Hiring for Intelligence and Humility


In a previous post, I mentioned research that showed that  traditional interviews are only the 9th best way to predict performance. Intelligence was one of the best predictors of a successful hire.

But how do you assess intelligence? In an interview with the New York Times, Jeremy Allaire, chairman and chief executive of Brightcove, says that when he hires, he wants people who are extremely bright. “It doesn’t mean they have a certain pedigree, but I look for bright people with whom I can have a high-bandwidth conversation, and who can synthesize really quickly and challenge my thinking.”

Another attribute Allaire looks for is humility. Ego-less performance. I think this is seriously under-rated in hiring and a major factor in team performance.  “I want people who are nice, who are genuinely good people,” he says. “If I had the opportunity to have someone who is the most brilliant person in the world but they were a prima donna, I wouldn’t want them. We’ve had a couple people like that. They can’t thrive because they turn people off and they can’t operate in this kind of environment.”

Michael Lebowitz, founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, concurs. “Don’t hire jerks, no matter how talented,” he advises.  He says he learned this early on, when he was a small start-up and was doing everything possible to maintain a positive framework. He looked for people he liked, because he’d seen how, no matter how talented they are, the negative are always going to pull down the positive. “The second- or third- or fourth-best candidate who isn’t a jerk ultimately is going to provide way more value.”  Read the rest of the Lebowitz interview.