Con­fi­dence, con­trari­ness, and cul­tural fit–the ben­e­fits of curve­ball hires

Inc. (USA) - - INNOVATE -

Greater loy­alty “There’s a se­cret sauce in hir­ing a per­son who knows that I be­lieve in him enough to take a chance,” says David Wil­liams, CEO of Fish­bowl, an in­ven­tory soft­ware firm near Salt Lake City. Wil­liams has hired ev­ery­one from his elec­tri­cian to a guy who sold him a snow­board, and he’s more likely to size up some­one’s creativ­ity, sharp wit, and pa­tience than what in­dus­try he or she hails from. That tal­ent strat­egy has helped Wil­liams steer Fish­bowl to seven con­sec­u­tive years on the Inc. 5000—and achieve re­mark­ably low turnover.

Chal­lenged norms “Long ten­ure in any in­dus­try comes with a lot of in­grained be­hav­iors and as­sump­tions that are hard to break,” says Dan Pap­palardo, founder and CEO of me­dia com­pany Troika. “If you make only cookie-cut­ter hires, ev­ery­thing stag­nates.” That’s part of what led Pap­palardo to hire a cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist to help the Hol­ly­wood-based team bet­ter un­der­stand what drives con­sumers. A re­cent re­search re­port she did in­cluded an ex­am­i­na­tion of what Amer­ica’s de­clin­ing re­li­gios­ity might mean for TV and film in 10 years.

Cul­ture fit When you care less about in­dus­tryspe­cific ex­per­tise, you can pil­fer per­sonal net­works and nab known quan­ti­ties. That’s why Mike Cata­nia, founder and CTO of Tal­la­has­see, Florida–based sav­ings site Pro­mo­, hired his former Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts, Low­ell stu­dents for tech roles—never mind that his cour­ses were in mu­sic the­ory. “Since I knew their per­son­al­i­ties and work ethic, it was easy for me to get them trained—far faster than em­ploy­ees I’d hired con­ven­tion­ally with bet­ter in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

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