Judging talent: Motivation and value

Besides creative initiative and exceptionalism, which I’ve written about recently, there are two more traits I look for in every job candidate: motivation and value. Here’s what I mean by each.

Motivation: Does this person want to work specifically with us?

Yes, everyone needs to be motivated. The person I am looking for is someone specifically motivated to work at YOUR company.  Talented people are motivated in general. They are energetic. They want to do things. They want an opportunity: the opportunity to learn, to succeed and fail, to advance. But why would they be motivated to work at your business? How would working at your company help them to take the next step in their career?

You have to understand how the job you are offering will motivate a talented individual and express why the opportunity to work at your company fits in with their plan for themselves. Many organizations don’t understand that hiring is a two-way sales process. Not only does the candidate have to sell you on their qualifications, you have to sell the candidate on the opportunity. If you do a good job at this, and the candidate cannot demonstrate that they are interested in your specific company, they may not be motivated enough for the job.

Value: Look beyond cost


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A lot of managers miss this characteristic. Talent has to have value.  I always look for value. By definition an “A player” adds more value to your business than they cost.  I really didn’t care, in a lot of cases, how we filled a given job. I always told my managers, “Look, you’ve got $100,000 to spend on this position. I don’t care whether you hire two $50,000 people or one $100,000 person.  And you need to think of it that way.”

People often get fixated on a single person at a single cost, rather than looking at solving the problem. If there’s an opening and it is budgeted for $120,000, the person in charge of filling that position will say, “Okay, we need a $120,000 person.”

“No,” I would say. “You have $120,000 to accomplish the mission. The best way to do it might be to hire three $40,000 new college grads and throw them all at it.”

A lot of times I would get pushback, “Well that $40,000 person doesn’t have a college degree.”

“Okay, I understand, they don’t have a college degree.  That’s why they’re $40,000. But it may be that hiring three of them is better than hiring one $120,000 person for the particular job that we need to get done.”

A lot of times managers don’t focus nearly enough on value. There are multiple ways to skin the cat. As long as we were consistent in hiring individuals with value as well as creative initiative, exceptionalism, and motivation, I knew we would succeed. In my next post, I’ll discuss when you should hire for job experience vs. when to hire for raw talent.



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