I’m guessing I interview more than one hundred people every year for leadership roles around the country. If they make the short list of candidates, I talk to their references and my favorite question to ask is “If you had an opening right now, would you hire them? In other words, would you like to work with them again?” Then I listen very carefully to what is spoken and unspoken.

I ask this question because of one of my core beliefs. I believe the best performers are difficult to find because they are being promoted or recruited by someone who already knows who they are and what they can do. 

Regardless of the so-called best practices many HR professionals preach, the real leader (the effective leader) typically hires people they know and trust. In other words, everyone is being interviewed for a new opportunity but the best of the best rarely have to formally apply to anything.

Advice for young professionals to consider:

  • Do your job as if you were the owner
  • Learn about the whole business, not just your corner
  • Seek mentors within your organization and/or your profession
  • Don’t look to your peers for acceptable behavior, mine it upstream
  • Be patient, you’re being evaluated and interviewed all the time

If you’re just starting out with your career and seeking more advice for young professionals, consider listening to Episode 26 of the Today Counts podcast, Advice for Young Leaders.


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