People Make the World and Organizations go Round...

When it comes to business success it's all about people, people, people. Richard Branson on Hiring

“When it comes to business success it’s all about people, people, people.” – Richard Branson.

If you want to know how to be a food manager then this is a good place to start. Few people would argue with this. Hiring the right person for a job can make or break a team. But Richard Branson is not the only one who goes to great measures to make good hiring decisions:

  • This is how Steve Jobs built his team of A+ players by personally interviewing applicants and only hiring the best,
  • This is why Google has opted for behavioral interview questions over brainteasers and,
  • These are some of the bizarre interview techniques that Zappos uses to ensure that candidates are a good culture fit.

But hiring isn’t an exact science.

The interviewing process can be difficult:

  • A candidate who looks good on paper might not be as good in-person;
  • The recruitment process is time-consuming;
  • Interviewing can be shrouded in deception because job candidates are selling/ misinterpreting themselves and;
  • Hiring is a manager skill that requires practice to get better at but making bad hires while you learn is very costly.  

I think this is the crux of the hiring challenge because when you look at the actual costs of a bad hire you begin to understand the importance of making good hires.

The Unexpected Costs of a Bad Hire

Costs of a Bad Hire can Include:

  • Wasted salary 1 to 6 months, 8.5% - 50% (As a percentage of annual salary);
  • Recruitment costs and time, 5% - 40%;
  • Training costs (and time), 5% - 20%;
  • Impact on rest of team 5% - 50% and;
  • Missed/ delayed business deliverables. Failures 0% - ?

Therefore the total cost of a bad hire is probably a minimum of 25% of their salary but could be over one and a half times their annual cost. For example, say you are hiring someone at $80k – the range would be between $20k to over $120k. To learn more see our article on the Costs of a Bad Hire.

Richard Branson's top hiring tips for hiring the best employees and building an engaged, motivated team jpeg

So yes, hiring is complicated. But it’s also something you can get better at. In the words of billionaire and business mogul Sir Richard Branson, “Hiring the right people is a skill, and you get better at it with practice, but there are some good shortcuts that can help you learn quickly.”

In this article we’ll take a look at some of Richard Branson’s top hiring tips for hiring good employees and building an engaged, motivated team.

Hiring Tip #1: A Great Personality Goes a Long Way

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Richard Branson says that the single most important attribute when considering whether to hire someone is personality. People who are "fun, friendly, caring and love helping others" are winners and the rest of the job can be taught.”

So while skill is not completely overlooked Richard Branson hires primarily for personality. He goes on to explain:

"You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated."

Having read this I thought that it was a very interesting angle on hiring and staffing up your workforce – especially with hiring wars in the tech industry heating up. One would almost expect technical skills to be the number one requirement.  But Branson is confident that, “Personality is the key

The tough part for the interviewer is evaluating a job candidate’s personality in a very short space of time. Branson agrees that, “It is not something that always comes out in the interview.” One of the biggest mistakes hiring managers make is going on gut feel or hiring people they like. So if you want to make a more informed decision, the key is to use a more formal way to evaluate the behaviour styles of candidates. A DISC profile is a great place to start and gives you insight as to how to motivate employees after you hire them. Read more about using DISC profile to identify behavior styles here.

Hiring Tip #2: A Resume is Just a Piece of Paper

Richard Branson’s next piece of hiring advice for interviewers – “Don't get hung up on qualifications.”

 “A person who has multiple degrees in your field isn't always better than someone who has broad experience and a great personality.”

-Sir Richard Branson

When hiring, Branson says that he only looks at a candidates qualifications after everything else. “If somebody has five degrees and more A-grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job.”

Now for certain jobs, a resume can be more important than others. A doctor with a few PHDs under his belt will almost always be hired over someone with fewer qualifications. But on-the-job experience can prove invaluable.

That’s why more and more companies are using behavioural interview questions as a part of the recruitment process. Behavioral based interviewing tests how the interviewee acted in specific past situations. This works because how you behaved in the past is a good indicator of how you will behave in the future. Plus, how candidates use their skills in real-life situations is a good indication of their potential. For guidance on choosing the best behavioural interview questions click here.

Hiring Tip #3: Take Chances on People

Famous for his “Screw it, Let’s Do It,” quote, Branson goes on to say, “Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we’ve ever hired didn’t seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time.”

“When you're interviewing, it's possible that a candidate may say something so interesting about your industry or business that you'll want to keep talking after the interview is over. Her resume may not be quite right, and she may be a little different than everyone else on your team, but this might be a good time to take a risk and hire her anyway.”

This is very good hiring advice because one of the biggest hiring mistakes is hiring people too similar to yourself.

As to taking a risk - I agree that diversity is good - hiring a person who doesn't fit your exact preconceived notion of the perfect fit isn't a problem. If you reduce the risk of making a bad hire by thoroughly evaluating their capabilities. This is the beauty of behavioral interviewing - it's results focussed. Therefore the process can identify people who can get results even if they use unconventional methods. If people use unconventional methods and can't get results then I'd suggest they shouldn't be hired.

Hiring Tip #4: Whenever Possible, Promote From Within

If you've been hiring great people all along, when an executive or manager does leave, you should fill that job from within if possible. “If you hire the wrong person at the top of a company, they can destroy it in no time at all. Promoting from within is generally a good idea as the employee who is promoted will be inspired by the new role, already know the business inside out, and have the trust and respect of their team.”

So when you start with hiring good people then you have a good base to grow from within. But if you start off making bad hires (i.e lacking potential etc.) then you don't have the raw material to build, promote and grow.

From a Manager Foundation perspective, we think this strategy is important not only to keep continuity, culture, knowledge etc. but we know that growth is an incredibly powerful motivator. Showing that people can progress is motivating for the entire firm, not just a single promotion. Passing over internal candidates can be incredibly demotivating. (Learn more about increasing employee motivation through development here...)

Promoting from within also negates one of the biggest problems about job interviews: they give you a very limited amount of information to make a very important decision. The best indicator of how good someone is in reality is to work with them. It's a fact that a significant amount of new employees do not meet expectations and this comes with a huge cost. But because we can't always work with employees before hiring them we have to simulate this as best as possible. The best interview questions to do this are behavioral interview questions...

Hiring Tip #5: When to Consider a New Hire

Lastly, Branson says, “If you're in a situation where your business is becoming stale or stuck on a problem, it may be time for you to bring in talented people from outside the company. Two of the Virgin Group's higher-profile hires were John Borghetti, now the CEO of Virgin Australia, and Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic's CEO. John had worked at Quantas Airlines and Craig had worked at American Airlines, so they knew our competition well, and were able to give us a fresh take on our business.”

What we like about Richards approach is that as successful as he is, he recognises that he can't do everything himself. He finds people with the right complimentary skills to solve organizational problems. Sometimes these people are already inside your company and sometimes you need to hire them...

Sir Richard Branson clearly speaks from years of hiring experience. Let’s face it – he didn’t become one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful men by chance. He has some great tips and excellent advice. I think the key is to aim for continuous improvement. Hiring good staff is a rare skill. But most of us don't practice hiring often enough to master this skill. But it is something that we can get getter at. That's why I've made the program. It shows you how to improve employee performance in just an hour a week, including how to hire the best employees for the job.


How do you hire staff - what are your best tips to get the best employees? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.



Here's some food for thought. Hiring is a costly process. There are obvious costs like recruitment fees. But add in manager time, training and waiting for the employee to get up to speed and it’s not far off an annual salary. Ditto when things go wrong. The total cost of a bad hire is a minimum of 25% of their salary but could be over one and a half times their annual cost.  So is it worth the time, pain and cost of hiring someone new to replace your bad employee? What if I told you that there is an easy and time-efficient management technique that you can use to engage your employees, improve productivity and make managing easy.


Do you know that regular, high quality one-on-ones with your employees are the single easiest management practice. Do one-on-ones right and not only can you can take care of almost all your management responsibilities in one go but you will also:

  • Improve employee engagement,
  • Boost productivity,
  • Build better relationships with your staff.

That's why I made a mini-course on one-on-ones (including a one-on-one template with a one-on-one meeting agenda) which will show you 3 Easy Steps 2 1 on 1's. What I expect you'll find is that you already know some of the content on some type of level but maybe you're not putting it into practice. This will help. As I say this is essential for new managers and helpful for experienced managers.

The Hiring and Interviewing Series

This is part of the Interviewing and Hiring Series. This series covers how managers can increase employee performance through hiring better employees. And how managers can avoid common hiring mistakes.

Topics in the Series Include:

Other Relevant Resources:

Power Interview Pack: The complete set of interview questions to get the best candidate for the job. Increase employee performance through hiring the best staff and avoiding bad hires. Link here. 

Hiring for Performance: How to hire the best employees and improve employee performance, engagement and retention. Link here.  

Employee Onboarding for Performance: If employee onboarding goes wrong, your new hire may leave you in the lurch or become a demotivated low performer. But motivate and integrate your new hire well and you will have a happy, productive team member. Link here.

Boss Camp

Some managers know how to get results, but do it by burning through employees. Other managers are less demanding but don’t get results. The mark of a truly great manager is the ability to deliver results but retain employees. That’s why WWW.BOSS.CAMP will show you how to be both demanding and supportive to get results in an ethical way. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to hire for performance,
  • How to motivate employees,
  • What are bad employee motivators,
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,
  • How leaders get power.