Contributed Column

Personnel Points

by Dave Mount, Westaff

Hire With Passion

The principal way to reduce company turnover lies in the way a company hires its people. The list of qualities people look for in prospective employees is exhaustive. There are as many qualities as there are hiring officials. I will share with you a few qualities I look for, but the list is far from complete:

Intelligence

Creativity

Cool-headedness

Decisiveness

Education

Experience

These are all great qualities in a prospective employee, but I submit that they are activated by another quality that is difficult to detect in an applicant - passion.

We all know passion; we have seen it and know it works either for us or against us. For example, the national press made a great deal of Howard Dean’s famous Iowa scream. Those who know Howard Dean would easily agree that he screamed out of a frustration, but it was driven by his passion.

I have a number of passions: my family, baseball, Vermont and Lake Champlain, reading books. and business. Ask me about any one of these and I can keep you entertained (or bored) for hours.

We can also lose passions. I lived for several years in the Bay Area, and I became a passionate 49er football fan. I had season tickets and I loved my team, even when they were the worst in the league. But then came parity, salary caps and felony football players and I lost interest. Now, for me, football season is just the time between the World Series and spring training.

I have been passionate about business since I was 14 years old. I studied business, read about the great heroes of business, and I can talk about business for hours. The business people I love are the ones who lived their lives and practiced their trades with the same kind of passion that I do.

For example, there is this great love-hate relationship with Sam Walton. Many people believe that his company, Wal-Mart, is ruining many small towns in America, but when he started out, his passion was amazing. In his early days, he flew his own airplane and always “buzzed” the Kmart parking lot before landing. He needed to see how many people were shopping there, and doing a fly-over was his best gauge.

Sometimes, passionate people will be annoying and hard to get along with because they have such a drive for what they do. I like to tell people that I am easy to get along with, but my wife will add that I am easy as long as I get my own way. That is a manifestation of my own passion.

Passion is what directs employees to use those qualities we look for toward business success. Passion drives the education, experience and creativity that we want and look for when we hire. But how do we detect passion in a prospective employee?

Read the resume. Read between the lines and read the non-employment data. What does that person love? If a resume says that a person enjoys kayaking, for example, ask about it. Get some details, even if you couldn’t care less about the lakes and rivers that your applicant has crossed. Search for that faraway look that almost seems glassy-eyed. Hunt for that earnestness in the face that makes it seem on fire.

Passion burns; passion drives. Passion is what wakes people up at night in a cold sweat wondering about that order, that customer or that design. Passion can reshape and energize our companies.

All we have to do is recognize it and make it work for us. •

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