Posted on November 3, 2009


When I was hiring, I wrote the list of requirements for the job honestly, and then bumped them up a notch. Prior to that, when I was looking for work, it seemed like the job requirements were written by hopeless dreamers. I mean, come on! What MBA grad with 7-10 years of experience is going to take an entry-level job? I wouldn’t even approach a company that published an opening like that, because it raises questions about their realism, practicality, and ability to communicate honestly.

Of course, they might have just been prospecting to see what the talent pool looked like, but that’s neither here nor there.

Even during the recession, I’ve heard “experts” say that, if you’re 70%-80% qualified for a position, you should go for it. Fire up your networking, talk to the hiring manager, and see what you can do. Just as when I bumped up my requirements a notch to weed out the least likely candidates, they may waive some of the hiring requirements if you’ve got the right chemistry with the hiring manager and her team.

On that note, I wanted to share something that Robert Townsend said in Further Up the Organization. He’s talking about promotions, but the same principles apply to hiring.

I use the rule of 50 percent. Try to find somebody inside the company with a record of success (in any area) and with an appetite for the job. If he looks like 50 percent of what you need, give him the job. In six months he’ll have grown the other 50 percent and everybody will be satisfied…

One of the keys is to pick someone within the company who has a well-deserved reputation as a winner. Not someone who looks to you like a potential winner but doesn’t happen to be fitting in very well where he is.

The organization will rally around an accepted winner, even when he’s temporarily over his head, because in their eyes he deserves the chance.

The last person I hired into Wizards of the Coast was very unpopular. Many people who had nothing to do with the hiring process or working with the new hire believed I hired him because he was a former boss’ favorite bartender. Fortunately, my current boss brought the concerns to me and gave me a chance to address them. I explained that the new guy had excellent chemistry with the team, and he’d been an Air Force loadmaster on C-141 cargo planes when he was still a teenager. From my own military experience, I knew that was an incredible responsibility to shoulder.

That new hire lasted longer at Wizards of the Coast than almost anybody else on the team. He had a proven track record, the right chemistry, and the potential to grow into the technical knowledge and customer service skills we needed.