Should you be hiring based on experience or attitude?

Born Social CEO Ben Tyson on recruiting people who can replace you

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today

Since Ben Tyson joined the social media agency Born Social, fresh out of uni, he says that he and his colleagues have always been encouraged to ‘think like owners of the business’. He credits this as being one of the main reasons why the transition to CEO – and then eventually the management buy-out from founders Rob O’Donovan and Ben Gateley – was so smooth. It was a process that had started years before, and one that he has taken lessons from. 

“The axiom we’ve used for a while is ‘hire for attitude over skills and then skills over experience’. It creates a more level playing field and allows us to consider people who have enormous potential but, perhaps, a less orthodox work and/or educational background.  It’s an approach that’s particularly effective for leadership roles – where the skillset is less obviously defined.

“We’re also fortunate to work in an industry that is relatively young and, perhaps, less inhibited by the rules and traditions of industries that have been around for many years. It’s not to say we don’t value experience – but the reality is that everyone’s experience in the world of social media is limited, and we are all learning and flexing and adapting as the needs of our clients, the technology and the cultures we tap into morph and evolve.

“Influencer marketing is a great example. A brand tool that wouldn’t have been considered 10 years ago is now recognised by many marketers as an important part of today’s marketing mix – and, as experience in this field can only be limited, we look to other factors: a great mindset; do they match with the values we have as a business; are they asking the right questions?

“Over the years I’ve learnt that whatever your plans are for the next five, ten years or so, it’s always a good thing to have a group of people you can take forward with you – with the potential to move the business on, different directions, the ability to drive towards the unexpected.

“The founders of Born Social – Rob O’Donovan and Ben Gateley – first did that through an options scheme seven years ago, and it made us (the currently management team) feel like ‘owners’ of the business. It’s an example that we’re keen to continue and we have been able to free up a pool of equity to set up Enterprise Management Incentive Schemes – to give key people within the business equity and a sense of ownership. 

“We know, first-hand, the huge impact of that – it was a key part of our journey over the last five years. Of course, there’s an element of reward to, it but it’s more about validation  – feeling valued for your contribution and ‘owning’ long-term decisions. 

“As a business leader, it’s never too early to build and develop a team that will one day make you redundant! It’s an ethos, created by the founders Rob and Ben, that paved the way for our recent management buyout. A huge shift in direction for the business that came at the right time and was handled in exactly the right way.”

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