always ask questions about people's past challenges and their willingness to personally sacrifice to achieve their goals.. This typically gives me a good read on the intrinsic motivation of a candidate. 

So how do you get a good indication of someone's ability to be highly functional in your group environment?. My advice is to spend time on the value system of your organization and how business gets done at your company during the interview.  Describe the "way decisions get made," "how conflict is resolved," and other things like "the importance of deadlines."

Pay attention to their reactions and particularly to the words they use.  I remember interviewing a very talented person in the last two weeks from a well known company and as I described our organization, they kept using phrases like "my team has to win" and "I am great as long as I have authority".  These may actually be warning signs of someone's ability to work together with other people.  Pay attention to the words that they use as they describe their own experiences, it will typically tell you a lot more than when they are just answering a yes/no question directly. 

So what's the psychology of closing great talent?  I honestly believe this is the easiest part. 

Assuming that the candidate is bought into your vision for the company, and that the compensation is reasonable to market, the rest will be about fit.  People and Organizations that fit, kind of know it.  If you did a good job in describing the value systems of the company, people start to self select and understand whether the place is for them at a gut level.  You are almost drawn to each other because job satisfaction is typically about respect for the organization and the people around you. I am a big fan of letting a prospective hire know we want them, and that I am here to answer all of their questions but I don't oversell or harass when trying to close someone. I let them know that if they don't wake up thinking we are the place for them in their gut, they shouldn't come to work for us.  This actually works out well for both of us because joining a startup is like a marriage or at least a serious relationship. The alignment of the value system is typically the true indicator of how long and how successful the relationship or the employment will be.


Image Description

Tom Patterson

Tom is Founder of Heighten. Pres. at Nextag, CEO Wize, EIR at Mayfield , SVP Markettools, Board Dale Carnegie, weekly wisdom @

All author posts

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Lessons and advice" series

More episodes

Related News