Craig Vodnik: Be passionate about your work without being the first one in and the last one out the door

You’ve probably heard a friend say or have seen a job description contain the phrase “passionate employee.” But what does that really mean? I mean I’m passionate about avoiding work. Does that make me passionate? Obviously it does not qualify as passionate, but what does that phrase mean and when should you hire passion from experience as opposed to passion from desire?

Over the last seven years, I’ve seen a lot of candidates come through the recruiting process at cleverbridge. I’ve also seen the results, both good and bad, of hiring decisions that we made. I hope it isn’t a surprise that not all passionate employees are the same.

When I say the word “passionate,” the first thing that people think about is the generic term “work.” A hard worker can definitely be a good employee, but not necessarily. I’ve seen several “hard workers” end up leaving the company not because they don’t work hard, but because they just weren’t performing.


Hard work isn’t enough

Why weren’t they performing? There are many reasons, ranging from a lack of inspiration from the supervisor to becoming bored with the job to getting distracted with things outside of their control. There is always a chance that an employee won’t work out.

But I believe that a simple test will result in a higher chance of success and that is the essence of what I define as a passionate employee: Is that person passionate about your company’s subject matter or job tasks?

Our most successful employees love computers, software and talking about e-commerce. This isn’t simply lip service. These employees eat, breathe and sleep these topics and, therefore, are more advanced and don’t lose focus as easily as people who are not passionate about these topics.

When interviewing candidates, I can see their enthusiasm increase when talking about buying via PayPal or comparing Android to iOS. If someone gets “geeked out” on those topics, I know we have found a potentially passionate employee. Sales, customer service, marketing and development are examples of positions where you would want this type of passionate employee.


Find the right passion

There are some roles where the necessary passion is for the type of tasks done, rather than the business itself. I don’t really mind if an accountant isn’t passionate about e-commerce, but they had better be passionate about numbers, calculations and analysis of data.

Recruiting is another area where the employee needs to be really passionate about recruiting tasks and if they happen to be tech savvy, that’s a bonus. Human resources is an area where the passion for e-commerce isn’t needed, but the passion for the job of HR is great.

The goal is to create a high-performing team and having passionate employees is a big part of that. Be sure that you know what your definition of “passionate” is before creating that job description to both avoid the wrong candidates and have a better chance of finding the right ones.


Craig Vodnik

Co-founder and vice president of operations

cleverbridge, a global full-service e-commerce provider for more than 300 international software and SaaS corporations.

Craig’s professional experience began in 1995 as webmaster for the Chicago Tribune. He is also the author of Building Keystones, a digital e-commerce industry focused blog.

(312) 922-8693