[image credit – Unix-Girl.com]
In Bill Taylor’s post on A Geek's Guide to Great Service he talks with Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad. I’ve already mentioned on this blog why I think Geek Squad is a great idea and I hope they do well here in the UK. Their blend of quirkiness, attention to detail and genuine customer focus should serve them and their customers well.
It’s another area of the interview with Stephens that piqued my interest that – that of hiring. I’m no expert at hiring but I have been involved in my fair share of it at Microsoft and thought it may be useful to share some things I learnt that seemed to work well. These are not things I miraculously concluded myself but things I picked up – most often from folks I consider mentors like Neil, Karl, Terry and others.
I hired for teams inside of Microsoft and though this post started out as a post about Hiring Geeks (hence the photo) I thought it was a good way to think about hiring a STAR team. Inside The Borg, I wanted to build a dream team of the right individuals but I would take the exact same approach externally. So here goes – 5 tips for hiring a Star Team.
- Hire for diversity, not consistency – I wanted people in our team as diverse as I could. Having twenty brilliant but unmanageable tech wizards in the team doesn’t work. Balancing out the wizards with the delivery guys worked out well.
- Hire Delivery Guys (and girls) – I don’t mean postal workers. I mean make sure you have folks who simply deliver – again and again, on time and with minimum fuss. When the chips are down, they come to the fore and your wizards take a back seat. As a side note, figure out what makes these people happy and reward them well. They’re gold.
- Hire Wizards – in my experience everyone great team has one (ore more) who are just brilliant minds. They’re the creative ideas people who differentiate you from the average team. They’re often a nightmare to manage but they’re worth it. How do you know a wizard? They’re curious
- Hire Curious People – by this I mean people who have natural curiosity. Stephen’s mentions this in his interview with Bill Taylor and it struck a chord with me. These are the people who ask questions. Constantly. They may not ask questions out loud but they will questions things and often go away and explore to find the answer for themselves. They may never need the information or us it – but one day they may. Trust me this is a very valuable skill. These people become information hubs and you hear their names again and again in the company as they’re “go to” people. I learnt some of this from my Granddad…but that’s a story for another day.
- Hire Passionate Readers – this doesn’t mean hire people who read Mills and Boon. It’s similar to curious people but worth calling out separately. A friend (who is a wizard and curious) taught me this interview question when I joined Microsoft. Ask someone what magazine they regularly read. Lets say they answer with WIRED. Then ask them how many back issues they have in their loft. It’s not a deal breaker question but my guess is if you’re reading this you know what I mean. People who are passionate about stuff read about it. A LOT. Okay so they may read online now and this question may be dated but try it anyway. They may say "ah I just auctioned off my 8 year collection of National Geographic on eBay”. That’s a hire.
This isn’t rocket science and there are people who are way more qualified than I am to comment on this stuff. I hope some of them chime in here with their views but this approach has worked for me so hopefully there is something in there for you.
Some other great resources