When Chairman and CEO of Hennessy Bernard Peillon evaluates job candidates, he’s looking for the basics: languages, international experience, and “the right amount of brain.”
But even a lot of brain — and a lot of languages — won’t be enough to land you the job. That’s because Peillon is looking for something markedly less tangible.
“The one thing I’m asking is for people to be 15 minutes ahead of my time,” he tells Business Insider. He’s not talking about the clock. Instead, Peillon is referring to something bigger: conceptually speaking, you need to be ahead of the curve.
“Anything that has already been produced, even if it’s for a great reason — I’m not interested,” he says. “Don’t come to see me with an idea that has already been done.” Though the brand has been around for centuries (Hennessy was founded in 1765), Peillon isn’t looking for people who can simply maintain Hennessy — he’s looking for people who can grow it.
“I need people who don’t just manage what I am today,” he explains. Instead, he wants people that can think beyond what already exists to what could someday exist. To be a leader, after all, you don’t just play on the playing field — you “define the playing field,” he notes. And that means doing things that haven’t been done before.
As he sees it, every hire should redefine their position the moment they step into the role. “I never hire someone just to do something someone else has been doing up until now,” he explains. “I’m always hiring people that are several levels above the position I’m offering.”
It’s those people, he believes, who are are going to look at what the brand is right now and push past it. “That person is going to look at what we’re already doing and say, ‘You’re still doing that? or ‘Have you thought about that?’ or ‘Do you know this?'” Peillon says. And that elevates every aspect of the company. He needs people who will are going to bring “contradictory points of view,” he says. In fact, his business depends on it.
“Given enough time,” he says, “my team works at the level that prepares me to be bigger than what I am today.”
And how does he find those people? It’s an art, not a science, he acknowledges. When it comes down to it, there’s no one question that can prove a candidate has that gift. “It’s an intuition that this person has what it takes,” Peillon says.
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