How to hire great employees

September 2nd, 2011 by Joe Kriesberg

Last Sunday, while Hurricane Irene roared through Boston, I had extra time to read the Sunday New York Times and found my way deep into the Business Section where I found a very interesting interview with Andy Lansing, the chief executive of Levy Restaurants in Chicago.  Mr Lansing is asked about how he hires good employees and he gave an answer that I thought was fascinating. He says, "I have a pretty nontraditional approach to hiring. I hire for two traits — I hire for nice and I hire for passion."

Mr. Levy elaborates: "If you sit down with me, no matter how senior you are in the company or the position you’re applying for, my first question to you is going to be, are you nice? And the reactions are priceless.   Then I say, “What are you passionate about in your life? What does passion mean to you?” And I’m looking not necessarily for the magic answer, but I love it when I hear that someone has fire in the belly."

Mr. Levy's insights immediately resonated with me. When I think about the MACDC employees who have been the most successful over the years, they had both of these qualities. And certainly the current group here at 15 Court Square are both nice and passionate. That is why we are able to work together effectively, overcome challenges, and enjoy coming to work every day (well, most days!)

Now, of course, employees need to have a variety of technical skills and knowledge. But, as Mr. Levy says, "If you give me someone who’s nice and who’s passionate, I can teach them everything else. I don’t care what school you went to, I don’t care where you worked before. If you give me someone with those two traits, they will nine out of 10 times be a great success in the company."

While I think I have always looked for these qualities in the employees that I hire, I have never asked either of these questions before. But to any readers who might someday apply for a job here at MACDC - you have been warned!

Happy Labor Day!

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