Why is more important than What

What does it mean to hire someone successful?

What it shouldn't mean is hiring people who work the hardest, the fastest or the cheapest. And it shouldn't mean hiring people who will simply follow instructions. Because these people will get tired. And when they get tired of that work, tired of you, they will go away. People going away means you need to find new ones. And that costs money. Turns out it costs way more to keep finding, hiring and training new ones (then putting up with people growing tired, being unhappy, firing them, defending lawsuits, etc.) than just hiring people that choose to stay a long time. Unhappy people get tired…happy people stay awhile.

What it does mean is hiring people who want, care about and value the same things you do. And it means hiring people who make the choices you would make. It means finding people who are aligned with you and as a result are happy doing what you do.

Success and happiness are not about stature and money. Those are outcomes, results of deeper convictions and associated actions…one's core values. As a society we like to measure success in the results a person has achieved (experience, job titles, college degrees, kids not in jail, compensation history, etc.). And to some degree this is fair since the outcomes are directly tied to a person's world views, culture and the choices they've made throughout life. But given the possibility that two people with generally the same outcomes may have arrived there on completely different paths, with different ideals, a different series of fortunate or unfortunate events, different teachers, different parents, etc., it's worth digging deeper. 

What (someone has done) is not what's important. Because what is not what you're paying for. You're actually paying for Why…why they chose to accomplish something…not the fact that they arrived. What a person is likely to accomplish (in your organization) is based on how they will act, how they will relate to and connect with others and how they feel about themselves and the people around them. If they found their way to past accomplishments doing things you wouldn't do or wouldn't be proud of doing, it's best to know that up front so you can either avoid them or mitigate the misalignment in some way. This way you'll both be happy.

So why then are we hiring, promoting, firing, measuring performance based on What people do instead of Why they do them? Mainly because the way we've been measuring outcomes has been baked-in for ions, from pre-school through retirement. It's basically a life of multiple choice and whoever has the most awards, stripes or certifications wins. And besides, it's far easier to measure results than it is to asses core values. College Degree? Check. Ability to type 50 words per minute? Check. Didn't get fired for stealing? Check. Trying to determine how someone is wired…much more challenging. But not impossible.

Here's how I do it…at least how I start anyway. The first question I ask a candidate (Hint, it has nothing to do with work experience, GPA or how many people they managed.)? What are your dreams? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Okay, that's two questions. But you get the picture. Here's another question I always ask…what do you do for fun? Usually these two (three) questions tell me more about a person (and why they do things) than ten of the more standard HR questions ever will. And it always, always changes the tone of the interview. It loosens things up. It makes it okay to be human. Now, with the standard HR stuff out of the picture, we can get down to figuring out if we're both going to be happy…with each other. Try it…it's fun.

The easy thing to do is to find people who are experienced and seemingly a good fit based on their abilities, which is their aptitude measured by past performance…stuff they've done well. You'll get some good hires this way. And they will do their jobs well...at least for a bit. But for long-term success culture, happiness and personal fulfillment win. Personality, character, love of the game, and passion for the same things the organization stands for trumps productivity and efficiency every time. So go find some dreamers. 

Hospitality Hiring

Do your recruitment and hiring practices tell your hospitality story? Is it quickly apparent to an outsider that this isn’t just another job? If so, how? If not, why not?

Do you need to announce (post) job openings in the same place everyone else does? Why?

Does your culture and reputation attract the best prospects on it’s own?

Do you actively build relationships in the hives where your best prospects live/work/learn/play?

Which way to you lean with these practices?

  • Application Process/Paperwork vs. In-Person/Conversation
  • Resume/Q&A vs. Prospect led Presentation
  • HCareers/Monster vs. Hive Immersion

Hiring for hospitality is much harder than posting a job and hoping applicants find you. It takes months, perhaps years of cultivation and nurturing of the right audiences.

Hospitality Work Available- Only Artists Need Apply

If you’ll agree that a primary goal of any company is to create an audience of loyal raving fans, then you might consider the following…

Simply making something better or cheaper isn’t effective any more. You’re not likely to own cheapest or best quality. But, you have a really good chance of being the best in your market at the delivery…the use of care, warmth and comfort as your edge. The best chance to accomplish this is to infuse the Art of Hospitality into everything you do.

I define the Art of Hospitality this way…give people more than they want, deliver it in a meaningful way, and show them you care. Please give attention to some key words…

  • Give vs. Sell
  • Meaningful vs. Average/Expected
  • Show vs. Tell

Now, here’s the hardest and most important step to reaching your goal…hiring the artists to do the work. Recruiting and hiring an artist is different than hiring someone to complete tasks. The idea flow goes like this…

If we are here to deliver the Art of Hospitality, we require artists.

If we require artists, we don’t need people who just do jobs.

If being an artist requires passion and enthusiasm for something, we deserve to know if a person has it.

They should show us. Not just tell us in an interview.

Artists can’t wait to show you what they’ve done.

If a person is an artist, how will their art and passion help our organization move forward?

Bonus: Can they lead? Do they solve interesting problems…in an interesting way?


  • Remarkable vs. Same/Fit-In
  • Robin Williams Effect vs. Order Taker

Every time we have a job opening, we have a chance to hire someone remarkable…an artist. Sometimes, we settle for less. We shouldn’t…because it greatly limits our ability to achieve our goal.


  • Easy vs. Hard
  • Fill a Job vs. Sacrifice Short-Term Gain to Hold-Out for the Best
  • Focus on Trainable (Function/Technical/Efficiency) vs. Non-Trainable (Personality/Caring/Enthusiasm/Passion/Delivery)

Interview Questions I Use to Make People Think

If you're hiring for personality, these are important questions to ask. In no particular order...

  1. What are you looking to do next, and why?
  2. What type of people (team) do you want to be with and why?
  3. What would you like to learn?
  4. Where do you want to live and why?
  5. What are you an expert on? What are you the best at?
  6. What is the worst decision you ever made?
  7. Describe your most remarkable project/achievement.
  8. How did you move your last organization forward? What did you do to move those around you forward?
  9. Imagine you had your own business...what would you do to improve service, improve morale, improve the bottom line, etc.?
  10.  Describe a challenging problem you have helped solve.
  11. Describe a problem you foresaw, and how you helped avoid it.

I use these with all levels of jobs, from front line to senior management. As you can imagine, I receive all sorts of answers...none of them wrong. But, in the end, I know more about what makes a person tick, how they will fit in and whether or not they can help us move forward.

Hint...if you're submitting a cover letter/CV, do something remarkable and incorporate the answers into your presentation. You might just get noticed.

Let me know if you have some to add.