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Recruiting Passionate People Is Difficult, But Worthwhile

How can you tell the difference between the qualified and the passionate?

10Jul

On a recent 7 hour drive I spent the majority of the time listening to podcasts whilst watching the miles tick over on the long journey. There is one recruitment company who advertise on many of these podcasts who make a claim about finding ‘qualified candidates’ and it got me thinking.

What exactly is a ‘qualified candidate’? After all, there are thousands of people who could technically do a job, what qualifications do you ‘need’ to do the vast majority of jobs? Some of the best journalists I know have no formal journalism training, the most skilful coder I’ve met had no formal training before he started his own company, and of the hundreds of PR people I talk to every day, the majority do not have any kind of PR specific qualifications.

However, although there is a huge number of ‘qualifications’ and ‘experiences’ that may or may not have gone into the foundations of the most extraordinary people, there is one thing that always unites them: Passion.

Passion is not something that you can get from a CV or a cover letter, it is something inherent in somebody. Many people see their job as something they do for a proportion of their day so they can earn enough money to live and do what they want to outside of work. For others it is the manifestation of this passion, being able to spend the majority of their days doing something they love.

It is far better to find somebody with a passion for what you’re trying to achieve, than to find somebody who is qualified to do a job. However, it is also considerably more difficult, which is why we find so many people in jobs for which they may be qualified, but in reality have very little passion.

Trying to find the most passionate people is difficult, but not impossible. The issue is that it takes so much longer than hiring in the traditional way and you need to know what you’re looking for. Having conducted hundreds of interviews with potential candidates over the years, I think I have a fairly good grasp on those with genuine passion and those who don’t. There are always those who slip through the net, those who take on a job because of the salary, the title, or the power it brings, but unless you have passion for something, you are unlikely to excel at it.

Another issue that many recruiters come across is that often people do not know they have a passion for what the company does until further down the line. Jack Conte, Co-Founder of Patreon, a company that helps the public pay artists for their work, has found a way around this, which he mentioned in a recent interview with Inc., ‘People like that get pumped, and passion is a muscle you can point in a different direction. If they get excited about one thing, they can get excited about another cool thing - and that could be Patreon.’

However, this requires the face-to-face interview following hours of scouring through CVs and cover letters, which is the key issue that stops many in smaller companies from finding these genuinely passionate recruits. People simply do not have time to go through hundreds of CVs then hundreds of interviews to find the most passionate people.

The simplest way I have found to whittle this down is by setting tests as part of the interview process. One of the things I ask those who apply to work on my team to do is to write an article on a specific subject with a strict deadline. This allows me to see who genuinely has the passion to excel in the role and who simply applied because they saw the role posted on a job site and chanced their luck. It also helps me to ascertain their writing skills, subject knowledge and ability to work to strict deadlines - the three main ‘technical’ skills that we require of those working in our editorial team. One even made their own website, which really spelled out both how passionate and skilled he was. He turned out to be the best employee anyone ever had.

This same approach can be taken with almost any job, set a task, give a deadline, and try to test some of the key ‘technical’ attributes that you require. It is not a perfect system, but it is one that helps to find those with the most passion for the role and one that I can say works well from personal experience. Once you have established those who have at least a spark of passion and a willingness to work to get the role, it makes the interview process considerably simpler and more informed.

Passion can almost trump any of the other ‘harder’ skills because ultimately those who genuinely want to do the work are also those who are most likely to work the hardest to go beyond what’s needed. This could be earning qualifications, learning new technology, or even working in their free time to improve their performance at work. 

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