Hire Talent over Position Fit

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Every now and then you see a resume that jumps out.  Your first reaction is wow…this person looks amazing on paper.  There is just one problem…they don’t fit the job description.  Maybe they don’t have a specific experience.  Or are more senior than initial plan for the role.  Whatever it is…you have a decision to make.  Pass on the star candidate or change the job description.

I first faced this decision in 2000.  I was hiring a junior analyst to join our business operations team.  We had a great group of candidates.  All talented, A-type go-getters.  And we thought we had the guy we wanted.  We were bringing him back for final interviews when I got the email from HR.  “Check out this resume…Not sure if he is right for the role, but looks great.”

Within 10 seconds, I replied to the email, “I want to meet him asap.”  His interviews were as strong as his resume.  Only one problem, he was clearly superior to the job description and comp package.  Neal and I discussed him, but frankly didn’t have much of a debate…get this guy in.  But we needed more budget and we needed to figure out the new role.  So we took it to David (the President).  He had the exact same reaction.  Get him in, we will figure it out from there.

That candidate was Satya Patel.  He did amazing things for DoubleClick, including launching several importing product lines.  He then went to Google, then Battery Ventures, and now is a leader in product management at Twitter.  Calling him a star is an understatement.  He is bound by nothing when it comes to a business setting.  Truly an elite talent.  To think, we actually discussed for a few minutes whether we should hire him or not.  Amazing.

My recruiting philosophy has always been to hire the most talented candidate.  If that person fits the job description perfectly, that’s great.  But if not, then I worry about role fit later.  I have never, ever had buyer’s remorse when using this strategy.  Actually, some of my worst hires were ones where I prioritized role fit over ceiling.   I think this philosophy is especially important when starting a company.  Start-ups evolve quickly.  They almost never go as planned.  Talented people are flexible and able to solve problems you never anticipated.  They always over achieve.  They create leverage for you beyond what was anticipated.  And they always pay for themselves…many times over.


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