Creating the Right Team: Passion Makes the Difference

Passion makes the difference


During the past month, I’ve been a part of two hiring committees and served as an advisor for the recruitment efforts of four other groups. I’ve combed through hundreds of resumes, read responses to supplemental questions that have been asked, and have had the privilege of meeting some incredible talent.

Anyone who has been a part of any kind of hiring committee will tell you that one of the biggest challenges is distinguishing the contributions or effectiveness of individual applicants. While most people claim to make large decisions based on logic and reason, this often necessarily the case when it comes to hiring practices (although it is something that I do recommend). But even then, one quality shines through in a way that no bullet point on a resume can compete with: passion. I believe that passion is often the difference maker.

The reality is that many skills can be taught: project management, software comprehension, accounting, etc. Those are all external skills that can be picked up through a webinar, a college course, in a workshop at a conference, or sometimes, a blog. However, passion is an inner desire that drives other traits we tend to admire: initiative, dedication, stamina, and creativity.

Passion isn’t something that can simply be declared in a cover letter as a line item. It’s something that is carried through work/volunteer history, through personality, through a proven track record of willing to take risks.  Someone who is passionate inspires others, can be a catalyst for change, and will go the extra mile. However, you don’t want to find someone with the right kind of passion – for that particular role (for more on hiring employees with the right kind of passion, read this Fortune article).

So how do I review applicants when hiring them?

First, I create a series of criteria (usually 15-20 key qualities or traits) and assign each one with a particular weight. Then, I rank and calculate each candidate based on their criteria. The highest scores get an interview. By the time they reach the interview, I already have a pretty good sense of their qualifications for the role.

The interview is where I look for that difference-making quality: their passion. Is this someone who I want to work with on my team? Would I want them to represent my brand/organization? Were they driven enough about the job to do some detailed research on the company? In other words, are they the kind of employee that I’d like my top customers/donors/advocates to meet?

Your customers probably don’t care about the resume of your employees but they’ll certainly care about their passion.

(and yes, this is even how I screen potential people to join my band too).

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