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Mind of Jacka: Who Not to Hire

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Feb 09, 2023

“In short, hiring is the most important aspect of business and yet remains woefully misunderstood.”

Philip Delves Broughton – "The Hard Work of Getting Ahead”

The following is for all of you who are responsible for hiring. (The rest of you, pay attention. Someday this will all be yours.)

The next time you hire someone, do not hire an accountant. Do not hire an IT specialist. Do not hire a cybersecurity guru. Do not hire someone with Big 4 experience. Do not hire someone with external audit experience. Do not hire a finance expert. Do not hire a consultant. In fact, it might be best if you do not hire anyone who has any kind of business degree.

(Full disclosure: I have a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Arizona State University. Do as I say, not as someone did to me.)

Hire an English major. Hire an anthropologist. (Full disclosure: my first degree was a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Arizona State University.) Hire a zoologist. Hire a psychiatrist. Hire a cartoonist. Hire an actor. Hire a musician. (Full disclosure: I am a musician. What these full disclosures have to do with anything, I’m not sure.) Hire a Ph.D. Hire a college dropout. Hire someone who just got their GED.

Hire any type of person who is not the type you’ve ever hired before. Hire someone who will bring fresh perspectives. Hire someone who will force your entire team to quit looking at things the way they always have. Hire someone whose naiveté will force you to rethink what you are doing. Hire someone who will ask the stupid questions the rest of your team has forgotten to ask.

The source of the quote that opened this piece is Tom Peters’ new book, “Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence.” Another quote from that book comes from Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post in the article, “The Surprising Thing Google Learned About Its Employees — and What It Means for Today’s Students.”

“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”


And here’s another quote from Peter’s book, cited in the same article.

“…the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligent.”

And, for good measure, one more quote from Peters’ book (sorry, it’s a real TomPetersPalooza here today), this time research cited in “Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practices of Managing and Management Development.”

“At one giant tech firm, 43% of liberal arts grads had made it to upper-middle management compared to 32% of engineering grads. At one giant financial services firm, 60% of the worst managers, according to company evaluations, had MBAs, while 60% of the best only had B.A.s.”

The upshot? Quit hiring based on our expectations. Quit hiring the way we always have. Quit hiring people with certain titles, degrees, and designations.

And, while we’re at it, don’t hire people who care about titles, applicable experience, where they will be in five years, job descriptions, degrees, designations. Hire people who care about people.

And the variation on this particular theme? Learn what emotional intelligence is. Learn how to apply it and learn how to hire for it.

The next good employee isn’t the straight-A, traditionally trained, fill-in-the-educational-and-professional-dots, robot. The next good employee is the one so enmeshed in reality that the work actually comes as second nature.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.