Helpless vs. Resourceful

Over the last 13 years of hiring people for our company we have tried to come up with some profile or some marker to look for how to determine who has a better chance of success. We have used traditional hiring methods, behavior analysis, evaluations and multiple interviews to try and screen employees who will not only be productive but allow us to scale our company around them. After many successful and awful hires, I still feel like this process is hit or miss at best but there seems to be one factor that emerges a lot…

Is the person we hired helpless or resourceful. When minor adversity challenges this person do they immediately ask for help or do they try and figure it out. More importantly do they ignore or hide the issue or alternately use any problem solving at all. I find more and more by observing our successful hires a trait they all share is an independent streak that has them solving their own problems. This is not to say we always agree with the method of their problem solving but the effort or action is there.

Watching the helpless person is not always obvious. Being helpless can sound like the person is weak or obviously in distress, not so I believe this term is more of a passive approach to solving problems where non- action is the primary default position and waiting for something to happen becomes the method of how they solve day to day issues.

This could be as easy as a group of new hires in a training room left to do independent work. The trainer gets called away for an issue and leaves the group longer than anticipated. At what point as the group finishes their training exercise and realize they have been left without a task do they act. Are you surprised that most of the group would sit quietly waiting until one resourceful person left the room and found the trainer or independently found something to do that allowed them to progress in their training.

What about the employee that consistently misses goals at work do they proactively go to their supervisor and acknowledge the short coming and make a plan to achieve their goals or do they wait silently hoping no one will address it. Somehow hoping by waiting things will improve.

Both these seem minor and I would not base my determination of resourcefulness of someone based on this but I have found the inability to tackle minor obstacles is the beginning sign of an approach to solving more complex problems with the same passivity that leads to much larger consequences when not dealt with.

The resourceful person typically has the IT factor that so many hiring managers are looking for. It is the trait that is so hard to describe but makes you want to work with this person. This does not mean that all the decisions they make work out but the act of trying to solve problems gives them the wisdom to become great employees.

We have found ourselves more and more trying to determine the level of resourcefulness of candidates we interview much more than their relevant industry experience and are now spending much of a new hires first few months observing these traits equally with the evaluation of their productivity.

Hiring the best athlete vs. the best resume has always been our preferred way of hiring but this added attention to hiring resourceful people has made a difference in both our productivity and our culture.