Brandon Edwards is proud to be a geek about a boring industry. In fact, being passionate about tax credits has helped him build a team of likeminded stars.
“We’re tax credit geeks. It’s all we think about,” says the president and CEO of the appropriately named The Tax Credit Co. “One of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that we’ve been able to attract people into the company that think like that.”
Edwards’ previous experience in a recruitment outsourcing business also helped hone his hiring process to bring in the right 47 employees.
“We’re only as good as our people,” he says. “The difference between one really good person and one person that’s not necessarily a fit is tremendous in a company.”
Recruit with purpose. It’s not just about the interviewing. The recruitment process is critical to finding (the right) people.
First of all, when we write an ad for a job, it’s got a lot of personality in it. We are passionate about it, so that almost irreverent, fun-loving personality comes out. Not only is that helpful to attract good people, but it attracts the right people. They’ll say, ‘Wow, I was looking at all these ads, and these people look like my kind of people.’
From the very beginning, we try to find out about the person — who they are, not just what’s on their resume — so we ask for a cover letter. We put specific traits in the ad. For a documentation specialist, we’ll say, ‘Are you the type of person that every single drawer in your house is completely organized? Are you the type of person that gets bent out of shape if something on the wall is tilted?’ We’ll put fun things in there, but we’re looking for certain traits about people that are going to make them good fits for the job. That’s No. 1.
Interview people, not positions. We’re talking about a combination of what they’ve done in the past but also who they are. One of the keys to bringing in great people is to find out what that person is about. Finding out who that person is, I think, is more important than who they worked for and what they did. What’s the track record that they demonstrated that we could apply to what they’d be doing in the position: what they like, what they don’t like, what they get excited about, what drives them, what they get annoyed at, their attitudes on work in general?
The way you ask questions is very important. I’ll ask questions like, ‘What would your supervisor say about you?’ They would (answer) from that perspective, and you find out what would they say the good things are, what would they say the things that you could improve on would be. You’ll see an indication of a potential issue that you can explore from there.
You’re not looking for 100 percent adherence to all the job duties. You want to find out the core points of success or failure in that job. You say, ‘If a person had these traits, these skills, then they would be very successful. If they didn’t have these, then they would have problems.’ You want to specifically go after those in an interview.
We’re always looking for the person, not the position, and we’re always keeping in mind that this person may not stay in that position that long. So while we’re looking at the critical factors for that position, we’re also trying to test: ‘Is this a high-quality person in general? What are the make it or break it characteristics of the people that are successful in your company — the personality, the attitude, the work ethic?’
Remain objective. If you like somebody straight off, try to find something wrong. And if you don’t like somebody straight off, try to find something right. You don’t want your emotions to guide you in that process, because this is a snippet of your potential relationship with the person. Even if you go through extensive interviews, the entire process could represent less than a whole day of interaction with that person.
You need to make sure that you’re as objective as possible and not skimming over areas just because you really like the person. If you just focus on the areas that you like about them and you’re judging them based on that gut feel, then you can potentially miss some big issues.