The one thing you should be hiring for but probably aren’t

Happy group in an office meeting

You hire for skill, you hire for fit – though you might have read my (absolutely brilliant) argument that the latter is dumb – you look for all sorts of things in new hires. Here’s one you might not be looking for but that you should be: reach.

In other words: “connections,” “network,” or “influence.” Even “popularity,” if you will.

I know, you’d rather not. Nobody likes to think of anything in life, least of all career, as a popularity contest. Didn’t we grow out of that after high school? Well, no.

Example: A hiring manager I know recently interviewed a candidate for a blogging position. The candidate claims to be a social media expert but has almost no Twitter followers. I don’t know if the person got the job, but if it were me I wouldn’t hire them.

Why is this a problem? Mainly because social media is a big traffic driver for web content and editors prefer it when their writers have a network through which they can help drive this traffic. It’s not enough to be a writer these days. If you work in media, you should come with your own audience. Not having that network is therefore a big red flag. Another issue is that it suggests at best that the candidate has poor judgment and is at worst totally delusional.

But the implications of hiring for reach actually extend far beyond such an obvious example.

Every employee you hire has the potential to broaden the scope of your business in any number of ways.

We often think in terms of hiring salespeople for the clients they can bring on board, but what about the rest of your employees? Your receptionist, cleaning staff, business development team, IT people – their networks are an untapped reservoir of potential clients and staff.

One part of this equation is finding talent with a wide network, one reason to check out a candidate’s social media presence. How many LinkedIn connections do they have? How many Facebook friends, and Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram followers?

Granted, you need to know what you’re looking at. Some people spend their entire days on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, but don’t actually know anyone in real life. This doesn’t matter if you’re looking for someone to bring their online influence. Facebook might be the closest representation of real life popularity – since people are more likely to actually know their Facebook friends than their Twitter followers – but it’s often impossible to even see someone’s Facebook profile if their privacy settings are tight. LinkedIn gives you an idea of what someone’s professional network looks like.

All of these things will give you an idea, which is all you can ask for in a lot of cases. But an idea is all you need. Does the person seem outgoing, upbeat, well-liked?

Someone has pointed out to me that I’m making things even harder for candidates by suggesting hiring managers add reach to their list of things to look for. That’s not my intention. My intention is to help you find ways to make your workplace the best it can be and to build your business. And for that, you need reach.

It’s one thing that should be part of the ideal candidate package. Not the only thing. But one thing. To wit: if it comes down to two equally skilled and qualified candidates with the right attitude, hire the one with more friends.

The other part of the equation is, naturally, where your employer branding comes in. Make your workplace a great one and your employees will want to see it prosper. They will send clients your way and bring their talented friends on board.

Everyone wins. And the party will be huge because you all have so many friends.

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