How Jack Welch Hires

The Must-Haves, the Definitely-Should-Haves and the Game-Changer

September 23, 2013

by Jack and Suzy Welch

Hiring? What a great problem to have. It can only mean your organization is growing, which is terrific, or that you’ve got an existing position you can now fill with an even bigger dose of talent than before.

Either way, congratulations.

Why aren’t you smiling?

Well, probably because you know from experience that hiring is about as hard to get right as it is critical to your company’s success – which is to say, very.

Fortunately, hiring isn’t a black box of gut and luck, although it can sometimes feel that way, like when your home-run candidate turns out to be a wash out by Day 30 on the job. Rather, hiring is a discipline which improves with time and practice. Or put more precisely, we’ve found that hiring improves with time and practice if you deploy a very specific (and truth be told, pretty unbending) qualifications check-list.

Hey, we didn’t say hiring ever got easier.

That said, the check-list itself is short. It contains two flat-out must-haves, five qualities that are definitely-should-haves, and one very special quality that, while not exactly commonplace, is a total game-changer.

The must-haves, perhaps not surprisingly, are high integrity and high IQ, which barely need additional comment here, except to note that both are essential to any winning organization and neither can be trained into a person. Sheer convenience or a candidate’s likeability may make you want to squint on this front. You just can’t without doing a disservice to your organization.

As for the definitely-should-haves on our hiring check-list, we’ve long dubbed them “The Four Es and a P.” The first E is energy. Today, probably more than ever, stamina matters. Every person you hire, no matter where the job falls on the org chart, should be filled with vitality and intensity, able to go the distance, not just on deadline or during a crisis, but day after day.

The ability to energize others comes next. After all, what good is high energy if it isn’t making the team better? Look for candidates who exude positivity and stir others to action. Such dynamism is contagious.

Third comes edge, the capacity to make yes-or-no decisions. Smart people can be dangerously namby-pamby about hard calls, you know? They want to analyze everything to death. Hello, no. When you’re hiring, ask candidates to describe how they’ve made tough decisions – and how fast they made them.

The fourth and final E is execution, the ability to get things done. Brainpower is all well and good – it’s non-negotiable, as we said – but not if it’s uncoupled from the ability to get out from behind the desk and make ideas happen. Many people are either smart or are good executors – you’ve got to find the ones that are both.

The four Es are great individually, but they’re even better when a candidate has them all wrapped up in burning ball of passion – there’s the P – for both work and life. Passionate people sweat the details, they’re curious, they care.

And there’s nothing better than hiring someone who’s passionate about… well, about people. Here’s where that powerfully game-changing quality comes in.

We call it the “generosity gene.”

You’ve seen the generosity gene in action and maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to experience it – a boss who’s overjoyed when you nail an assignment, who’s euphoric to give out promotions, who thinks the very best part of his job is when one of his people gets to go home and tell the family, “I got a raise today.” Unfortunately, you’ve probably also experienced bosses missing this piece of DNA. They grimace like they’re drinking vinegar when bonus time comes around. They sit in meetings with the company brass and take credit for ideas spawned in the ranks. These types are wary, in fact, of anyone beneath or beside them looking good. To them, business is a zero-sum game.

The generosity gene is the exact opposite mindset. It’s an in-the-bones, personality-deep craving – to help other people improve, grow, thrive, and succeed. And we promise you, if you hire candidates who’ve got that running through their veins, amazing things will happen in your organization.

The reason’s simple. “Generosity gene” managers inspire trust, and in doing so they unleash productivity and creativity. Their people become fonts of ideas and innovation and paragons of commitment to customers and the work. Of course they do! They know they’ll be loved and rewarded for their efforts. Isn’t it great that, in the process, the company reaps the benefits too?

Look, hiring is hard; no one’s ever going to argue otherwise. But winning is about assembling the best team, right? What else is there? So make sure you look for people who truly demonstrate the seven qualities on our checklist. And when you find someone with that magical eighth – the generosity gene – do whatever it takes to bring that game-changer into the organizational fold.

That, in one fell swoop, is hiring right.

Jack Welch is Founder and Distinguished Professor at the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. Through its executive education and Welch Way management training programs, the Jack Welch Management Institute provides students and organizations with the proven methodologies, immediately actionable practices, and respected credentials needed to win in the most demanding global business environments.