The first thing we look for when hiring new staff is personality. In my eyes, personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can’t train a personality. We look for people who are friendly and considerate, and who like working with others. From our airlines to our call centres, and our office buildings to our gym floors, you will always see smiling people working together to get the job done. These personalities make our staff successful, and, in turn, our businesses successful – they also keep our company culture vibrant.
We also place more importance on experience rather than qualifications. The person with the top grades and most credentials isn’t always the best person for the role. Time and time again I’ve seen people with a background of broad-ranging employment and skills hired for a job where they don’t necessarily tick the specialist criteria boxes, but become incredibly successful by offering a new level of understanding to the role. With this in mind, we focus on hiring people with transferable skills — team players who can pitch in and help others in all sorts of situations. It’s important never to underestimate the power of versatility. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help a business see problems as opportunities and inspire creativity.
Spanx’s CEO Sara Blakely once said to me: “The smartest thing I ever did in the early days was to hire my weaknesses.” I couldn’t agree more. I can attribute a lot of my success in business to hiring people who had the skills I lacked. For a business to grow there needs to be a healthy level of delegation. When my friends and I started Virgin, none of us were any good with numbers. Rather than try to act as accountants and do the job badly, we found Jack Clayton. Jack shared our passion, and had a knack for numbers that helped us become successful and grow.
If you’re the one hiring, evaluate where your company could improve, and seek out qualities in people that will help you make those improvements. If you’re applying for a role, look for ways in which you can add to, and improve, the business.
Nowadays, it’s rare that people work nine to five. We’re more connected than ever before, so many of us are working longer hours and with more commitment. With this in mind, it’s important to find and hire passionate people, who genuinely care about the business and its purpose. Purpose is no longer a buzzword. It’s a must-have. Passion and purpose will keep people focused on the job at hand, and ultimately separate the successful from the unsuccessful.
At Virgin, we’re known for our culture, and our culture is solely determined by our people. Our people are our greatest asset and the lifeblood of the brand, and are therefore crucial to the success of our businesses. They are what keep us relevant and ahead of the game. To make sure we continue to deliver a standout company culture, we make hiring our number one priority. While it may seem like a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than unbalancing the team.
Photos from Virgin.com