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People & Team


Why hiring for passion, not just experience, can be transformational

Hiring for passion
People are a company’s most valuable asset, so it makes sense to ensure they are bought into the offering

While it may be tempting to de-risk recruitment by prioritising academic achievement and work experience, hiring for passion can help populate your company with the kind of people who will live and breathe the business.

People are emotive by nature. Almost everyone you know will have something they get enthused and excited about – when their hearts begin to soar, and life seems magical.

The source of the passion could be their favourite football team, art, wine, music, a wife or a husband. What rarely seems to inspire passion is the typical 9-5 job, office politics and longing for the weekend.

But what if you could combine the two? What if you were passionate about your job – if you could feel that nervous, thrilling excitement about acquiring a new customer, launching a new product or meeting monthly targets?

If you embrace hiring for passion, and not just the experience and skills to do a role, then it could make a meaningful difference. A happier and more productive workforce, more optimistic and determined to succeed.

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Walk the talk

Karl Thurlow, head of business operations at Aviemore-based adventure travel firm Wilderness Scotland, said he primarily looks for passion when making hires. He wants to see an enthusiasm for the type of trips Wilderness Scotland offers, such as walking holidays in the Highlands, mountain-biking or sea kayaking with seals.

“We are still relatively small, so over the next 12 months we would be looking to hire only a couple of positions,” he explained. “They are mostly in sales and marketing or logistics, those who help organise the trips that our customers will be going on. We like to look for those specific skills of course, and experience in working with accommodation providers, dealing with guides, handling multiple logistics challenges or from an events background helps. But we also look for an element of passion. That can be either related to the kind of work we do, so adventure travel and love of the outdoors, or simply showing passion for doing the job correctly and wanting to achieve.”

Showing that love of hiking, biking or canoeing is important because, Thurlow added, it helps the company strengthen its internal culture and the service it offers to its customers.

“We discover that passion just through a face-to-face interview. We might ask them about their favourite ever experience in Scotland, to sell their favourite place here or the enjoyment of a bike ride on a Sunday. If they can do that then we know that they will sell the company and the experiences well.

“But it doesn’t even have to be about the outdoors. If they say ‘spaceman’ to a question of ‘what would your favourite job be without any constraints?’, then we want to hear the passion in their voices about it.”

Top five reasons for not British workers not being happy in their jobs

  • Poor management: 49 per cent
  • Pay: 40 per cent
  • Not feeling valued: 39 per cent
  • No career progression: 30 per cent
  • Not enjoying the work: 30 per cent

Source: Investors in People

Prioritise optimism

Whilst it may be easily understandable that someone will have a passion for spotting wild deer or tearing down a mountain following a bike trail, it might be a little harder to get so flushed in the face about the world of recruitment.

“I’m the first to admit that recruitment isn’t sexy,” said Simon Swan, founder and chief executive of recruitment marketplace Hiring Hub. “It is hard to get passionate about recruitment, but you can get passionate about our values and wanting to make people feel better about something which is viewed as a necessary evil. We want innovative thinking, intelligent and passionate people to help us do that. If you hire a passionate person, then they tend to be more optimistic about life and find it in all pursuits including business.”

Swan believes hiring for passion and not just experience is crucial for younger businesses in particular. “I have a theory that the first 20 hires you make as a new business have to be people who are passionate and want to advance their career and professional development,” he added. “If you hire people who don’t have that then they won’t roll up their sleeves when the going gets tough. They will just burn out.”

Top five sectors at risk of employees stay put

  • Flexibility
  • Acknowledgement
  • Health and safety
  • Growth
  • Culture

Source: ICMI

At the first interview stage Swan believes it is vital to find out if a candidate understands the ethos of the company and can get passionate about it. “We have a conversation rather than an interview and try to take the tension out of the room,” he explained. “We see if they have the qualities needed to do the job on offer but primarily we try and find out who they really are. We have developed a set of 30 questions which help us.”

These range from ‘how would you feel if your best friend deserted you?’, to ‘tell us about a time where you misjudged someone or something’ and ‘if I gave you £5,000 now, how would you spend it?’.

“We get a read on how pessimistic or optimistic they feel about life as well as their enthusiasm and their thinking,” Swan went on to say. “We also do psychometric testing, but we don’t use the typical tests from the large companies. We sourced it from a one-man business set up by an ex-psychologist. It is incredibly accurate and gives you a great picture of someone’s DNA. What is interesting is that it is not about who has the loudest shirt or laugh, because you can’t have a whole team of extroverts. I am introverted but I have a huge passion for this job. It is not always the most obvious people who have the most passion.”

What does it mean in terms of business performance? “Better productivity, more target driven, being able to do something without having to be asked,” Swan says. “They will the company and each other to succeed. It’s about pride as well from putting a stray tea bag into the bin or getting the job done well. The don’t leave problems, they find a solution.”

Get free expert advice on coronavirus recovery tactics and stories from your peers at Rebuild, our dedicated support hub.

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