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You have a critical choice between two employees.  You can hire only one.  So who will it be?

One is an articulate Harvard MBA who is cool, confident and calculating, someone with excellent references from professors and friends and from a highly successful family, a young man who thinks the work you have will be interesting and something he would like to do, if the compensation package is right.  The second candidate is a friendly guy who graduated in the middle of his class at a small state-supported liberal arts college.  He is well-spoken.  He seems excited about the work you are offering.  He also seems oblivious to the compensation package.  He peppers interviewers with question after question, covering everything from the company’s portfolio of services, reputation and working culture, to the people he will be teaming up with.drawing chart heartbeat

So who do you hire — the smart guy from Harvard with the impressive family tree, or the guy who you feel will pour his heart and soul into the job for the company?

I like the candidate who has passion, who will invest all his energies into the work and the company.  Unless the academic deficit is mind blowing, and the position requires stratospheric intellectual academic credentials, always go with the qualified candidate who demonstrates a heart-and-soul commitment to the work and the company.  The candidate who finds the work interesting but seems more concerned with the money and room for promotion, won’t be around long enough to make a meaningful contribution.  A more interesting job that pays more will always be around the next corner.
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Bonus:  Questions for your interview file 

  • Describe with some specificity the work environment in which you feel you did your best work?
  • In your most recent job, what did you do, what did you like, what did you dislike and what did you learn from the work?  Be specific.
  • What do you know about our organization?  What would you do differently?

For this last question to be meaningful, your recruiting team, or outside search firm, should have provided the candidate with an in-depth profile of the company, the job requirements, challenges, and expectations of performance.  This should include a candid discussion, prior to the site interview, of why the position is open.  Remember, recruiting is like getting married.  A marriage based on inadequate disclosure — overt or covert — is doomed to fail.