How to Hire: Look for Overcomers

Overcoming obstacles is the ultimate trait in a professional. Overcomers are the people you should be hiring and in fact, the only metric that is valuable to you as a hiring manager is the ability-to-overcome-obstacles metric. This rule applies astoundingly well across all job functions, even those that are entry-level or seemingly too simple to derive value from problem-solving acumen. Just think about the path that any successful leader has taken when ascending the ranks. They didn’t lead their peers and get promoted because of their technical skills, whether software development or espresso making. All of their peers had those technical skills. But the top performers took the initiative to resolve obstacles that occurred within their own job function while their peers stopped producing and waited for their manager to fix it for them.

In every interview you have to determine whether your candidate is an overcomer or just a normal person. “Normal” is an appropriate term here because most people cannot overcome obstacles well. You don’t want the normal people.

While there is only one metric that matters to you as a hiring manager, there are many ways to overcome obstacles or to be part of a team that overcomes obstacles. What you are really looking for is an overcomer who compliments what you already have on your team. If it is a mature team that already has a good overcomer score, figure out what specific skill set would break the team through to the next level. If it is a weak team, your goal is talent accumulation and the top all-around candidate is the clear choice.

The great thing about hiring overcomers is that they are easy to identify when they are in front of you. They know themselves well and understand what specific skills enable them to overcome specific problems. They have stories to back them up and are credible because you can ask 2nd and 3rd level questions and they answer them with ease, vigor and competency.

So next time you feel you have a tough hiring decision to make, remember that you have most likely based your evaluation on technical skills. Then remember to apply the only metric that really matters: the ability to overcome obstacles.

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