Blog Post

Why You Should Hire a Misfit (or Two)

Janine Milne

Guest Contributor

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

The quote above, penned by Steve Jobs and his team at Apple for a commercial almost 20 years ago, might be advertising copy — but it's also relevant advice in today's hiring landscape.

While we're accustomed to (and perhaps expect) start-ups to be run by mavericks hell-bent on bringing their crazy vision to market, the "crazy ones" tend to be less visible among the ranks of large corporations — to a fault. It's time for traditional organizations to take a page from the startup handbook, and take a risk when it comes to recruiting.

Why Misfits Matter

Established, old-guard companies need these left-field thinkers and misfits to drive innovation in their companies. In our fast-changing world, an organization will quickly fall behind competitors unless the team is thinking two steps ahead.

Of course, the importance of "innovation" likely comes as no surprise to HR professionals and executives — according to a recent Boston Consulting Group report, 79 percent of respondents ranked innovation as either the highest priority or in the top three priorities for their respective companies over the coming year.

And yet, this "priority" isn't always reflected in action —many companies’ hiring policies and practices are at odds with enabling the very thing they claim to emulate: innovation.

The 'Perfect' Hire Isn't Necessary the 'Right' Hire

Recruitment techniques, aided by technology, are becoming ever more sophisticated. HR professionals are able to take a more scientific approach to matching people's personality, attributes and attitudes to specific job roles, in addition to their technical knowledge or relevant experience. Yet, while the latest technology and analytics tools certainly improve your chances of recruiting the perfect person to fill a prescribed role, hiring the "perfect" recruit also has its consequences.

Pre-employment tests will point you to someone who has relevant knowledge, works well with the existing team, and aligns with the company's current hiring success track record. Granted, these are all good things — but they are also safe things. Will these tests recommend you hire left-field thinkers, career pivoters or other "misfits"? Will they point you toward "what works now" for a candidate, or what is innovative? Is it possible that hiring candidates who match the precise needs of the team or company culture is actually counter-productive?

There's an argument for creating teams with one or two people from outside the group — people who aren't the best programmers or may not have an extensive background in sales. Resilience, agility and innovation don't necessarily thrive in an environment that is ruthlessly efficient — or "perfect." Sometimes, the people who don't quite fit the mold are the ones who make the most significant impact on a company's success.

Photo: Shutterstock

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