Hire for Attitude, Train for
You can’t build a great company without great people. The problem: How do you know the great people when you see them? Rules for smart hiring from Nucor Steel, Silicon Graphics, and Southwest Airlines.
BY PETER CARBONARA
First appeared: FC04, p.73
In a conference room on the first floor of the Houston Hobby
Hilton, Jose Colmenares surveys a group of 13 women and 3 men and wonders which — if any — have the “right stuff” to become flight attendants with Southwest Airlines. Colmenares is not looking for a fixed set of skills or experiences. He’s searching for something far more elusive and much more important
— the perfect blend of energy, humor, team spirit, and selfconfidence to match Southwest’s famously offbeat and customer-obsessed culture.
This search occupies Colmenares all day, every day, and it unfolds in hotel meeting rooms from Texas to California.
Southwest has been the country’s most acclaimed airline for the past decade. And runaway success attracts lots of attention.
Last year, the 22,000-person company had openings for roughly 4,500 new employees — and received more than 150,000 applications. It’s the job of recruiters such as Colmenares to work through that vast applicant pool and identify the elite few who can make it at Southwest.
Libby Sartain, vice president of the People Department, says, only half-jokingly, that taking a job with Southwest is like joining a cult. The ultimate employee is someone whose devotion to customer and company amounts to “a sense of mission, a sense that ‘the cause’ comes before their own needs.”
Colmenares speaks in the same near-spiritual terms. What’s he looking for in a candidate? “An attitude,” he says. “A genuineness — a sense of what it takes to be one of us.”
To begin today’s group evaluation, Colmenares asks the 16 hopefuls to fill out and read aloud a personal “Coat of Arms”
— a questionnaire on which applicants complete statements