As you shuffle through résumés of job candidates, don’t get too hung up on finding the perfect mixture of background and technical skills. The most important qualification a job seeker can possess isn’t always evident on paper. Be sure your new hires have entrepreneurial DNA, write Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey in this article, a version of which first appeared in the magazine and website Ceramic Industry. (Used by permission.)


Hiring an entrepreneurial employee is one of the best things you can do for your bottom line, because these individuals will be self-reliant, engaged, empowered, and innovative problem solvers. In today’s ever-changing business world, adaptable and entrepreneurial employees are your most valuable competitive advantage. Here are seven ways to help you determine if a job candidate has the entrepreneurial DNA you seek.

1 | Are they willing to bet on themselves?

Entrepreneurs don’t have any income unless they are constantly satisfying their customers, and they’re constantly looking for ways to increase their income, profits, and growth.

2 | Pay attention to body language

Entrepreneurs’ confidence shows in their posture and their body language. They have prepared themselves by learning about your company and display self assurance when they are interviewed and scrutinized by strangers like you. These “tells” are physical evidence of your candidate’s attitude and self esteem.

3 | Talk about their mistakes

Successful entrepreneurs know that blame is disempowering while doing what can be done to prevent a reoccurrence is staying in control. Ask follow-up questions to see how well each candidate analyzed what happened and whether they took steps to prevent the same thing from happening again. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to make the same mistake twice. They build their successes on the backs of their mistakes.

4 | Look for evidence of resourcefulness

Ask job seekers how they solved a professional problem when they lacked the time, support or funds they needed. Listen for evidence of how they used their imagination, asked for help and thought outside the box. See if their solution solved more than one problem. Entrepreneurs know that the ball is always in their court.

5 | Gauge their preparedness

Candidates with entrepreneurial DNA will treat you like a prospect for their services. They think of everyone as a customer for them, their service or their product. They know that the best sales pitch is, “I can help you sell your product,” and they can’t do that unless they have thoroughly researched your company in preparation for the interview.  They’ll come to the interview with a pen and notepad and a list of questions.

6 | Determine how they work on a team

Look for candidates who show an interest in understanding all the jobs, procedures, outsourced services and suppliers that keep the customer loyal. Ask them how their last job fit into their company’s big picture. Ask them how they worked with their teammates and improved communication both inside and outside their previous company.

7 | Test their attentiveness and organization

During the final portion of the interview process, tell the candidate more about what the job entails, who they will be working with and why, how the job supports the customer experience, how your company is organized, and what the performance expectations are. Be sure to include how the funds get from the ultimate consumer to the company to cover their paycheck. After your explanation is finished, ask the candidate to write a one-page summary of your company, the money trail, how they will be working with their colleagues, and why they qualify for the job. Then tell them it’s due by 5 p.m. the next day. This summary will tell you volumes about the candidate’s comprehension, organization, communication and ability to hit a deadline; these are all attributes of an entrepreneur.

Additional Considerations

Remember, it’s not enough to say you are looking for entrepreneurial DNA in your candidates—you and your company have to walk the walk. You must build a culture of permission, enthusiasm, inclusiveness, recognition, and acknowledgment, and have a performance-based compensation plan. If you want your employees to be more entrepreneurial, create the fertile ground in which they will bloom.


BY | Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People, companion to the best-selling business book The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.

VIA | A full version of this article appeared in the magazine and website, Ceramic Industry. Used with permission.


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