I owe my great talent pool to a tip from Steve Jobs: CEO

When you manage a company, the buck ultimately stops with you. Early on, I understood the ultimate cost of hiring the wrong candidate, not only in dollars but also in time and value to my company. No one wants to needlessly throw away money, and certainly no one has an abundance of time they can afford to waste.

There's a tremendous number of puzzle pieces that need to fit together, and no matter how much you try, no amount of sheer will can make something work if a key piece is missing. Yet finding the right mix of talent and personality can be a Herculean task.

The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, at the opening of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York on May 19, 2006
Michael Nagle | Getty Images
The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, at the opening of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York on May 19, 2006

The late Steve Jobs once made an excellent comment on hiring, and it is one that I continue to follow. He said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

That is why I am involved in every step of the hiring process. I put myself front and center and am there at the beginning, middle and end, searching for the candidate that best meets these three criteria.

1. Fitting in with the corporate culture

After the pool of candidates has been narrowed, the finalists usually have very similar skill sets. Any of them could do the job, and probably do it well. Having the necessary background and talent to do the job is one piece of the puzzle. I also want to make sure the candidate understands and will flourish in our corporate culture.

Every company has its own personality, and ours in no different. If I hire someone who becomes oil to our vinegar, it will be a disaster and could create a toxic environment that causes other valuable team members to leave. The resulting drain of talent could stunt our growth and, quite possibly, sink the company. A culture fit is every bit as important as experience, talent and education.

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." -Steve Jobs

2. The willingness to take on any task

When a company is young and growing, it doesn't have the abundance of resources you would find at an older, established company. This means our team has to learn to do more with less, wear multiple hats and be prepared to take on any task. Some people prefer to work in a structured environment, yet an early-stage company may require a person to be out of their comfort zone. This can be a challenge, and it points back to having a culture fit.

Here's a quick example. I have a friend who was hired as a marketing and sales executive at a start-up. His primary job was customer acquisition. He was, however, also quite handy with tools. As the company grew and added new employees, he would help new hires assemble their desks. I wasn't exaggerating when I said the company was a start-up! It was an incredible opportunity for both people to establish communication, and the new hire could feel comfortable from the first minute.

3. Displaying passion — for anything

Skills can be learned either through education or experience. One thing that can't be learned, however, is passion. People have it or they don't. Finding employees that have a passion is rare. It doesn't necessarily have to be about the job; it can be anything, from playing golf to running to singing at the perfect pitch.

Over the years, I've discovered that passionate people have traits that translate well into business. They're not afraid to attack a challenge from a different angle, take risks and will continue to work at something until they've reached what they consider to be the pinnacle. It becomes my role to help find the spark that brings that passion into the company.

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Many people view hiring as another in a long list of activities that need to be accomplished in a given week. That view could not possibly be any more wrong. The goal in hiring is to find the right person to fill the right position. When this happens, incredible results follow — for both the person and the company.

— By Aytekin Tank, founder and CEO of JotForm, a platform for creating online forms for business