When I was in college, I was lucky enough to spend a summer in Thailand. I saved all year for the trip and tried to keep my expenses to a minimum. Even so, I was shocked when it came time to get my clothes cleaned there. The woman who helped me washed all of my clothes by hand. In exchange for hours of work, she asked for only $2 and refused to take any more.
What struck me most of all was the joy she exuded. Here was someone I shared almost nothing in common with, completing a task I had done hundreds of times, using a method I hadn’t ever tried. Her method, the soap she used, and even her feelings toward the task were new to me. But the end result was the same. This experience has stayed with me. Anytime it’s suggested that there is a single right way to do something, I think of her.
This experience instilled in me a determination to hire based on values. If your interview process gets to the heart of the candidate’s values, you’ll be able to decide if you’ll enjoy working with them, because working toward a shared mission is much more meaningful in the long run than workplace banter about your favorite sports team.
And more importantly, those employees may show you that there’s another path toward your shared goal, something you may have missed out on in an echo chamber of friends with similar backgrounds and experiences.
At the end of the day, you should hire the person who will do the best job, but it’s easy to mistake your comfort with someone for competence. So, make sure that your hiring process involves a few interviewers if you can, and outline the values that are most important to the role before you start interviewing. And when you get together with the hiring team to discuss each candidate, make sure that you each push to bring the conversation back to those values. Don’t let words like “impressive” or “likeable” go unchallenged.
Internal biases are something we all have. I know in my own companies, we are not perfect. But we are striving for better. We don’t just want to beat the industry statistics. We want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and like they can express their ideas freely. In doing so, I know that we’ll be better off as a company and will benefit from the sharing of ideas and debate. But I also know that we’ll make a positive impact on every single employee in the building. And that’s something we should all care deeply about.
As the company leader, I am constantly amazed by my team. I have seen the triumphant things they have accomplished, and they remind me regularly of how much I don’t know. We all have a choice when starting a company—hire people just like us who will reinforce what we already believe, or hire people who share our values but introduce us to new ways of thinking.
There is not one correct way to do anything, but you may be tricked into believing there is, especially if no one tells you any differently.