The Hiring Dilemma

When it rains, it pours. This week, I am hiring three new employees. I want people that stand out. Three people in a current team of five is a big step for my small company.

Deep in the recruiting process, I am contemplating the critical success factors. As a small company, each hire is critical. Every individual changes the cultural DNA of the company.

While I used to think that I was good at hiring and interviewing, some recent bad experiences have me scratching my head. I ask myself, “Why did I not see this issue? Or question the fit more? What can I learn about myself to make me a better hiring manager?”

Especially sensitive to this issue right now, I bristled when a client asked me, “What traits do I think make great supply chain leaders?” Flattered that I was asked, and not feeling like an expert, I swallowed hard. I responded and laughed, “I am not sure I am an expert. I have learned from both success and failure, but based on three decades of personal experience and my interviews with supply chain leaders over the last decade, here are some traits that I think matter and I will be looking for in my next hires.”

In my interviews, I ask open-ended questions. These have no right answer. Instead, I will be looking for patterns and characteristics. Here it goes. Wish me luck.

My Criteria.

  1. Natural Curiosity. I am looking for someone that likes to solve puzzles. The person has a natural curiosity to learn and wants to be with other smart, hard-working people. The person for my team hates to be bored. Given the choice between job security and continuous learning, my candidate takes the position with the greatest opportunity to learn.
  2. Passion to Do Good Work. The person never accepts the status quo. They like to work on cool projects with a drive to improve the world. Passionate about their work, they are creative self-starters and initiate new ideas. I want to hear about how they owned prior projects and drove change.
  3. Multi-faceted. Balanced. My ideal candidate likes diversity. They bring the same passion to their personnel lives that they exhibit in their work lives. They are constantly balancing their hobbies, families and work. The employee thrives in a diverse team looking to learn and experience from others. They are comfortable in their own skin….
  4. Systems Thinking. In my opinion, one of the most important traits of a supply chain leader is systems thinking. The successful individual sees the big picture and can quickly identify cause and effect, and understand trade-offs. The supply chain is a complex system with growing complexity. They are willing to jump in to figure out the relationships.
  5. Analytics and Pattern Recognition. The successful person also embraces analytical methods and is quick to recognize patterns. These can be repetitive situations, sets of numbers or inputs to drive outcomes. The ability to see and identify patterns early is a critical skill.
  6. Humility and Team Spirit. I am looking for someone that leaves their ego at the door. They understand humility and are able to appreciate and work effectively with people with sharp edges. (I find that talented people often have sharp edges; and as a result, it is important to have a team where individuals listen first and judges later.)
  7. Hunger to Read. Communication skills define success. Reading is foundational. If the person likes to read, they have a higher likelihood to be able to tell stories, write clearly and communicate well in team meetings. One of my favorite questions in an interview is, “What do you read and why? Of what you have read, what is in your mind now? What influenced you?” I don’t care if it is a comic book or T.S. Elliot. I want to work with a person that likes to read.
  8. Listening to What is Not Said. Listening skills are fundamental. Let me tell a story. I wanted the last person that I hired to work out, but I screwed up in the hiring process. I did not recognize that the person could not listen. Because I wanted to fill the position, and I liked the person, I skipped over this critical skill. To be successful, the person needs to be able to listen to what is said, and what is not said. Active listening is an art. Especially, people are tired or stressed. As a result, I will be looking for active listening skills.
  9. Ability to Laugh. Especially at Themselves. We spend hours with a work team. Fun and laughter break the ice and transform relationships. I am looking for a person that knows how to have fun, but most importantly, can laugh. Especially at themselves….
  10. Influence Management. Ability to Sell Big Concepts. Many times, when people speak of selling, they think of selling products or services in the commercial markets. I am looking for a person that can sell ideas. A person that can listen and understand, and can think on their feet to sell ideas in a way that everyone feels good about.
  11. Can Dance in the World of Gray and Operate in the World of Black/White. Supply Chain Management is constantly changing. What is true today, is outdated tomorrow. Technologies rise and fall and ideas morph. To be successful, people need to be good at navigating change, and dancing in the world of gray. However, when rubber hits the road, and things need to happen, they can execute. They can commit.
  12. Coachable. I am also looking for someone that wants to be coached. They have been part of a team, or sought a mentor and want and give feedback. I am more interested in hearing about their failures and what they learned than their successes. I am looking for heart, hard work, and willingness to seek feedback to drive higher levels of performance.
Lora Cecere
About the author: 

Lora Cecere is the Chief Executive Officer of Supply Chain Insights. Her career includes Vice President roles with AMR Research, Descartes Systems Group and JDA Software Group.  Lora has written two books published by Wiley, “Supply Chain Metrics That Matter” and “Bricks Matter”, and she actively blogs for Forbes. Ms. Cecere has an MBA (The University of Pennsylvania) and a Doctorate in Business Administration (Temple).  Follow her on Twitter.