I’ll Take the Rainbow Princess

Last week I met my niece Lauren and her two daughters, Julia (5) and Abby (3) for a “goodbye” lunch. Happily for Lauren, but sadly for me, she is moving her family to Denver to take a promotion and new position with her company. They will love it there and I will miss them here.

The girls were busy coloring while Lauren and I were busy talking (and toasting!) about her new job. Abby was especially happy as she proudly handed me a picture of a Disney princess (don’t ask me which one) colored with pastel crayons in a curved design like a rainbow. Abby didn’t even think about staying inside the lines. “Oh,” I said, “A Rainbow Princess!” “Yes,” she happily replied, “for your refrigerator-for you to remember me.”

I absolutely love how creative kids are. I’m constantly amazed at how unconstrained they seem to be. I wonder why the older we get, we seem to be more constrained in so many ways and lose our sense of creativity that came so easily when we were young.


You can get around today’s tight labor market if you, too, are willing to “color outside the lines” and consider candidates who may not fit your traditional requirements.

Here are two very important elements to consider as you rev up your creative :

  • Experience: Requirements vs. Relevance

I’m amazed at how much this one requirement, experience, can eliminate so many viable candidates from consideration. Quite frankly, I think experience can sometimes be highly over-rated and too heavily used as a factor for hiring. For example, I have seen managers hire someone who has prior experience in their industry and yet their hires have failed- miserably! Conversely, I have seen managers hire people who have absolutely no experience in their industry and little experience for the position they are hired for, who have succeeded – tremendously!

What you do need is someone who has some relevant experience that can be of real value. For example, hiring a customer service rep for a sales position is a natural. Some of the best salespeople I know came from a customer service background. One of the absolute best placements I ever made was a teacher who transitioned into a salesperson. In all her years with my client, she was a consistent top producer and earner. Why? Because teachers are really good listeners and good communicators – two hallmarks of great salespeople. So, look for that relevant experience.

(The one exception where it’s hard to be flexible is when you need a highly technical person with specific technical skills. For example, if your company sells to engineers, your salespeople may require an engineering degree just to start the sales process.)

  • Look for Values and Behavior

I could tell you lots of anecdotal stories about people who had no prior experience when they were hired, yet went on to become very successful. I’ve seen it in my 25 years of recruiting (as of March 23rd – but who’s counting?).

The one thing that these successful people had in common was a hiring manager who was willing to take a chance on them. These hiring managers were not afraid of risk. They are down-right creative in their hiring.

Here are two ways that you can get down-right creative, too:

  • Look for a candidate’s VALUES. Ask interview questions that help you identify who the person in front of you really is. Try to determine how smart they are and how hard-working they will be and how dedicated they are to succeeding.
  • Look for BEHAVIORS that the candidate has demonstrated in the past that will give you a clue about how they will perform. For example, inquire about a time the candidate took on more responsibility than was required; ask them to identify a time when they were innovative in their approach to their job; and ask for examples of where the candidate was striving to constantly improve their job and performance.

My “Rainbow Princess” picture is pinned to the bulletin board in my office. Every day she makes me smile thinking about Abby, and thinking about how I love coaxing my clients into their “creative zones.”

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