Facebook's go-to management manual says there's one thing to look for in job candidates above all else

Hiring exceptional employees is one of the most important and difficult responsibilities given to a manager. A bad hire can be financially costly to your company and set back your team’s progress.

There’s an enormous burden on managers tasked with determining what their team needs and then making a judgment call on who can fill that role, within a relatively short period of time.

Experience, intelligence, and determination are all important aspects to consider when looking at a job candidate, but the primary focus needs to be on talent, argue Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in their classic management guide “First, Break All the Rules.”

When the book was first published in 1999, Buckingham told Business Insider, it was controversial for its conclusion that the best managers develop their employees’ strengths and ignore their weaknesses, since the prevailing wisdom was that bosses should amass a team of well-rounded individuals always correcting their shortcomings.

The coauthors’ conclusions weren’t based on intuition, but rather 25 years of Gallup studies of 80,000 managers across 400 companies. Over time, more companies began adopting Buckingham and Coffman’s prescribed approach, and now companies like Facebook operate entirely on their philosophy. Facebook HR chief Lori Goler recommends their book to all new managers.

In their book, Buckingham and Coffman define talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behaviour that can be productively applied.”

They say there are three types of talent to consider:

Striving talents: “They explain why he gets out of bed every day, why he is motivated to push and push just that little bit harder.”

Thinking talents: “They explain how he thinks, how he weighs up alternatives, how he comes to his decisions.”

Relating talents: “They explain whom he trusts, whom he builds relationships with, whom he confronts, and whom he ignores.”

It is up to the manager to determine a talents profile for the position they are looking to fill.

It’s important, Buckingham told us, that this profile doesn’t become a checklist that guides the job interview. The worst thing a manager can do in an interview, he said, is ask too many follow-up questions in an attempt to find the answer they’re looking for.

“Every time you ask a question you give something away,” he said. “You don’t want to give anything away.”

Buckingham explained that the interviewer should be looking for frequent behaviours, and if the candidate is a great fit, they will naturally reveal these behaviours without prodding.

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