Hire what you can’t train

“I don’t have time to train someone.”

If you’re a manager and you’re telling others or yourself this, then it’s time for you to reevaluate your priorities. Because it’s easy to train skills. But it’s impossible to train core values.

Think about it. What’s eating at your time that prevents you from training skills? Most likely it is dealing with issues related to character. The team leader who is always slipping out of the office early. The supervisor who doesn’t keep you updated on key plant issues. Or the field service technician who doesn’t go above or beyond for clients because “that’s not my job”. If you are always “covering down” for your reports, then you are hiring all wrong. You should hire what you can’t train.

The reason that hiring military-experienced candidates results in consistent quality of hire is because these job seekers have excelled through world-class character development.

It starts with a service mindset which is a leading reason our all-volunteer military is the most successful in the world. This is a character trait that not everyone possesses: the willingness and ability to sacrifice personal interest for the service of others.

This core character is matured and tested under fire. The main focus of military training is to learn to act as a team. Individuality, freedom, choice and opinion are tempered in favor of discipline, order, detail and focus. This is the kind of pressure that makes precious stones.

With “character” being developed to the critical level, the military allows the traits of the individual to come back to the fore, now being better able to make decisions, function on a team and focus on an objective. This applies whether the service member is learning and performing technical skills, or operating engineering equipment or leading a team through a series of maneuvers.

The point is that the military offers a unique training environment where they focus on building character first and then training operational skills. Corporate America doesn’t have that system and if even if businesses did start it today they would be light years behind the curve.

“I have time to invest in the right person” is the mindset to possess. Because the right person can learn your technology, your products, your process and how you do business. They will do what they say they will, be where they are supposed to be and communicate in the way a professional communicates. When you have a team that has strong character, you can focus on supporting their performance and attend to your position’s other key priorities.

Bobby Whitehouse


Images courtesy The U.S. Army