Hire For Passion, Not Experience

Years ago, when I hired my first team member, I remember making the same mistakes I’ve seen so many others make. My major questions about the candidates really came down to these two:

  • Could they do the job?
  • Could they do it cheap enough that I could still make a profit?

From there, it was just a matter of weighing out the options down to the most experienced and the cheapest. It was how 99% of businesses do things. It was so typically corporate.

It was incredibly stupid.

The candidate I landed on turned out to be extremely flaky and cost me a client, a big project and thousands of dollars. But I couldn’t blame him – it was my fault that I didn’t screen my prospective team members better. I had oversimplified the problem. In my mind, I needed someone who could “do the job.” In reality, I needed to at least ask myself some other questions:

  • Were they loyal?
  • Did they have a good body of work to show for their experience?
  • Did previous clients speak highly of them?
  • Most importantly, were they passionate about what they do?

Passion is so important to the job that we do, I’ll rate it over experience when considering a new prospective team member. You read that right: I’d rather have someone who is passionate about their job than someone who has more experience at their job.

Why Passion Is More Important

It won’t work in every case, but passion is almost always more valuable than experience, regardless of the position. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Passion means you want to do it, even if you can’t yet.
  • Passion means you’ll commit to getting it done right.
  • Passion means you care more about the quality than the quantity or speed.
  • Lack of experience means you don’t have to un-train bad habits.

A client of mine, who runs a successful photography studio, was talking about some of the staffing issues they were having. A very important position was about to open up because someone was resigning to be at home with their kids. I asked if the problem was related to finding someone with experience in the area.

“No,” she said. “I can give them the experience. What I can’t give them, is the passion for the job, and for doing the job well.”

She went on to explain that it was more important to have a cultural fit than it was to have a “rockstar.” There are a lot of rockstars that are so completely full of themselves, they are unable to listen to anyone else. She’s seen them be snippy and downright mean to their clients. There’s a difference in confidence and arrogance, and to hear her tell it, photography is one of those industries where that line gets blurred pretty regularly. So she’s since settled it in her mind that having someone with a strong passion can be better than having someone with tons of experience. Having made this mistake myself, I’ve decided on the same course, and would advise that you do as well. Learn from our mistakes.

Question: What sort of things do you generally look for when hiring or partnering up? In what way will you be changing that now that you’ve seen how important passion can be? Leave your answer in the comments!