Careers

Why one CEO doesn’t hire people who say they’re smart

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory."
CBS | Getty Images
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory."

During a job interview, you want to appear competent, intelligent and enthusiastic about the position.

But, if you're seeking a job at Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, don't assume being smart will be enough to get you the gig. CEO Daniel Schwartz looks for candidates who are more focused on going the extra mile.

To figure out who fits the bill, Schwartz asks the same question during every interview: "Are you smart or do you work hard?" as he tells Adam Bryant in an interview with The New York Times.

"You want hard workers," he says. "You'd be surprised how many people tell me, 'I don't need to work hard, I'm smart.' Really? Humility is important."

While your resume matters, it's only one piece of the puzzle. Schwartz isn't necessarily sold on employees with a distinguished pedigree. He's looking for dedicated people who are willing to put in the time.

"I like people who are passionate, who have persevered and who are clearly humble and not arrogant," he says. "It's okay to be confident, but not arrogant."

A palpable interest in the company is crucial as well: "I like people who genuinely are looking for a project and not a job. We're looking for people who want to be part of something bigger. We don't want people who see us as a stepping stone."

Self-made millionaire and VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk echos Schwartz's emphasis on hard work,though arguably he takes it to an extreme. In a Facebook video published in May, he warned young people that if they want to be successful, but aren't yet, it's because they're not putting in enough effort.

As he puts it, "You can live on six hours sleep, so you have 18 hours. You have 18 g------ hours. I want to know what you're doing with your 18 hours."

He says that if you want to waste valuable time watching TV, or even "by getting rest," you need to accept the fact that you'll never be rich or successful. If you're choosing to kick back and watch TV, you're "giving up opportunity to go into a new world."

Whether you're applying for new job, gunning for a promotion or founding your own company, don't discount the effects of good, old fashioned hard work.

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