The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you build a strong team? is written by Alex Algard, CEO and founder of Whitepages and CEO and founder of Hiya.
A strong team is one of the single best indicators of a company’s long-term success. And finding and hiring the right people is one of the hardest challenges any manager will encounter over the course of their careers. In my early days of hiring at Whitepages, my first instinct was to focus too much on fluffy resume bullet points, flashy company names, and prestigious schools. While these things can be predictive of success, they often misrepresent the true quality of a candidate.
What I have found over time is that no matter the role you’re hiring for, a good rule to live by is to not put too much emphasis on whether or not candidates fit into the confines of a job description. Instead, determine whether or not they are the kind of people you want to work closely with—day in and day out. The strongest players on every team I’ve built all had the core character traits needed to succeed at any company:
In scouting for college athletes, there is a common philosophy that suggests the best recruits are those who are well-rounded and have solid athletic fundamentals vs. those who demonstrate a single refined skill. This mindset can also apply to hiring. Look to hire team members who are not just good at one core function, but who are fundamentally intelligent, have a demonstrated great work ethic, and are willing to take on any task, even if it’s outside of their comfort zone. Businesses can change frequently. When you hire based on fundamentals vs. a specific skill set, your employees can easily adapt their roles to suit the evolving needs of the company.
See also: The Biggest Turnoffs For Job Candidates
I am a big believer in hiring doers, not talkers. I only want to work with people who have real work to show for themselves. Of course, it’s hard to tell if someone exhibits this trait based on a few hours in an interview. So whether we’re interviewing for the role of CFO or engineer, we provide a mandatory homework assignment so that we can understand what a candidate would “do” to solve a particular problem as it pertains to our business. When I steer the conversation away from resume bullet points and toward how a candidate would approach his or her job, I have a much higher success rate of finding a self-motivated person who thrives on getting stuff done.
In today’s world, there’s a blurring of lines between personal and work life. I look for people who find a way to embrace work as part of their persona, or those who view their work not just as a job, but as a craft. How do I identify passion for work in an interview? Let’s say someone is interviewing for a mobile developer position. The recruit must be able to whip out his or her phone, show me what his or her favorite apps are, and explain why in a thoughtful manner—right on the spot. If he or she can’t pass this simple test, it’s a huge red flag. Seek out people who not only love what they do, but also respect the space they work in. This passion will then shine through in their daily life.
The most productive work environments are ones where people aren’t afraid to voice their opinion. We had a corporate trainer come in a few years ago who made the recommendation that if you disagreed with someone in a meeting, you should keep it to yourself. While there are certainly professional ways to be a contrarian, I am of the mindset that if you believe in something, you can’t be afraid to say so. In fact, I want our employees to feel an obligation, not just permission, to always speak up for what is best for our business. Look for people who have a track record of making something happen (or not happen), because of their voice. During the interview, press them on a controversial topic, or disagree with their viewpoint and observe how they react. Do they clam up or do they engage? You want a team full of players who are bringing something to the table with them each and every time they sit down. The most refined skill set in the world is worthless without a voice to back it up.