Understanding the People You Lean On

What makes a person tick? What makes their needle spin? What dreams can you help them achieve?

These are the most important questions you can ask someone in an interview (both ways). Without knowing the answer you can’t make the employment relationship anything more than just a job...a transaction, you give me eight hours and I’ll give you $$. And, if it’s just a job, nothing remarkable is going to happen...and eventually you’ll be replaced, out of business, or at best be in a constant struggle to survive.

Who Am I Going to Hire Next?

That’s what I focus on...every day. While there are a lot of distractions (many of them good), there’s nothing more important to me than hiring the right people. So, I always reserve time for this task no matter what. When I’m not interviewing prospects, I’m working on improving and preserving the culture that attracts them.

Back to hiring the right people. You hear this all the time...our secret is we hire the “right” people. I’ll define it further...I hire artists. Artists are people who are capable of and interested in producing more than the required tasks. They give you what Seth Godin terms...emotional labor. These are the people that will make your company alive with stories that spread...make you remarkable.

So, here’s what I focus on when I hire...precisely in this order.

  1. Are they aligned with your culture?
  2. Can I fulfill their dreams? (I figure if they’re going to give me their heart and soul, I should give them more than a paycheck)
  3. Are they competent?

This approach has worked for me for quite some time. Realizing there’s a lot that goes into each of those three items, the point here is that the technical part of the evaluation comes’s the least important, at least in the sort of work we do.

I encourage you to worry less about the next big idea, how to change your product or how to market it. All of those things will sort themselves out quite nicely if you make hiring artists and preserving culture your first priorities.

I just finished taping this as a segment in my Art in Hospitality series...will be up soon.

Recruiting Changes When...

you have a compelling story and a loyal tribe of raving fans. At this stage, you don t post ads on HCareers and hope for a good bite. Instead, you do what Sasha does at Acumen. You let your audience spread the word and impose a deadline taking advantage of the principle of excess demand over limited supply.

Your goal is to go from push to pull.

Who Are You?

The first thing you should figure out about a new employee is not what they can do...but rather who they are.

Most employer-employee failures happen as a result of culture misalignment, not the inability to do "the job". So, ask yourself why job descriptions are largely task oriented, why interviews focus so much on experience and why we spend so much time showing someone how to do it. Instead, spend more time getting to know what makes someone tick, understanding their world view and what their dreams are...this is the stuff that counts in the end.


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)

The Power of a Hug

The power of a hug is remarkable. It goes further than a nice smile, pleasant hello and a handshake. It goes further than using someone's name or recognizing a repeat goes a lot further. It crosses a line. It gets means you really do care. There's no disguising your feelings once you give someone a hug.

Doubletree can't buy enough ads to convince people they care this much...neither can you. So, spend the ad money on a Louree Jefferson. Better yet, a bunch of them.

P.S. Do you think Louree needs a resume? Most remarkable people don't.


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.



Become an Expert

Experts get noticed

They get hired first...and fired last
Experts get paid more...and are given the best projects
Experts are asked for advice...and, they're listened to

Good don't need a Phd or a twenty-five year career to become one. Just, passion, desire, willingness to learn and the ability to endure and fail.

You can be an expert barista, an expert car valet, an expert admin, an expert sales executive or an expert housekeeper. Doesn't really matter which category you just matters that you choose to do so and understand why it's so important.

Point is...why settle for average when you can become an expert at something.

Rising Above The Clutter...for employers

Need to hire someone? Place an ad in the local paper, or a few regional or selected national rags. Post an entry on Monster, HCareers or Call a friend, and if you have some extra bucks, a recruiter.

Or, you can create a job specific billboard like this one and get everyone you know to spread the word. Most companies, department heads and HR departments won't take the time to be this creative. Good for you...less competition.

Why The Resume is Dead

I've riffed about this before. Since then, I, was included in a group of business and HR experts who were invited to weigh-in on the subject by the Albany Times Union. I encourage you to read the interesting and varying perspectives (find them about halfway down the page on the Class conflict blog) on whether resumes remain effective. I found Brandon Mendleson's (the graduate student reporter who invited me) post a nice summary of the problem...and a pointer to the solution.

Static websites can't compete with 2.0 experiences in conveying what you might feel when using a product or service. Text doesn't work well without pictures. Sound and animation (video) brings a product to life. Why would you expect words in a word document to accurately portray your personal micro brand? To oversimplify, one dimensional tools don't work well in a three dimensional world...and, we're fast approaching the fourth dimension.

Another Resume Problem...

is that what people really want to know about you is in between the lines. They want the story that isn't obvious. They want the picture of you on top of the mountain or with your dog. They want to hear how you would react to a financial crisis or guest complaint. They want to read the last performance appraisal you wrote. They want to see what your passionate about...what makes you tick. How is a resume going to accomplish that?

Recruiters...Please Act Like You're Interested

What's the value of a recruiter? Time (which equates to money). So, why is it that so many of them still have you do most of the work. Just today, I received an answer to a job the form of a resume. Nothing else, just the resume. In this day and age, that's insulting. Anyone can farm resumes. What I'm looking for is someone that saves me time and serves up the perfect candidate...on a silver platter. That takes some work. That requires a thorough understanding of not just the job, but the company, the facility, the culture, peers, subordinates, corporate politics, etc, etc. Obviously, a strong recruiter/client relationship is paramount. You can't accomplish that over the phone or by reading the company website and mission statement. You need to hop on a plane, see the property and meet the people involved. You need to act interested. If a recruiter took the time and made an investment to interview my team in this way, I'd be happy to give them an exclusive.

Next, I expect a recruiter to fill in the gaps...the things I can't see on a resume. I expect to know why someone wants  to change jobs, what motivates them, where they want to live and why. I expect to know what remarkable things a person has done in their life and why I should trust them. I expect to see, hear and experience what this person is like...before I ever talk with them on the phone. Yes, every management candidate should have an on-line presence, website, blog, etc. If a candidate doesn't have a package like this, it's the recruiter's responsibility to guide them there. Too much to ask? Obviously, I don't think so. Without a recruiter, my team has to prospect leads and uncover all of these answers, over and over until we get lucky. So, the value of a good recruiter is tremendous, worth every penny...if they do this scope of work. But, simply send me a resume? Sorry, sell that to someone else.


Resumes and CV's tell you the what. But, how do you answer the more important "why"? We can read your "objective". But, why are you passionate? We can read what you did last year and the year before. But, why did you leave your last job? We can read that you like to cycle and hike. But, why are you driven toward those interests?

Of course, interviews answer the why. But, why wait for something that may never occur? Why not answer the why questions right up front? Why not save everyone some time and money...and perhaps land you the coveted interview. Prior to the current day access to bandwidth, the risk of telling your why story at the beginning was far too great. Cover letters longer than a few sentences are rarely read. Resumes are judged heavily on brevity and straightforwardness. And, phone calls are intercepted by admins and voice mail and are rarely returned. In other words, telling your story in any format other than in person isn't really possible with the traditional resume approach. Not so any more. With the broadband access we now enjoy, content distribution and consumption is easy. The challenge is to wrap it up in a nice package...tailor made for the intended audience. Des Walsh recently pointed me to a new beta project, VisualCV. I think it's a you the chance to add video, references, etc. However, I didn't see a blog or photo journal option. Or, how do you capture Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed posts? What about Google shared items or Swurl? Your platform needs to be comprehensive and it needs to allow for format flexibility to demonstrate creativity and passion for certain things...a personal website which looks like it's professionally designed. Wordpress works great...but, takes some know how and work to make it fit.

And, let's not forget about content. If you don't have a blog, start one. If you don't take pictures, buy a camera. If you don't sing, try. If you haven't done anything remarkable or interesting, how do you expect to get noticed?

If you Google your name and aren't on the first page of results, you're behind.

The Jeff Widman Effect


Back in March, after a long recruiting stretch, I wrote about re-engineering the resume. My attempt was to nudge people to rethink the way they present themselves, especially when looking for a new career opportunity. Seth Godin  wrote about it too...and, as usual, explained it perfectly.

Job search, like any other marketing activity, takes one of three paths:

1. You're remarkable- sure to land you the best job with the best people. Or,

2. You're average- rarely gets you noticed, almost never lands you an interview for the job you really want and makes you forgettable if you happen to get past initial screening. Or,

3. You're lucky- what you need copious amounts of if you're average.

Notwithstanding it's almost certain outcome, most people don't choose remarkable...because it's too hard. It requires too much time, too much thought, too much risk, too much energy, too much money...just too much. Contrarily, most people are willing to gamble by doing the easy, average thing, the thing that feels safe and then hope (and pray) for the best outcome.

Jeff Widman is clearly not average. I've never met him. Chances are, you haven't either. Good news, you don't need to...take a quick look at his website and handy work and you'll understand his brand almost immediately. He's a thinker, and a thought provoker. He's imaginative, humble and passionate. He knows exactly what he wants, understands what it takes to get there and works hard at it. And, best of all, he gets results. Interestingly, I learned all this without a resume, no boring intro letter, no phone interview and no reference checks. Just a quick e-mail thanking me for my post and inviting me to take a closer look. That's marketing. Great content, personally delivered in a meaningful way. I learned more about Jeff with a few clicks than I could have with a folder full of paperwork.

Jeff's last job application took fifty hours to develop...that in itself is remarkable. If you're looking for inspiration, I recommend you contact Jeff. Personally, I hope I get the chance to meet him someday.

Experience Isn't That Important

What's the first thing most people look for in an applicant? Experience. What's the bulk of the content on a resume? Experience. Considering how fast the world is changing, how mediocre doesn't cut it, how radically marketing concepts are changing, how function is being replaced by meaningful experience, etc., it's likely that the  "most experienced"  candidate may no longer the best selection...especially if the majority of that learning took place over the last six years...times have been so good that you could basically sleepwalk your way to success.  If you've built your organization to be remarkable and have committed to building long lasting relationships with both customers and employees, you'll probably spend too much time deprogramming someone if you focus on the experience side of their resume. Contrarily, dig into much more challenging territory like personality, communications and the ability to think...find out if  people who are willing to learn, show passion for something, can demonstrate the ability to adapt, and are interested in doing some "open field running" vs. bringing the play book from their last job.

Your only chance for long-term success is to build a team of passionate, hair on fire, values oriented players..who can admit defeat, adapt, think their way through problems and push the edge at every turn. Anything less will result in a futile endeavor.