Maybe you're looking for the right qualifications. Or the right experience. Or the perfect hard skills. Or great soft skills. Or an outstanding work ethic, or proven leadership ability, or seamless cultural fit. Or, most likely, you're looking for a blend of skills and attributes.
But here's another way to look at choosing the best person: Always select the person who wants the job—not the title.
Don't tell me there isn't a difference.
Years ago I had an opening for a shipping supervisor. We decided to stay internal. One candidate was clearly better than the rest. He'd worked in the department for over a decade, had great skills, possessed a broad range of shipping and distribution experience, he was really good at training new employees—he was great.
Plus, I was glad he was the best candidate because it helped spread the message that, even though the company had just changed hands (and I had recently been hired), I valued the experience of current employees and wasn't just going to bring in "my guys."
"Win-win," I thought.
Nope. Lose-lose. He was terrible.
It turned out he wanted the job because he was tired of sitting on a forklift and wanted to sit in a chair. He was tired of taking breaks and lunches on a schedule and wanted the freedom to set his own schedule. He was tired of taking direction and wanted to be the one who gave direction. He was tired of punching a clock and wanted to come and go as he pleased.
In short, he didn't want the job. He didn't want to motivate, inspire, lead, manage, discipline, improve, optimize, develop—all the things that come with a leadership role.
He wanted a title. He wanted what he saw as the perks of the title. He felt he had already paid his dues.
He wanted the title, not the job.
Unfortunately, we didn't need a shipping supervisor. "Shipping supervisor" is just a job title. What we needed was a guy or gal who loved getting product out the door. We needed someone who wanted to be in charge because he or she wanted to have greater impact on how quickly and accurately we got product out the door.
We didn't need a person obsessed over a title. We needed a person obsessed about creating an outcome.
Sounds obvious, I know, but in this case it was only obvious in hindsight. During the selection process I didn't focus on the future. I focused on qualifications, not on the initiatives and projects he had in mind, and not on his motivations and aspirations and goals.
I focused on what he had done, not on what he planned to do.
And I picked the wrong person.
I should have picked someone who wanted to do the job. I should have picked someone driven to excel at those tasks so they could make things happen. I didn't need a person who wanted the position only because he wanted the "stuff" that came with the position.
And that's what you need. You don't need a director of sales; you need a person who loves selling, and loves helping other people sell. You don't need an engineering manager; you need a person who loves working with other people to create new products. You don't need a supervisor of whatever; you need a person who long ago made the choice that their happiness comes from someone else's success and who thrives on working through other people to get stuff done.
You need people who want the job because they want the responsibility of making things happen. You need people who want the job because then they can be even more successful at what they do well and can help others be more successful too.
You need people who want the job because they want to do the job—and only value the title because it makes it easier for them to do that job.
Always select the person who doesn't care about the title. Even if that person is less experienced or less skilled, his or her motivation and drive for doing the job will quickly make up for any shortcomings.
Jeff Haden is a writer, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer and contributing editor for Inc. His books include TransForm: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships, and Life . . . One Simple Step at a Time.