How Is Hiring Like Chemistry?

4 Ingredients for Success

Most leaders I’ve met recognize you need the right people to build a high-power team. But few of them have defined the ideal candidate for their organization. They’re playing with fire.

A few of my grandkids are reading the Roald Dahl classic George’s Marvelous Medicine right now. In the story, the boy George mixes up a concoction to cure his grandmother of her sour mood. He adds everything he can find to the mixing pot: pharmaceuticals, paint, shampoo, and more.

The results are explosive—and the antics only get zanier from there. Unfortunately, I’ve seen hiring situations like that over the years.

Explosive Combinations

We sometimes forget that building a team is like advanced chemistry. Why? Because we’re adding and mixing people into our organizations in new (and sometimes volatile) combinations.

Get the combination right, and you’ve got a high-power mixture that can fuel your business and help you reach your goals. Get it wrong, and you might blow things up or just fizzle and sputter on the launch pad.

This is top of mind for me and my team right now because we’re hiring.

Good leaders usually start with a written job description that covers the required educational experience, technical skills, and so forth. But great leaders go further. They take a step back and identify the essential qualities of the ideal candidate.

I’ve made my share of bad hires over the years. They’ve cost me plenty in terms of dollars, headspace, emotional energy, and time. But failure is one of life’s better teachers.

What have I learned?

The H3S Formula

I can simplify the chemistry and get results I want by focusing on four ingredients in any job candidate: humility, honesty, hunger, and smarts. I call it H3S for short.

Think of H3S as a formula for hiring success. I first wrote about it in 2011, and other leadership writers have presented similar ideas since then. I’ll summarize it here:

  1. Humility. A humble person has a good sense of self, including a realistic grip on his strengths and weaknesses. He makes other people feel smart and confident and is teachable. He doesn’t gloat over his wins, or downplay his mistakes. He sees what needs to be done, pitches in, and is excited playing his part on the team.

  2. Honesty. An honest person does not lie, exaggerate, or misrepresent the facts. She gives you “the good, the bad, and the ugly” and owns her part. You can bank on her keeping her commitments, even when it’s difficult, expensive, or inconvenient to her.

  3. Hungry. A hungry person is driven to exceed whatever expectations are set for him. Emboldened by a growth mindset, he’s always reaching for more—setting higher goals. He relentlessly pursues the best solution and embraces change if it can take him—or the company—to a new level.

  4. Smart. A smart person usually scores high on traditional IQ tests. But not always. Some people are book-smart but street-stupid. A smart person is a quick study. She can “connect the dots” without a lot of help. She can think laterally and apply what she knows in one area to another. She knows how to make complex subjects simple. She asks thoughtful questions and is always eager to learn.

Like I Said, We’re Hiring!

If you’re looking to build a positive and effective team, don’t do it like George mixed the medicine. I recommend using the H3S formula. And if you’ve got the necessary ingredients yourself and want to join a vibrant and growing team, check out our careers page and see if you’re a fit.