image by Round Indigo Rock, flickr artist

we’ve had a big hiring push lately at my firm, and to be quite frank i don’t really like it.

to me it’s not enough to hire bright, intelligent, promising people to add to your workforce. you have to go beyond that and think about the team(s) those people will be on. this is hard to do when you are hiring people for their capabilities rather than a particular task. you need to be asking: can they become the new leaders of this team? can they handle the pressures of a highly dynamic development process? will they be able to form those trusting bonds with their coworkers?

i’ve been a part of many teams in both my academic and professional lives to know that just because someone has all the skills necessary, and their résumé checks all the boxes on your list of “the perfect candidate,” that doesn’t mean that they’re the right fit for your organization. conversely, i’ve known people who have not been the brightest or the most talented but whom have made the organization thrive because they were excellent teammates.

when i was coaching hockey at penn state, we had a fantastic player on our

division 1 club. he won acha division 1 player of the year, and broke just about every record in school history as a forward. when he had an extra year of eligibility left, he joined our division 2 club. some thought that he’d score well beyond 50 goals that season. how could the former player of the year do anything less than spectacular? but he never did gain a level of comfort in the lower division that he enjoyed in the first tier, and because of that he struggledmightily. his scoring totals dropped off dramatically and we exited early from the national tournament that year. the following season after he graduated (along with over 10 other seniors), we reloaded our club with a group of freshmen more known for their work ethic than their abilities to handle the puck and put goals on the board. it was that season — however — that we had our best run, going deep into the national tournament.

our group of over-achieving, under-sized grinderswas just a mere 60 minutes away from a semi-final berth because our team was made up of the right players, not the best players. they fit our system. they played the way we asked them to play. they played for each other more than they played for themselves. they were nothing we were looking for, but turned out to be everything we were hoping for.

the problem with finding people for your organization is that when you’re looking for the “best available” you tend to overlook the “best for your team.” what do you look for when you hire? are you checking boxes, or are you looking at a bigger picture?