Three Things That I Look in a Person Before Hiring


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I read a wonderful post by Shane Parrish titled “Warren Buffet: The three things I look for in a person“.

Here he shares three qualities that Buffet looks in a person:

  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Energy

He also thinks that without the first, the other two don’t matter much.

This reminded me of my mentor and his principle’s while deciding to work with someone. His list was as below, in the order of importance:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Ambition

Again, he said that without the first, the other two are a sure recipe for disaster. However, when you add that in the mix, it plays the role of a “Philosopher’s Stone” and transforms the person.

Strangely, these are exactly the qualities that I look in a sales executive.

You can’t infer a person’s ability to sell by looking for these qualities. However, in my opinion, if you have these three qualities, one can succeed in any role that they get into. If you observe, none of these is a skill. They constitutes our character.

Skills can be learnt, but character needs to be built and it takes a long time to build one’s character.

Now, the question is how do you check for these qualities before you hire someone.

Its easy to check if someone is ambitious or passionate from their past works, social profiles and the initial discussions. The most critical and difficult thing to check for is the integrity of a person.

My mentor did a few things to check the integrity of the person:

  • He would leave a 100 rupee bill in an empty room and get the person to wait in the room. The currency is not on the table but in a place where it will be definitely be seen and observe what the person does with the bill. This tells a lot about the person and his integrity.
  • He would get one of his assistants to serve coffee/tea to the person and that person would deliberately spill some tea or coffee and observe the reaction. He always used to say that the true identity of a person comes through in their conduct with people weaker than themselves.
  • In the middle of the conversation he would plan to receive a call on his phone and get all worked up about a situation on the phone and react in a way that he would not want to react/behave. He would then start chatting about the situation with the person and gradually bring up how he reacted and ask this person what he thought about his action. The response will say a lot about the integrity and character of this person.

Some other interesting ways to try and understand the person that i have found helpful for me are:

  • Get someone from the team to talk to the person informally before the actual interview over a cup of coffee. This conversation will provide a lot more insight into the person than a formal conversation.
  • Make the person wait for a few hours with no one to talk to or meet. And then put them in pressure by cancelling the interview by giving some flimsy reason. The reaction to this situation tells a lot about the person than any formal interview could. (Though, post that prank, you do let your hair down and continue the interview with him or her, for sure).

What do you do to screen your hires? Do share what has worked for you in the past by commenting below or tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.

PS: Video of Warren Buffet talking about the importance of Integrity:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mukesh Gupta
I currently work for SAP as Customer advocate. In this capacity, I am responsible to ensure that the voice of the customer is being heard and play the bridge between customers and SAP. Prior to joining SAP, I have worked with different organizations serving in different functions like customer service, logistics, production planning & sales, marketing and business development functions. I was also the founder-CEO of a start-up called "Innovative Enterprises". The venture was in the retail & distribution business. I blog at


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